- Welsh Name: Treffynnon
- Population: 8,900
- County: Flintshire
- Historical County: Flintshire
- Nearest Train Station: Flint [5,0 miles south-east]
- Football Clubs: Holywell Town
Holywell (Welsh: Treffynnon) is Flintshire’s fifth biggest town in the county with a population of just under 8,900 people, with the market town situated in the north-west of the border county, near to the River Dee estuary. It is located to the east eleven miles down the North Wales coast from Prestatyn, nine and a half miles north-west of the county capital of Mold, and crucially just five miles north-west of the nearest and traditional rival town of Flint. It also has great access to the main North Walian infrastructure artery of the A55 Expressway, with the dual carriageway just bypassing the southern outskirts of the town.
The name of Holywell originates from the famous holy well of Saint Winefride’s Well, which has been known about since the Roman times, and has been a major site of Christian pilgrimage since the middle of the seventh century. It originates from Saint Winefride who, according to legend, was beheaded by a local prince who tried to force himself on her. It is said that where her detached head landed, a spring rose from the ground and is the location of the well today. The well is one of the Seven Wonders of Wales and is a site of continuous pilgrimage due to the supposed healing powers of its waters over the centuries. Because of its healing waters, Holywell has the nickname of “The Lourdes of Wales” in reference to the French town which also has healing powers in its spring water.
Holywell became an important town in the eighteenth century due to its cotton, lead and copper mills harnessing the power of the steady flow of the Holywell Stream flowing from Halkyn Mountain, to power their industry – becoming one of the first locations in the world to use water power in the industrial revolution. The wealth generated by such industry lead to the development of the town and the construction of the Georgian buildings in the High Street, many of which still exist in the high street today. With so much wealth and industry occurring in the town, many workers flocked into the area to find jobs, and Holywell would become one of the biggest and wealthiest towns in North Wales.
Alas the grandeur of the town has faded considerably since the closure of the various mills in the Greenfield Valley complex, as well as the further closure of the huge Courtaulds factory situated in Greenfield in the mid-1980’s. Today the town has evolved into a commuter town for people working in the Deeside Enterprise Zone or Chester, like many other towns in the locality.
The town also does not have a train station with the closest stations being situated in either Flint or Prestatyn, both stations being on the North Wales Coast Line. Holywell used to have a train station which was linked to Holywell Junction, a station in Greenfield which was also on the North Wales Coast Line. Holywell Junction station was opened in 1848, with a branch line connecting the coastal railway to the town’s station being constructed in 1912. The branch line ran through today’s Greenfield Valley and was one of the steepest inclines in the country, having a 1 in 27 gradient. The line was unfortunately fully closed in 1957, with Holywell Junction also being closed as part of the Beeching Cuts in 1966.
Despite the town having suffered a downturn in recent times, it is trying hard to encourage tourism back into the area through events in the high street such as the Well Inn Festival – a music festival where a considerable number of singers and bands perform live at various locations throughout the town. In addition to this, the town is embracing and promoting its religious and industrial past, in conjunction with the nature and environment of the local area, such as the Greenfield Valley complex, to hopefully encourage tourists into the local area. Plus there are extensive and regular bus links between the train stations, with Holywell being roughly in the middle of the Chester to Rhyl bus route, which allows visitors to reach the town easily.