This land was once part of Bettisfield Colliery. It would have been a noisy, grimy, and bustling place, surrounded by slag heaps. Out at sea, numerous ships would have been carrying cargoes of coal, iron, lead and zinc.
Thick seams of coal ran along the Flintshire coast, extending far under the Dee Estuary in places. The good access by sea allowed easy export of the mined coal. By the 1600s, Chester was dependent on Flintshire coal and much was regularly shipped to Ireland. The opening of the Chester and Holyhead Railway in 1847, further improved transport for the mines and by the late 19th century there were numerous pits along the coast from Point of Ayr to Queensferry.
There were up to 11 collieries around Bagillt but Bettisfield was the largest and most important. The colliery opened in 1872, working the thick Main Coal seams that extended out under the Dee Estuary. It had a working area of over 4000 acres. In 1896, there were 538 men employed including 100 surface workers, and by 1908 it was employing 641men.
Flooding was never a problem in the pit, despite the underwater seams, unlike nearby Mostyn colliery, which was completely flooded when the river broke through in 1884, ending 823 years of coal production.
The strikes and depression of the 1920s and 30s hit Bettisfield hard. It never fully recovered and closed in 1933, with a loss of 415 jobs, which had a big impact on the local area.
Bagillt was already a thriving port, exporting lead from the two large smelters since the 1700s. By the 18th and 19th centuries, a quarter of the lead produced in Britain came to the village to be smelted and most was transported by sea. It had two quays, Dee Bank Gutter and Bagillt Dock, 1km east, which handled 1000 tons of coal per week, as well as lead, copper and zinc at its peak. Regular steamers also brought passengers between Liverpool and Bagillt.
Dee Bank Gutter is known locally as ‘The Holy’ as the Milwr tunnel that drained the Halkyn lead mines empties into the estuary here and drains water from the same source St Winefride’s well.
The industry has long gone and the coast is very peaceful now but numerous small fishing boats still use the two gutters, often owned by generations of the same family.