Greenfield Dock was one of many ports along the Flintshire’s coast. It is hard to imagine that this picturesque and sleepy harbour has a much more lurid past, playing a role in the slave trade.
Liverpool was the destination for many of the boats, as goods could be exported from there across the world. It was also a centre of the British slave trade until its abolition in 1807. Much of the copper, brought mainly from Anglesey, was made into pots and black manillas (copper armbands coated in lead) that were highly prized in West Africa and became the currency of the slave dealers. Liverpool slaving ships took the manillas to West Africa to be exchanged for slaves, who were then taken to America to work on the cotton plantations, and exchanged for raw cotton. Some of the cotton that was brought back to Liverpool supplied the Greenfield Cotton Mills.
Later uses for the dock were more benevolent. Ferry services were introduced in the early 1800s and passengers included pilgrims from Liverpool and Lancashire seeking cures or spiritual salvation at St Winefride’s Well at Holywell.
A railway was opened in 1869, linking local quarries and the Greenfield Mills to the docks. It also transported pilgrims up the valley to the well.
The dock continues to be used by local fishermen who worked with the Coastal Rangers to get the dock restored and re-opened in 2010. The chemical pollution of the 19th and early 20th centuries had a serious impact on marine life and fishing was hit hard. However, since the factories closed, the estuary has recovered well and stocks of fish and shellfish have improved.
More than 40 commercial fishermen work on the estuary today, cockle fishing in the summer and landing seasonal catches, including bass, flounder and shrimp, throughout the year.