Scottish shale Scottish shale

North Wales Coal Oil Works

Former parish and county:
Parish of Pontblyddyn, County of Flint, Wales
Local authority:
Opened 1866
Closed c. 1875. Site later the Leeswood Spelter Works
Current status of site:
Site redeveloped as residential property, and associated gardens & paddocks.


A substantial and well-equipped oil works and refinery constructed on meadow land immediately south of the River Alyn, about half a mile west of Pontblyddyn. The works were supplied by a number of coal and cannel pits - the Leeswood Hill colliery - which lay on the hillside about a mile to the south west and was linked by an inclined tramway that crossed the Mold to Wrexham turnpike road just outside the works.

A neat array of 115 retorts by George Bennie of Glasgow (plus 24 American-style rotary as decribed in Ure's Dictionary) lay on the west side of the private railway linking the works to the Ffrith branch. The extensive refinery, equipped for production of a full range of oil products, lay on the east side of the branch railway.

Despite the care and substantial capital invested in the works, the company failed in 1869, and the works and contents were sold off in 1870. It appears that the firm of W.B. Marston acquired the refinery part of the works and continued production until 1875. The second edition (1898) OS map shows the disused Leeswood spelter (lead) works on the site of the refinery, but no remaining trace of the crude oil works.

An existing house on the site appears to share part of the footprint of the (presumed) oil works office building, while a surviving outbuilding may have been developed from the enginehouse, or similar stucture, at the foot of the incline to Leeswood Hill Colliery.

Mapped by the Ordnance Survey of c.1869, showing works in operation.

Number of retorts: 115 upright and 24 revolving retorts.

  • Location map
  • Detailed maps
  • Newspaper references
    • Close by the large works of the Coppa Company, I came upon a compact works of twenty-five retorts, belonging to a gentleman, the son of one whose name and fame, in regard to the advancement of educational progress, is only second — if second — to that of Lord Brougham. Inheriting the genius of his father, it was strange to see one so accomplished, and capable of so much, shut up in these mountains, and the companion of uncouth money- makers....This crude oil making was an experiment in science when he first took to it, and courageously worked out the problem

      ; it is now a profitable manufacture, and pays well for vigilant personal superintendence....Each of his retorts, he said, were charged with from 12 to 13 cwt. — in the proportion, generally, of one-third curly cannel, one-third smooth, and one-third shale. From these proportions he produced 47 gallons of crude oil — worth about 8d a gallon he not " running it over," but selling it to refiners " naked" as is called when merely produced from the coal. .....I parted from the hospitable sheds in which we had sat down for half an hour's chat, with considerable reluctauce, and slowly wended my way across the broken tracks and along the railway that spreads out here, up to the colliery in the distant hills like an arterial system.

      From Rylands Iron Trade Circular, reprinted in The Wrexham Advertiser, 6th January 1866. See full text.


      In Wales, the services of Messrs. Bennie and Co. have likewise been in request during the last few years, notwithstanding its great distance from Glasgow. Besides retorts of both kinds and superheaters, nine 1,500-gallon stills have been supplied to the North Wales Coal Oil Company (Limited).

      Engineer, 17th August 1866


      SINKING. —Wanted tenders for Sinking and Bricking a 10 feet SHAFT about 100 yards deep.—Apply to North Wales Coal Oil Company, (Limited), Pontblyddyn.

      Wrexham Advertiser, 27th July 1867


      Stealing Coal from Railway Wagons- Lillie Beeton was charged with this offence by Mr Roberts manager of the North Wales Coal and Mineral Oil Company, who had lost large quantities of coal at various times from their wagons on the Mold and Denbigh line. Pleaded guilty, and sentenced to seven days imprisonment..

      North Wales Chronicle, 13th June 1868


      Important Sale of a large Stock of Oils, etc. at the Works of the North Wales Coal Oil Company. LEESWOOD HILL, near Mold, Flintshire, about half a mile from the Padeswood Station, on the Chester and Mold Railway. MESSRS. CHURTON and ELPHICK beg to announce that they have received instructions to SELL BY AUCTION, on Monday, April the 25th, 1870, commencing most punctually at Twelve o'clock noon, the under- mentioned valuable Stock of MINERAL OILS and other effects, comprising:

      • about 120 Tons of excellent Mineral Lubricating Oil
      • 12 Tons of Heavy and Light Intermediate Oil
      • 6 Tons of Blue Oil
      • 35 Barrels of first-class Welsh Petroleum Oil
      • 50 Ditto of Mixed Crude Oil and Skimmings
      • 2000 Petroleum Baird's and Hogsheads,
      • a quantity of pitch, acid tar, neutralized tar, Fuller's earth, Venetian red, boiler composition, tallow,
      • about 80 tons of smooth cannel,
      • 6 tons of still coke , quantity of new bricks, about 2 tons of excellent bay,
      • 6 brass oil pumps, a number of cast iron cocks, and other miscellaneous effects.

      N.B.— The Ffrith branch of the Chester and Mold Railway runs into the works, where every convenience for loading will be found. Catalogues may be had at the offices of Mr Jas. Wakefield, Accountant, Corn Exchange Chamber.--, Chester ; or from the Auctioneers, Whitchurch (Salop), and Chester .

      Wrexham Advertiser 9th April 1870


      SALE BY MESSRS CHURTON & ELPHICK. FLINTSHIRE. OIL WORKS, REFINERY, COLLIERIES, and FREEHOLD LAND. Important Sale of the Leasehold Interest of the Vendors in Two Collieries, and in.the extensive Oil Works and Refinery, known as " The North Wales Oil Works " also a piece of extremely valuable Freehold Land, and the minerals (including the proved seam of Cannel) there-under, together with the whole of the valuable and costly Colliery and Oil Works Plant and Machinery, and Private Railway direct from the works into the Coed Talon branch of the Chester and Mold railway.

      MESSRS CHURTON AND ELPHICK respectfully announce that they have been instructed to SELL BY AUCTION, at the Grosvenor Hotel, in the city of Chester, on Tuesday, the 23rd day of August, 1870, at Twelve for One o'clock p.m., most punctually, in the following or such other Lots, as may be decided upon by the agents of the vendors at the time of Sale, and subject to such conditions as will be then produced, the highly important Works, known as THE NORTH WALES OIL WORKS, situate on the north side of the Mold and Wrexham Turnpike-road, at Pontblyddyn, about three miles from Mold, in the county of Flint, and half a mile from the Padeswood Station, on the Chester and Mold Railway, together with the COLLIERIES in connection therewith, a FREEHOLD MEADOW adjoining;, and the whole of the MACHINERY, PLANT, UTENSILS, and FIXTURES upon the premises, recently erected at a very large outlay, and embracing the newest improvements and appliances.

      It is proposed to offer Lots 1, 2, 3, and 4, in the first instance, in one Lot, and, if not so sold, then in the following, or such other Lots, and in such order, as the agents of the vendors shall determine, viz.

      • Lot I. - The interest of the vendors in all that mineral property, known as THE LEESWOOD HILL COLLIERY, comprising the seams of coal, cannel, ironstone, clay, i.e., under 117 a. 2r. 25p. of land, or thereabouts, in the township of Leeswood, held under a lease for a term of which upwards of 19 years are unexpired, at a minimum rent, commencing from the 29th September, 1871, of £40 per annum, and a royalty of £25 per foot per acre for coal, and £50 per foot per acre for cannel, together with the pits and other workings, and the valuable horizontal high pressure steam engine, steam boiler, winding gear, and other plant in and upon the pit bank No. 2 ; also the horizontal high pressure engine, cylindrical boiler, and other plant, in and upon pit bank No. 3 ; also the 8-inch donkey engine and plant on pit bank No. 5 ; also the right of user of the private railway to the Coed Talon branch of the main line of the Chester and Mold Railway.
      • Lot 2.- That portion of the present works known as THE NORTH WALES OIL WORKS, which is used for the manufacture of crude oil, containing 3a. 2r. 22p., or thereabouts, held under lease for 90 years, from the 29th of September, 1866, at the rent of £38 15s Od, comprising 115 upright, 24 revolving retorts, and a horizontal high pressure steam engine, with the requisite machinery, plant, and appliances, range of building used as stables, workshops, &c" and the right of user of the said private railway.
      • Lot 3.- The REFINERY portion of the said Oil Works, containing:3a. 3r. 5p., or thereabouts, held under lease for the same terms as Lot 2, at the rent of £38 15s, comprising 10 stills, 10 agitators, filtering tanks, hydraulic press, Ac., &c, together with the dwelling house, office, cooperage, and weighing machine, &C, &c, thereon, and the right of user of the said private railway.
      • Lot 4.- The MINES of Coal, Cannel, Ironstone, Clay, Ac, under the whole of Lots 2 and 3, and adjoining lands, comprising in the whole 46 acres, or thereabouts, held under lease for a term of which 11) years are un- expired, at a minimum rent, commencing from the 22th September, 1871, of £60 per annum, and the same Royalties as Lot 1, with the machinery, plant, tramway, stage, and other erections thereto belonging, and the vendors interest in the said private railway, subject to the right of user thereof to be reserved for the benefit of Lots 1, 2, and 3.
      • Lot 5.- A very valuable piece of FREEHOLD MEADOW LAND adjoining Lot 3, and bounded by the River Alyn, containing 4a. 2r. 8p., or thereabouts, together with the minerals thereunder. The Cannel seam of the district has been proved in this Meadow, and about a quarter of an acre thereof worked. This Lot will be sold subject to, and with the benefit of the letting to the Coppa Colliery Company of the Cannel seam east of the fault, at a Royalty of £50 per foot per acre.

      Mr Liston, who resides at the Works, will appoint a person to show the Lots.

      Wrexham Advertiser 6th August 1870


      SALE BY MR. THOMAS DEAN. Sale of a Freehold Meadow, with the Cannel seam and other Minerals thereunder, at Pontblyddyn, near Mold, Flintshire, and about half a mile from Padeswood Station, on the Chester and Mold Railway. TO be SOLD by AUCTION, by Mr THOMAS DEAN, at the Black Lion Hotel, Mold, on Wednesday, the 12th July, 1871, at Four o'clock in the afternoon prompt (unless previously disposed of by- private treaty, of which due notice will be given), and subject to conditions to be then produced, a very valuable piece of Freehold MEADOW LAND at Pontblvddyn, bounded on the north by the river Alyn, having a frontage to the Mold and Wrexham Turnpike Road, adjoining the Oil Works, late belonging to the North Wales Coal Oil Company Limited, and now to W. B. Marston, Esq., and near to the Druid Inn, and Pontblyddyn Church, containing 4a. 2r. 5p. or thereabouts and now in the occupation of Mr Alexander Liston, together with the MINES and MINERALS thereunder, comprising the valuable Cannel seam of the district, which has been proved in this land, and about a quarter of acre thereof, gotten by the Coppa Colliery Company, to whom the seam east of the fault has been let at a royalty of £95 per foot per acre. Immediate possession can be given. To treat in the interim, or for further particulars, apply to Mr James Wakefield, Accountant; Messrs. Walker and Smith, Solicitors, Chester; or to the Auctioneer, Mold.

      Wrexham Advertiser 24th June 1871


      NORTH WALES OIL WORKS, NEAR MOLD. W. B. Marston, Esq.,having resolved to abandon the production of Paraffin Oil at his North Wales Refinery, Padeswood, and in future to carry on only the Grease and Lubricating Oil Trade, at his Leeswood Vale Oil Works, Coed Talon, near Mold, has instructed Mr THOMAS DEAN to SELL by AUCTION his. PARAFFIN OIL PLANT, at the above North Wales Oil Refinery, at Padeswood, about two-and-a- half miles from Mold, on the Mold and Wrexham turnpike road, on Monday, the 4th day of October, 1875, at one o'clock, p.m., prompt, the whole of the extensive Plant and Fittings - Comprising:

      • 10in. horizontal engine and fittings,
      • 2 steam boilers and connections,
      • 1 single and 1 double donkey engine,
      • 2 hydraulic presses (by Armitage),
      • 1 hydraulic pump,
      • 17 stills, capable of containing 1,600 gallons, perfectly fitted with condensors, worms, furnaces, etc, by the most celebrated maker,
      • super heaters, wrought iron washers, with agitators,
      • 3 force pumps with eccentric rods and pullies,
      • a great number of tanks of large capacity, suitable for storing and bleaching both in wrought iron and cast iron,
      • circular tank, with cover 18ft. diameter, by 14ft. deep,
      • ditto, ditto, 24ft. diameter, by 10ft. deep,
      • wrought iron driving shaft, with pullies, brackets, pedestals, and cross steps, spur and, bevel wheels,
      • experimental retorts,
      • a very large quantity of gas piping of various sizes,
      • taps, cooling tanks, drum pullies,
      • weighing machines, by Hudson and Stead, and Avery :
      • large filtering tank with 4-inch filters, with a great variety of other valuable plant.

      Mr Dean has great pleasure in calling the attention of oil refiners and manufacturers, as also proprietors of chemical works and gentlemen requiring storage tanks for water, to this very extensive plant, the whole of which is in good working order and of high character. Full descriptive catalogues are now ready and can be obtained from the Auctioneer, Mold, or at the Works. On view 14 days prior to the sale, when the manager will show the various lots. A railway siding goes through the premises.

      Wrexham Adveriser, 11th September 1875