I cycled to work yesterday through the North Wales countryside, over and the along the River Dee and into Chester to the University where I work. It is a 28 mile there-and-back peddle on my noble and reliable velocipede. On the way back I had to contend with some steep uphill sections and I really struggled coming home fighting against a strong and blustery westerly wind. Still, I was proud I made it, for despite May weather being far from inclement, the wind was exhausting.
On my journey into work, I cycled through Bretton, on the English-Welsh border. Down on the flat, drained landscape beside the Dee estuary, Bretton lies between Broughton and Saltney. On previous commutes I had noticed a sign and a modest-sized monument in the garden of a private residence beside the main road through the village. Previously I had been determined not to dither and kept on cycling. Today I stopped to investigate. It proved to be a fascinating example of a monument to a now-lost canal. What is also striking is the long journey the stone has gone on before it came back to its current resting place.
The stone is a small gravestone-like upright. The display shows a photograph of the stone in its original location, and two photographs from laser scanning, revealing the inscription. The stones is ‘the only known surviving artefact’ from the canal built here by Sir John Glynne to connect his estate collieries to the canal network at Chester. This sandstone block bears in the initials SRG (Stephen Richard Glynne, whose involvement with the company dated between 1780-1805) and ‘GWP’ (George William Prescott, dated between 1794-1801) and the word ‘Barts’ indicating the title of Baronet attributed to both men. Therefore, the stone has to date between 1794 and 1801.
The stone has a complex history of migration. The board describes how it was taken from Bretton for sake keeping by members of the Railway and Canal Historical Society and was kept in Devon. The stone was subsequently returned in a year unspecified and a note was published on it in Archaeology in Wales volume 47 for 2007.
Boundary stones and gravestones have much in common. While not marking graves, they commemorate both past individuals, and past communities. In this instance, through its simple plain form, its subsequent translations, repatriation, display and study, the Bretton Terminus Mere Stone serves as a memorial to the men named but also the past generations of the area, and the industrial heritage of Bretton and its surroundings.