William Henry Darby 1819 – 1882

Researched by Annette Edwards

William Henry was born in Coalbrookdale on 2 April 1819; he was the son of Richard Darby and his wife Maria Lorton who was from Chester. They were Quakers and their children were baptised at the Monthly Meeting of Shropshire. William Henry`s birth was witnessed by 4 people, including a surgeon and a registrar.

The Darby`s  had been ironmasters at Coalbrookdale for many years,  and in 1846 ‘The Brymbo Company’ was formed  along with with  three members of the Darby family taking over the management.

Williams brother Charles E Darby also remained in Brymbo all his life.

Richard Darby died in Brussels on 7 August 1860; he had been visiting Europe and died on his way home.

In July 1854 William Henry married Sarah Littleboy  at Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire. Great celebrations were held in Wrexham and surrounding villages where William Henry was very well thought of.  His family had given funds to start schools in the area and supported many other local causes.

Children in the Gwersyllt and Brymbo schools had a tea party and were all given sixpence. Brymbo was given a whole holiday and all shops were shut,  celebrations were held in the Smelting house where over 1500 workman and their families enjoyed  rounds of beef, tongues, pigeon pies, hams, tartlets, jellies etc. The Darby`s were strict tee totallers and this report from the news states “Instead of the usual glass of ale, each one was furnished with a cup of tea, that beverage which” cheers, but not inebriates.”

Their first son John Henry Darby was born on 17 September 1856.

In 1860 a  Band of Hope was formed  for the children of Tee totallers and William Henry took a leading part, later that year a huge tea party was given for all the children of the members  where he took part to promote the cause.

In September 1860 a report in the papers shows that William Henry missed on an award at the flower show.

“The fourth exhibition of the Wrexham Floral and Horticultural Society, took place in Grove Park it was said  the best show that has taken place since the establishment of the society.

The 1st prize for 12 roses was taken by Thomas Barnes Esq. Quinta.  By an unavoidable mistake the stand of 12 roses belonging to W H Darby: Esq, were overlooked when the judges awarded the prize, and they were undoubtedly the best at the show.” It was probably his gardener who looked after the flowers and shrubs.

William Henry had a large family home built in Brymbo, it was named Pen Y Garth and still stands.  By then he had interests in coal mining and lime works as these were both needed in the production of iron. He was a shrewd businessman.

Later in life he became a magistrate and a chairman of the school board.

William Henry died of heart disease on 19 June 1882 at Penygarth, and after his burial a special train was provided to take people back to Brymbo.

His son John Henry who was by now a mining engineer married Isabelle Littleboy  at Benson in  July 1884.   She was from the same family as his mother.

Huge celebrations were made for the couple`s return to Brymbo which was expected in the evening, cannons were erected in the area at different places  and fired all day until the afternoon when one exploded  near Plas Power colliery  and  killed a miner coming off his shift.

John Henry designed and erected the Brymbo Steel Works and later a similar works was built at  Scunthorpe.   He died at his home in Bournemouth  in October 1919.

Brymbo steelworks provided work for thousands of local men, fathers, brothers  and sons,  but the closure was  announced on 14th May 1990.  After weeks of trying to fight for the steelworks to remain open the blast furnace was tapped on September 27th.  As the final steel made its way through the works, each section closed in its turn, until finally the Inspection Departments signed off the last delivery in February 1991.


Sarah was born 9 March 1822 at Bourne End, Hertfordshire; she was the daughter of William Littleboy and Sarah. Her father was a “mealman “ which was a miller. The family were Quakers.

William died on 28 January 1837 but Sarah stayed in the village and carried on working the mill. Her daughter Sarah is still with her.

In 1851 Sarah (1822) is in Chester where her brother John was a coal merchant. It`s possible this is how she met William Henry Darby whom she married in 1854. Her mother stayed at the mill until she died in 1870 aged 75.

Sarah died on 9 December 1903 aged 81 at Wren‘s Nest, Stansty. Her obituary stated that she was a well-known member of the Society of Friends. She was a strong advocate of temperance, and was of a most philanthropic nature.

Researched by Annette Edwards. July 2018.

Wrexham Cemetery 03/09/2018

Grave ref: Wrexham Cemetery H-02056