Early history

The fast flowing water that rises from a spring in Holywell and runs down to the sea has carved the story of this valley

Greenfield Valley’s history literally springs from the constant flow of water which was vital to the industry, agriculture and the daily lives of the people.

The earliest evidence for occupation in this area is some Roman pottery found during building work on the Museum Visitor Centre. The Romans were attracted to this area for the mineral deposits above Holywell.

By early medieval times the Valley had grown in importance as part of a boundary with the English Kingoms, the earliest of which is a section of Wat’s Dyke. King Offa of Mercia built this defensive ditch to mark the boundary of his land in the 8th century. Around the same time pilgrims began to travel to the well at Holywell, drawn by the legend of St Winefride and the reputed healing powers of the waters. A church was probably built around 1093 and a castle in which Henry II took refuge while visiting the well.

To look after the numbers of visitors to the well, Sauvignac monks set up a monastery here at Basingwerk around 1131. A Royal charter was granted in 1157, leading to the construction of a stone Abbey and the further development of the Valley. The monks farmed the land around Basingwerk Abbey and used the water from the Valley for their corn and fulling mills, until the dissolution of the Abbey in 1536.