The photograph shows an original wall of the fated Winter Gardens, which can be seen at the rear of the houses on Lake Avenue and which runs almost up to the promenade. Opened in 1876, the gardens were up for sale by 1882. They were sold for £36,000 in 1883 but were never financially successful. Eventually the site was sold for residential development. Below is an extract from the North Wales Chronicle of 1876 which describes the cutting of the first sod and the high hopes for a bold new project. It all sounds strangely familiar.
Below are extracts from The North Wales Chronicle, January 8th, 1876.
“Rhyl Aquarium and Winter Gardens”
“Cutting the First Sod.”
Seldom in the depth of Winter do we have so balmy and clear a day as that on Tuesday, and still more seldom do the inhabitants of Rhyl witness so large a quantity of visitors in their pretty little town during the Winter season as were there on Tuesday last. The trains during the morning brought in hundreds, and before noon the streets were crowded as in the height of the season; while the whole town was decorated for the occasion, and it soon became apparent that the town was “en fete”. The reason of this was that the first act in the preparation of the Aquarium and Winter Gardens was to be performed on the ground that the company had so advantageously purchased…
The directors have purchased some 35 acres of land on the western side of the town, about two-thirds of a mile from the station, and on one third of this land they intend erecting the building etc, which were inaugurated on Tuesday last. They will have a splendid frontage to the sea, of some 300 feet in length, the elevations being bold and striking; at each end of the main building will be a transept some 150 feet long and 120 feet wide. In the basement of the main building to the western transept, the aquarium will be situated. In the basement of the opposite transept will be the restaurant and dining rooms, capable of sitting over 1,000 diners. On the ground floor the western transept will be devoted to a winter’s garden, which will be heated so as to enable tropical vegetation in great variety to thrive at all seasons of the year; in the opposite transept will be the concert and lecture hall, capable of seating some 2,500-3,000 people, and a stage some 45 feet deep, at the back of which will be placed a large concert organ….
There will also be a large and commodious hotel erected near the aquarium, and the remainder of the land will be used for building villa residences. At no previous time has any scheme of such magnitude and fraught with so much future benefit to the town and the trade of Rhyl been placed before the public, and the inhabitants seemed on Tuesday as if they were awaking to a new era in the history of the town…
The proceedings of the day commenced with a lengthy procession, which formed at the Royal Hotel in the following order: The Rhyl Rifle Volunteer Band, the Forresters of Court “Prince Llewelyn”, No. 1242, in regalia and with flags; Rhyl Commissioners and their Clerk; the Llanddulas Quarries band; the Odd-fellows of Rhyl in regalia and with flags; the Rhyl new lifeboat, “The Morgan”, draw by six fine horses, and fully manned by the crew wearing their cork jackets; the Fire Brigade, on their engine; the patrons, directors, and friends in carriages. The procession passed along West Parade, Queen Street, and Wellington road, to the ground where some thousands of people gathered and formed into a square, into which entered the directors of the company and those to take part in the ceremonies of the day….
Major West, the Lord Lieutenant of Denbighshire, then cut the sod and was presented with a miniature spade and fork in silver, on behalf of the directors to commemorate the event.