The census returns can provide valuable information, not only for the family historian, but also for those interested in local history and social history.
The returns are available to view in libraries, record offices, and also online through such websites as “Ancestry” and “Find my Past” – although at a cost. The website “Freecen” does what it says on the tin, and is free of charge:
The census for 1891 was taken on the night of April 5th, and provides a snapshot of life on that night. In Queen Street, Rhyl, on April 5th, there was a headcount of 147 people. The oldest was John Thomas aged 80, born in Lincoln in 1811, and a retired railway signalman. The youngest was Fannie Cheetham aged 8 months, born in Rhyl.
66 people were listed as speakers of both Welsh and English, 69 as English speakers only and 10 as Welsh only.
Only 55 had been born in Flintshire, the county to which Rhyl belonged at the time. Others were from Denbighshire, Caernarvonshire (sic), and many from more distant English counties such as Devon, Lincolnshire, Somerset, Sussex and Essex. James McGill of 14, Queen Street had been born in Dublin and Lydia Hatwood at no.35 lists her place of birth as Finland, the census describes her as a “naturalised British subject”.
71 people, nearly 50%, were aged 25 or younger.
Occupations were many and various – hairdressers, drapers, milliners, grocers, ironmongers, dressmakers, confectioners, florists, tailors and a jeweller. Frederick Adshead at no.8 was listed as a reporter. John Hughes at no.18 born in Nevin, Caernarvonshire (sic) was listed as Master Mariner. Hugh Edwards, town postman, lived at no.26 and the census states he spoke Welsh only.
Living at no.30 was Arthur Cheetham with his wife Rosanna and his children Gustavus and Fannie. His mother Sarah was also there along with his niece, also called Sarah. Staying at the house at the time was a visitor called Alfred Ballein, an artist. In 1891 Arthur Cheetham was 25 years old and his occupation/profession was listed as phrenologist and medical electro….. (rest of the word illegible). His place of birth was down as Swarkestone in Derbyshire. He gave lectures on phrenology (delineating one’s character and capabilities by reading the bumps on one’s head) on Rhyl sands. He went on to become an asset to the town as a pioneering film maker. He took the the first moving pictures to be taken in Rhyl, in 1898, of children playing on the sands.
The George Hotel was listed at no.29. Running it at that time was a William Jones b. Shrewsbury, described as a hotel keeper and wine merchant. He was living there with his wife and six children. His daughter Florence was 19 and a pupil teacher at Christ Church and the British School, Rhyl, as was his daughter Elizabeth, aged 15.
10 of the 34 households employed servants.
The picture painted by the census illustrates how Rhyl was a cosmopolitan little place for the time – how it must have changed in the forty three years since the arrival of the railway in 1848.
It is likely that the properties may have been numbered differently to the present day. On the 1891 census the property numbers go up to 37, and then onto Queen’s Court. In his book “Rhyl, the town and its people”, J.W. Jones talks about Rhyl’s vanished “places” such as Boston Place, Rhuddlan Place and Hope Place. He goes on to say that there were other side streets and back alleys such as Treforris, Greenbank Square and Queen’s Court. Does anyone know the exact location of the Queen’s Court of 1891?
For more information on Arthur Cheetham: