We have no photographs of the street traders and hawkers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but local historian J.W. Jones painted a picture of the street trading in Rhyl in his book “Rhyl and Round About” (1976).
Here is what he said:
“The Town Hall Square was a hive of industry on a Saturday at the end of the last century. As well as the stalls in the Corn Exchange – now the Publicity and Information Office – which sold eggs, butter, poultry and other farm produce, the pavements outside also had a number of stalls and street entertainers.
One sold rock made by a family named Foley; as well as buying the rock one could win sticks of it at a ball game set up on the Town Hall Square.
The corner of High Steet and the Promenade always had three or four women selling shrimps, freshly caught and cooked that day. The women looked very neat in their big white pinafores, with their big baskets, which held the shrimps, lined with a well laundered cloth.
Sellers of watercress, mushrooms and blackberries knocked at one’s door, and fresh fish, landed at the Foryd that same day, could be bought from handcarts in the main streets.”
Mr Jones goes on to say:
“On Saturdays Mrs Anwyl would arrive from Cwm with her pony-cart bearing a huge churn of buttermilk. Delicious, cooling, satisfying – it bore no resemblance to the half frozen buttermilk obtainable today.
Oyster sellers visited the public houses. and muffin sellers also could be seen, one coming all the way from Bala to sell his wares.
Then there were the sellers of block salt; a cartful of those gleaming white columns of cooking salt was a sight one will not see today.
Occasionally we had hawkers with a basketful of tortoises or a cart laden with pot plants, ferns, palms, rubber plants, or holly and mistletoe at Christmastime.”
However street traders and hawkers were not always popular. In 1882 “A. Tradesman” wrote to the Editor of the Rhyl Advertiser complaining that “day after day the town is being hawked from end to end with such articles as fruit, vegetables, fish and I believe, even butchers’ meat to the injury of regular shopkeepers and market stall holders who have to keep their establishments going all the year round and are subject to rates and taxes.”
A letter to the Rhyl Record and Advertiser in 1888 complained about “the hideous noises made nightly by the oyster hawkers.”
In 1907 the Rhyl Record and Advertiser ran an article called “Suppressing the Hawkers” congratulating the Council on their bold decision to seek Parliamentary aid in their campaign against the illicit selling of edibles in Rhyl. The article concluded with the paragraph:
“Moreover, the appearance of the town was not embellished by the presence of these hawkers, nor was the too frequent exercise of their vocal organ pleasing to the ears of visitors. They were in truth, a pest, and as such alone should be expelled – to say nothing of the great and cruel injury inflicted on the highly rated and rented tradesman.”
But as Mr J.W. Jones said “Street traders may have been an annoyance to rate paying shopkeepers, but they certainly added a little colour to our streets”.
To read more about Mr J.W. Jones, click on the link below: