Category Archives: Buildings/Location

The Military College of Science, Rhyl.

Norman Copeland O.B.E. photograph by kind permission of the Museum of Army Chaplaincy

What is so fulfilling about running this blog is not so much the information we “export” but the information we “import”, through enquiries to this website and also to our facebook page.  Items of history about our town and people, of which most of us were unaware, have been shared with us from as far afield as South Africa, Italy, France, Australia, and Canada.
Our most recent correspondence has come from the Ukraine and has revealed what to many readers will be forgotten history.  Taras Hrytsevych, a military psychologist and senior teacher in the Army Academy in Lviv, Ukraine, has written to us enquiring about the Military College of Science* which was located in Rhyl during the Second World War.  At the outbreak of the war the College was based in Woolwich, but after a brief move to Lydd in Kent it became necessary to split the college into three parts.  “A Fire Control Instruments School was established in Bury in Lancashire and an Artillery Equipments School at Stoke on Trent.  The M.T. section -and who can blame them – chose Rhyl as their home.”  (A Short History of the Royal Military College of Science, 1864-1964 by C.B. Daish) M.T. here stands for Mechanical Traction.

A Rhyl resident we have spoken to can remember the Military College in Rhyl, he has told us that they occupied garages in town – the Westcliffe Garage which stood on the corner of Butterton Road and Wellington Road, the Grosvenor Garage which stood on the corner of Westbourne Avenue and Wood Road and a garage on Vale Road (approx. opposite A.T.S.)

Taras is researching Norman Copeland O.B.E. who, whilst in Rhyl with the Military College of Science, wrote the respected book “Psychology and the Soldier : the Art of Leadership”.  Taras says “I am keen in military psychology and one of my favorite books in the field is “Psychology and the Soldier” written by British military chaplain Norman Copeland. norman-copeland-2The book was initially published in 1942 in the US and then in 1944 in the UK. Afterwards it was several times reissued, among them twice – in former Soviet Union, in 1958 and 1991″

Norman Copeland received correspondence whilst he was here in Rhyl to 55, West Parade.  Was this part of the College itself, perhaps the administrative HQ?  Or was it the accommodation for those at the College?  During WW2 many of the buildings on West Parade were requisitioned by the Army.  norman-copelland55, West Parade is no longer there, it is part of a block that has recently been demolished. If anyone has any information about 55, West Parade or even better, any photographs, could you please comment below or contact us via e-mail? (rhylhistoryclub@gmail.com)  Also, if  anyone has any other memories or information about the Military College of Science in Rhyl, could they please contact us.  Thank you.

* Towards the end 0f 1941 the branch of the Military College of Science in Rhyl was renamed (reorganised) the Royal Artillery Mechanical Traction School (commonly abbreviated to R.A.M.T. School). Early in 1945 the R.A.M.T.S. was moved from Rhyl to Bordon in Hampshire, thus the time frame of the M.C.of S./R.A.M.T.S. being located in Rhyl is 1940-1945.  After D-Day (June 6th, 1944) the School abandoned requisitioned buildings in Rhyl and moved to “a neighbouring hutted camp”.

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The “Infamous” Rhyl Station Bracket Box

Spotted by a Rhylite recently in an article in the Saturday Guardian was a reference to “The Infamous Rhyl Station Bracket Box”.  Obviously this required further investigation!  Rhyl Station’s bracket box, which stood on the main platform behind the main entrance buildings, is in The Isle of Wight Postal Museum along with over 200 others.  The owner, collector Arthur Reeder, is also a member of the Letter Box Study Group and it was via this group that a fellow member, Elaine Warner, told him about the Rhyl box.  rhyl-station-bracket-post-box006Here’s what Arthur had to say:

“She had reported it’s poor state and so whilst on a holiday in Porthmadog I made the trip to see what was becoming an increasingly rare form of postbox. The only one left of this type now still in use can be found at Llandrindod Wells Station.

The ‘infamous’ Rhyl bracket box was actually a locally made version in pine of what was a standard issue oak wooden box supplied by The Ministry of Works carpenters.
The physical construction of these boxes is quite a work of art and the round tops are made with strips of wood joined together to form the arch. Unlike the ‘standard oak’ versions, this box had additional wooden beads around the front and sides‎ and a smaller aperture which is somewhat at odds with the standard boxes. I would describe the Rhyl box as slightly more ornate!
Also, unlike the standard boxes, this one was not fitted with a nickel plate surrounding the posting aperture engraved with a crown and VR, but it had been hand painted instead.
Getting this part reproduced is probably what gave me the greatest satisfaction as although I had copied what I found under all the layers of paint, I was sceptical that it could ever have been hand painted due to the intricate works?
But a local guy in Harrow Middlesex, where I lived at the time, showed me just how good some of these signwriters actually are at their trade.
Wishing to reproduce the original enamel plate, I contacted another local company called Messers. Garnier of NW London, and they not only said making a plate wasn’t a problem, but that they had actually had the Royal Mail contract for such things since 1904! So due to this little wooden box, I had also bumped into yet another contact that stood me in good stead with replacement vitreous enamel signs for those damaged and missing on subsequent postboxes.
At the time of my visit, the station was being prepared for closure of most of the station buildings…I think to convert it to a supermarket?
All I saw was the painted outline of where it had been for 100 years on the wall behind some barriers. Having travelled all that way to see it, I wasn’t very pleased! I asked around and no-one could remember it going but it was a now a building site. I was eventually directed to where the station master could be found and he told me that it had been there up to a week or so before. He also told me it had been out of use for ages and had been boarded over for a good year due to a fire and heavy vandalism. He had asked for it to be removed by Royal Mail but hadn’t heard anything more. He presumed Royal Mail had come to collect it? So that would have been that apart from a cleaner disagreeing and saying she had seen it outside in the skip!!!
A trip round the hoardings to the skip in front of the station buildings revealed the box dumped inside. I dragged it back out to take a couple of photos and had to push the front back into place where it had been kicked in. The top circular beads were also in the skip so we knocked them back on but there was no sign of the door. I asked what was to become of it and the obvious answer was..it was going to be dumped.

So the next question was…can I have it then? I spent the remainder of my holiday in North Wales and the following week in Chester with this lump of old burnt smelly timber‎ in the back of my vehicle. But as it had survived all that time I thought it would be quite possible to give it back some semblance of self respect.

The “infamous Rhyl Bracket Box” (right). They are termed ‘bracket boxes’ as they resembled the old style of bracket clocks

This postbox is what gave me the bug to start collecting and here we are in 2017 with a museum and 235 postboxes on the Isle of Wight.
There will always be a special place and affection for postbox number 1 in my collection.”
Click here to see the bracket box in various stages of restoration.

 

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The Figure of Eight

In true “Antiques Roadshow” style we have been given a bag of cine films that was bought in a car boot sale.  Many of them have uninspiring titles such as “Christmas 1967”, but one was entitled “Marine Lake”.  When we had this film digitised we saw  a film that seems to have been taken from the Ocean Beach, looking towards the Pleasure Beach.  It appears to show the demolition and burning of the roller coaster “The Figure of Eight”.  Please comment if you can name the year, remember the Figure of Eight or have any other information.

If anyone knows the provenance of the films, who we should credit etc., please contact Rhyl History Club.

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The Carnegie Free Library

Before its current home in Church Street our library was within the Town Hall.  Readers of a certain age will have memories of the lovely old library there. carnegie-free-libray-2 It was built with £3,000 donated by Andrew Carnegie.  Carnegie, 1835-1919, was a Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist and one of the richest Americans ever.  During the last 18 years of his life he gave away 90% of his fortune – about $350 million (in 2015 share of GDP, $78.6 billion) to charities, foundations and universities.  2,509 Carnegie libraries were built around the world with his money, 660 of which were built in the U.K. and one of which was here in Rhyl.

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Andrew Carnegie. Photocredit : wikipedia

As long ago as the 1890s there were calls for a free library in Rhyl, as evidenced by letters to the local newspapers.  In 1902 it was heard that Mr Carnegie was giving money away for thousands of libraries.  In March 1905 the Rhyl Journal printed a letter from New York which confirmed that Rhyl would receive a sum of up to £3,000 to complete the library  building.  The newspaper also commented “The thanks of the town for the successful issue of the protracted and delicate negotiations with Mr Carnegie is largely due to Mr Rowlands* who has conducted the correspondence on the Council’s side with great skill”.  Not everyone was pleased though, as the £3,000 came with certain conditions resulting in a small rise in the rates -“some agreed and some did not like to face the trifling penny rate”.  There was organised opposition but the ratepayers eventually decided to accept the offer by a majority of 245.

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Laying the Foundation Stones of Rhyl’s Carnegie Free Library

The library was built as an extension to the Town Hall.  On a windy January afternoon in 1906 the foundation stones were laid by the High Sherriff of Flintshire, Mr W.J.P Storey, J.P. and Councillor J.W Jones J.P. (Chairman R.U.D.C.). both of whom received  a solid silver trowel and mallet.

The Library was opened in April, 1907.  At the opening ceremony Mr J. Herbert Lewis M.P. said” Henceforth every man and woman in the town of Rhyl, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, will own a library if not in their own houses, at least near their own doors”
Situated on the site of the old Police station and adjoining the Town Hall, the work was entirely in character – Penmaenmawr stone facing with Cefn stone quoins, heads, sills and strings. The library occupied the ground floor and comprised of a reading room, reference room, lending library, store room and Librarian’s room.  The first floor consisted of a stage, dressing rooms and conveniences.  The whole  of the new building was  heated with low pressure hot water apparatus and radiators and lit throughout by electricity.

*Mr Arthur Rowlands was the Town Clerk of Rhyl.

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Collapse of Rhyl Pier

Photographs today are instant, immediate, and we share them with family and friends within seconds.  We may think that this something quite new, but the photograph below was taken when storm damage to the pier was discovered on the morning of Wednesday, December 29th*, 1909, and it was available to buy as a picture postcard by noon.

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Rhyl pier had an eventful and chequered history.  Built in 1867, it suffered from fire, storms and collisions and was eventually dismantled in 1973.  To read more about the history of Rhyl’s Victoria Pier click here

At daybreak on Wednesday, December 29th, 1909 a startling discovery was made – part of the pier had collapsed onto the sands below.
During the night a heavy westerly gale blew, the tide was very high and the Rhyl Record and Advertiser reported that “the seas were tremendous”.  The first person to discover the collapse was Coastguard O’Connor whilst on his beat – the gap was about 30 yards long in the middle of the pier, a short distance beyond the Bijou Pavilion.  Crowds soon gathered to witness the scene and inspect the damage.

The collapse occurred in that portion of the pier which was supported by just two cast iron piles or columns, the centre column having broken two or three years before.  Instead of replacing the central column a girder was placed between the two that remained. All the other supports on the pier were three abreast.

*the damage was discovered at daybreak on Wednesday, December 29th.  The date of December 28th which appears on the postcard presumably refers to when the collapse occurred – that is during the night, but before midnight, on the Tuesday.

Read also “Tommy Burns – High Diver” 
and
“The Grand Pavilion destroyed by fire 1901”

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Sussex Street Baths

The baths in Sussex Street opened in 1905, they were situated where the old market used to be – where Peacock’s is today.  They closed in 1939 in order for the building to be used as a supply depot during WW2.  We don’t think it opened again after the war but if you know differently please comment below.
The wonderful Rhyl Outdoors Baths  opened in 1930 but of course these were closed in the Winter.

The Sussex Street Baths were the enterprise of a gentleman from Walsall – Mr Huxley.  Whilst the building itself was not exceptional, there was praise for the facilities within.  The swimming bath was described in the Rhyl Journal as being “of full racing size”.  It was 75′ long and 30′ wide (23mx9m).  The depth was 6’6″ (2m)at the plunge end and 3’3″ (1m) at the other.  It was fitted up with apparatus for polo, chute, trapeze, diving stage and climbing ropes for developing the muscles.

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A balcony for spectators ran all the way around. The pool was constantly supplied with water direct from the sea, “powerful machinery being employed for that purpose”.  The water was heated and kept at around 75° F (24°C) by a huge boiler.  The Journal reported that there were also private baths including “electric baths, vapour baths, Russian Baths and ordinary hot and cold sea baths”.  There was also full hydropathic treatment available.

A Rhyl resident who used to attend the baths in the 1930’s shares his memories: “We had great fun there as children.  The water was always warm so even in the Summer, if the weather was unseasonably chilly, we preferred it to braving the cool temperature of the outdoor baths.  I can remember going regularly – the price was not prohibitive, we didn’t have to save or take bottles back to the shop to afford the admission.  Men and boys used the cubicles on the poolside and ladies used the ones on the balcony.  We could use the hanging ropes to swing across the pool and then drop into the water.  A few of the more adventurous types would grab a rope from the balcony and drop in from a height, although this was strictly against the rules!  From the balcony we could also reach a door that led into the rear of the café.  We could knock on the door to buy buttered crusts for a halfpenny or a penny, I can’t quite remember.  Jam would be a halfpenny or a penny more.”

The formal opening of the baths took place on Friday, June 16th 1905, and the great and the good of Rhyl were in attendance.  Mr J.W. Jones, Chairman of the Council opened the door with a silver key and then addressed the assembled guests from the balcony overlooking the baths.  In concluding his address he wished the undertaking every success and added “as a result of the facilities there afforded they would have in Rhyl a community not only of proficient swimmers, but of youth and manhood made physically and morally strong”.
The High Sheriff of Flintshire then spoke, followed by Dr. A. Eyton Lloyd (Medical Officer of Health) who extolled the virtues of swimming for health and fitness.  It would be nearly 50 years before Sir Richard Doll discovered the link between smoking and lung cancer, but Dr. Eyton Lloyd said those who smoked “were diminishing their physical reserve” and appealed to young people to “do themselves justice and smoke less and swim more”.

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After the speeches refreshments were handed around, there was music from Herr Groop’s band and an exhibition of fancy swimming given by Miss Pauline Brown of Birmingham, which concluded with the “Monte Cristo Sack Trick”.  This looks very scary, to view click here

 

 

 

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