Category Archives: Buildings/Location

My Search for the Flying Fox

Readers of this blog may remember a post written a few years ago about the fascinating story of Flying Fox which is proudly displayed above the Royal Alexandra Hospital. to read this article again click here.

Mr Rodney McCully has kindly shared with us an interesting piece that he has written about this famous racehorse, its importance in the history of the hospital and his trip to France.

“The Principal tutor, Mr Ron Girling, first brought attention to this legendary horse the “Flying Fox” as we settled into start our nurse training, a group of 12 young women and men. It was 1969. The Rhyl School of Nursing had been established in 1963 and had adopted the Flying Fox as an emblem on the hospital badge that nurses would wear after successfully passing their final examination.

The history of the horse went back 70 years when the 1st Duke of Westminster, Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, whose love of racehorses led him to purchase the Flying Fox – the foal of Orme (dam) and Vampire (sire) – which reputedly became the Duke’s most successful racehorse. The Duke was a generous benefactor to the Royal Alexandra Hospital, previously known as the Children’s Convalescent Home, which had adopted the title in 1882 after Princess Alexandra, wife of Edward V11, had become patron. Prior to the horse competing in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park in 1899, the Duke made a promise to the matron; if the Flying Fox was to win he would donate £10,000 to the hospital fund. Flying Fox obliged and the money was a welcome amount towards the £40,000 building cost of the first central section of the hospital. Months after this profitable win, the Duke fell ill and died at the age of 75. Flying Fox was sold for a record 37,500 guineas, the highest price ever paid for a horse at auction. The buyer, Edmund Blanc, stabled Flying Fox at his stud farm Haras de Jardy in France, west of Paris. There he sired other classic winners such as Ajax, Flying Star, Gouvernment and Adam, with his progeny earning £203,400 in prize money. Flying Fox died in France in 1911 but his skeleton was preserved.

“Flying Fox 1896 – 1911″ photo credit wikipedia 

In the mid-1990’s I was in conversation at Glan Clwyd Hospital with a gentleman, Mr James, whom I had known for some years. I was wearing my uniform, proudly displaying as always my hospital badge, when Mr James remarked, “Isn’t that the Flying Fox”? After a positive reply and to my great surprise, Mr James told me that he and his wife had seen the Flying Fox displayed in an equine museum in the town of Saumur in the Loire Valley, France. From that moment, it was to be my goal to see this magnificent horse for myself but only on my third attempt would I accomplish this mission. Early in 2012, I made contact with Mme Nathalie Gadbin, Assistant Curator of the Chateau Musee de Saumur. Mme Gadbin was most helpful in my quest to visit and see the Flying fox and a date in September that year was agreed. Hotels and ferry crossings were pre-booked. However, one week before the journey I was informed by the ferry company that the return ferry crossing had been cancelled. No alternative plans could be made in time, so the visit was postponed.

In September 2017 my second journey was thrown into jeopardy when, following a detour to visit a friend in Switzerland, my car unfortunately broke down and the journey was finalised by a flight home from Geneva. The visit was now planned for May 2018 – which finally proved sucessful.

In 2017 I had the good fortune to have contact with, and be assisted by, Mrs Louise Benson, archivist at the Eaton Estate, Chester. Mrs Benson was of outstanding help in identifying the memorial to the Flying Fox at Eaton Hall and also gathered together other artefacts and information valuable in complementing the story. After each race had been won, a shoe would be taken from the horse and mounted on a plinth recording the event. Mrs Benson assembled together these mementoes adding spice to a rich history. One other connection could be noted between the Eaton Hall of late 19th century and the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Alfred Waterhouse being the architect responsible for the design of both buildings.

On Tuesday 15th May 2018 accompanied by my good friend Selwyn Jones, we left North Wales at lunchtime and travelled to Portsmouth for the overnight ferry to France. Our appointment with Mme Gadbin was at 11 am Thursday 17th May. Our hotel, on the banks of the Loire, was overlooked high above us by the impressive Chateau de Saumur. On a beautiful Thursday morning we walked to the Chateau to be warmly greeted by Mme Gadbin and Ms Janis Upsher, who was to act as our interpreter. Our reception overwhelmed us as we toured the Chateau and were guided to this exceptional horse. As the Chateau was approaching the end of a three year refurbishment the Flying Fox was standing gracefully in a third storey room, flanked by the displayed skeletons of a prehistoric horse and a an Arabian stallion.

Prior to actually seeing the Flying Fox, with the help of the interpreter, I gave an account of the history associated with the Royal Alexandra Hospital. There was mutual interest because the museum hadn’t realised the connection the Flying Fox had with the hospital and what an enormous part it had played in the funding of its building and of the place it had in the hearts of so many. I had amassed a dossier of information that I was able to systemically present to, and leave with them. Selwyn gave a comprehensive account of the building, history and infrastructure of the town of Rhyl.

Entering the room and seeing the Flying Fox for myself I could feel the warmth of a tear in my eye. It had been almost fifty years since my first encounter with this horse and over twenty years since I had made the promise that one day I would see for myself this legendary animal. My journey had reached a fitting finale.

Our departure was mixed with joy and sadness. On leaving, Mme Gadbin presented me with the most splendid wall chart titled “Tableau Indicatif des Maladies du Cheval et des Remedes”. It stays with me as a constant reminder of a horse forgotten, yet remembered by many whose lives were influenced by this great stallion.”

For more articles about the Royal Alexandra Hospital:

A seaside nursery for the little ones of our land.

Gertrude Ffoulkes

Edith Vizard

More on Edith Vizard

3 Comments

Filed under Buildings/Location, Memories

Queen’s Court/Sussex Lane

Club member Maggi Blythin has contributed this interesting piece:

We have received copies of old photos from Jean Hughes and I have done a bit of background research on them.

It would appear that the entrance to Queens Court is still there, but obviously the houses are long gone.
In 1911 the Silvey family were listed at Sussex Cottage. I presume that Queens Court was in the same area. There are several houses listed, most of them with several occupants.
They are at the same address in 1901 and there appear to be several properties nearby in Sussex Lane.
I think that it ran from Glanglasfor through to Queen Street, but could be mistaken!

1 Comment

Filed under Buildings/Location

The North and South Wales Bank.

The North and South Wales Bank (now the HSBC bank) is seen here on the left under construction c. 1900.  It was, and still is, a magnificent building.

The bank had operated in Rhyl from February 1856 from old Bodfor House with a manager and apprentice, on the same site – the corner of Bodfor Street and Wellington Road.  In 1880 the bank moved to premises in the Town Hall where they employed 10 clerks and it remained here until completion of the new building.  The bank amalgamated with the Midland Bank in 1908.  The base was made from locally quarried Talacre stone whilst Ruabon red bricks were used in parts of the upper stories. It boasted a very large strong room and claimed that it was thief and fire proof. When built it was ‘prepared for electricity’ awaiting its provision by the town authorities.

Thanks to Maggi Blythin for this article and photo.

The following is from “The Buildings of Wales. Clwyd (Denbighshire and Flintshire)” by Edward Hubbard (1986):
“By J.Francis Doyle of Liverpool, 1899-1901, for the North and South Wales Bank.  Brick and stone, three storeys, quadrant corner with a huge shell hood and Ionic columns above.”

Click on the following link to read about  Rhyl Town Hall

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Buildings/Location

E.B. Jones

Rhyl History Club member Maggi Blythin has shared photographs and information about E.B. Jones’s with us – do you remember any of the shops?

E B Jones were a chain of grocery shops in North Wales.They had branches in many towns and the Head Office was in Water Street in Rhyl. This is taken from a letterhead from 1921.

 

These are some of the oldest photos showing the shops in Rhyl, Ruthin and Colwyn Bay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This shows the RhylHigh Street branch, above which was  the Arundale Café  which was also owned by EBs:

 

These are some of the staff who worked in the Head Office in the late 40s and early 50s.

 

 

When the bigger supermarkets started to take over E B Jones started to close their shops and finally the Head Office in the 60s.
One shop in Deiniolen retained it s name and is now a coffee shop

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Maggi.

5 Comments

Filed under Buildings/Location, Work/Business

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”.

6 Comments

Filed under Buildings/Location, Military

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.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Buildings/Location, General