Category Archives: Entertainment

Rhyl bans “The Exorcist”

Who went to see “The Exorcist” in the 1970’s?  Possibly not in Rhyl ?  This interesting poster is currently for sale at Drew Pritchard‘s shop in Conwy. The controversial film, which is an adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel,  was submitted to the British Board of Film Classification in 1974.  It tells the story of a young girl possessed by a demon.  Rumour had it that it caused some people to leave the cinema, faint and even vomit.  This is from the BBFC’s website:

“in spite of its more sensationalist moments, the BBFC considered that The Exorcist was suitable for an X certificate to be issued without cuts. As the BBFC’s Secretary, Stephen Murphy, said at the time, ‘It is a powerful horror movie. Some people may dislike it, but that is not a sufficient reason for refusing certification’.”


“the film was a huge popular success at the box office and the public as a whole did not seem overly concerned. Despite this, a handful of local authorities bowed to the demands of pressure groups and banned the film in their areas, which only added to the reputation of the film.”

We think that the film was eventually shown in Rhyl – can our readers confirm this?



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Rhyl’s Carnival 1929

Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

In 1929 Rhyl held a Carnival which turned out to be one of the biggest events ever to be held in the town.  Ten of thousands of people flocked into Rhyl by road and rail for the three day Carnival which began on Thursday, June 27th.  The advertisement on the left is typical and was from the Yorkshire Evening Post.
In his book “Rhyl, the town and its people” J.W. Jones wrote that it was the idea of Arnold Heckle, the popular Publicity Manager at the time.  A Carnival King and Queen were appointed.  The “King” was Bertram Jones, proprietor and editor of the Rhyl Leader and the “Queen” was Billie Manders.  To get a flavour of the wonderful carnival of 1929, watch the British Pathé footage


The sun shone on the Carnival’s opening day, the highlight of which was the arrival of the famous aviator Sir Alan Cobham, but more of that later.  Also on the Thursday was a Gilbert and Sullivan garden fete in the Vicarage Grounds and a torchlight procession and tattoo in the Marine Gardens (beside the pavilion).
Friday and Saturday saw a speed boat rally, motor cycle reliability trials, sports, a Children’s Beauty competition, roller skating races, dances, a Grand Procession, community singing and fireworks

Prize winners at the 1929 Rhyl Carnival

But back to the opening day and the hugely anticipated arrival of Sir Alan Cobham in his de Havilland Giant Moth which he christened “Youth of Britain”.  The Rhyl Journal reported that he was expected to arrive at Aberkinsey Farm (between Rhyl and Dyserth) at 11a.m and a big crowd had gathered to welcome him.  Unfortunately he experienced mechanical problems as he left Crewe which meant it was after 12 noon that he was first sighted over the farm.  He made a “beautiful” landing amidst great cheering and was immediately “mobbed” by the crowd.  Sir Alan then proceeded to take members and officials of Rhyl council for a flight over the town.  Then a second party boarded the plane but as it took off the propeller caught a tree and sustained damage which caused abandonment of the flight.  Fortunately no-one suffered any injuries.  A photograph of the “crash” can be seen below.

photograph reproduced with kind permission of Pete Robinson at

The Rhyl Journal published a list of children chosen to take a flight that day, representing various schools in Rhyl.  It added that their flight would be postponed until the following day because of the accident.  It was not clear in the paper as to whether the children ever took their flight – risk assessment was probably quite different in 1929!

In the Rhyl Journal the following week, under the headline “Aerodrome for Rhyl” Sir Alan assured those gathered at a reception that there would have been no such trouble if there had been a proper aerodrome.  Sir Alan said “they had to make use of improvised fields as they proceded from town to town and the field selected at Aberkinsey Farm was the only one suitable for the purpose of such a demonstration from Anglesey to Rhyl.  There was a great opportunity before Rhyl, so far as aviation in North Wales was concerned, and he hoped they were that day seeing the beginning of the laying of the foundations of a local aerodrome.”










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Easter Holidays 1926

Ninety years ago there was a packed programme at the Rhyl Pavilion and Gardens. Direct from the Aldwych and Shaftesbury Theatres, London was the play “Tons of Money”,  a farce by British writers Will Evans and Arthur Valentine.

Also showing was “Bringing up Father”, which was based on an influential American comic strip.

There was an operatic concert on Easter Sunday and the Rhyl Silver Band played in the Gardens.

Can any of our readers confirm that the Manager of the Pavilion,  J.W. Jones, is same Mr J.W.Jones, the local historian who was also known as “Joe Swan”?

click on image to enlarge

click on image to enlarge

One of the most notable parts of the programme was the wonderful transport arrangements that were in place, that would put modern public transport to shame.

Rhyl’s White Rose Motor Company had saloon buses waiting outside the theatre each evening to take people home to: Prestatyn, Gronant, Ffynnongroew, Greenfield, Meliden, Dyserth, Rhuddlan, St. Asaph, Trefnant, Denbigh, Bodelwyddan, St. George, Towyn, Abergele, Llanddulas, Penmaen Hill, Colwyn and on.  Also Newmarket and Trelogan on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The L.M. & S Railway Company put on late railway facilities after the show to places as far afield as Bangor and Bettws y Coed.


Ninety years on there is still lots going on at Rhyl’s New Pavilion Theatre.  This Easter “The Wizard of Oz” is showing – a magical treat for all the family.


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And the band played on.

Saturday, June 6th, 1908 dawned bright and breezy.  The Journal described it as a red letter day in the history of Rhyl.  Crowds gathered, the “gates were besieged” and there was “congestion at the turnstile”.  It was the day of the opening of the Rhyl Promenade Gardens, or Marine Gardens, and there was a carnival atmosphere.

Click on image to enlarge. Note the bathing huts on the beach and the sandhills in the distance.

The grounds formed part of the Promenade pavilion gardens scheme, and included lawns, flower beds, shelters, tea rooms and there was turf laid for tennis, bowls and croquet.  The gardens lay on the eastern side of the soon to be opened Pavilion.  Mr G.A. Taverner, Chairman of the Council  performed the opening ceremony from the magnificent, Edwardian bandstand.  He also called upon Councillor Mr J.H. Ellis, who was known as “the father of the Pavilion and Gardens scheme”, to speak.
De Jong’s band played “God save the King” and the gardens were “open”!

This all happened in the morning and the musical performance took place between 11-1.  There was an afternoon performance 3.15-4.45, and also an evening performance, 7.30-9.30.  The paper reported “When illuminated at night the gardens became ‘Rhyl’s fairyland’ and the attendance was again very large”.

The Pavilion itself opened on July 30th, 1908 – but that is for another time.

There have been other bandstands in Rhyl over the years.  The next photograph shows an art deco bandstand in similar location.

bandstand ed psp_edited-1 with wm

high st prom orig copy

This card shows the bandstand at the top of the High Street. Click on the image to enlarge.



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The Grand Pavilion

On Tuesday, February 24th, 1891 a meeting was held at the Town Hall to discuss the proposed building of a Grand Pavilion at the entrance to the pier. Mr R. D. Roberts (Mwrog) was the Chairman and stated that whilst Rhyl was blessed with the finest and safest beach on the whole coast, the town needed more entertainment facilities.

He went on to say that Llandudno attracted visitors in their thousands to its concerts at their Pier Pavilion, something that Rhyl should emulate.  Things moved quickly and there was only 14 weeks between the first brick being laid in the foundations and the opening night.  The theatre was opened by Lady Florentia Hughes of Kinmel Hall on Saturday, September 12th 1891.


Click on photo to enlarge

The local newspapers described the theatre’s appearance to that of an “Eastern Palace”, “Mosque like” and having a “Moorish style of architecture”.  It was designed by Messrs Darbishire and Smith of Manchester as a Concert Hall.  Except for its foundation it was built entirely of wood and iron.  It was originally intended to have a large glass dome, but in the event it did not, due to financial restrictions. It had a clock face 6′ in diameter above the grand entrance.  Later, the Rhyl Record and Advertiser described it as an “elegant and graceful structure until the proprietors succumbed to the blandishments of the advertising fiend”! (A photograph of the theatre in Philip Lloyd’s book “Glorious Rhyl” shows the building surrounded by advertising hoardings for Lifebuoy soap, Sunlight soap and Royal disinfectant”).

Inside the facilities were ideal, there was  full view of the stage  from every part of the hall, whilst the acoustic properties were exceptionally good.  It could hold 3,000 people.  2,500 chairs were purchased and the local paper described how the Directors also purchased 200 armchairs “for paterfamilias and matrons of extra sizes”!  The whole building was heated by an excellent system of hot water pipes.  The orchestra area measured 50’x21′ and was able to accommodate 250 performers.

The icing on the cake was the successful purchase of the grand organ, built for the Jubilee Exhibition of Manchester by Messrs Bishop and Son, and the securing of the services of a musical director who ranked as one of the best in England – Mr Edward de Jong.  The organ cost £4,000, had 3,095 pipes and the Grand Theatre boasted that their organ recitals could not be experienced anywhere outside St. George’s Hall in Liverpool or Crystal Palace in London.

Almost exactly ten years after the opening, the theatre burnt down on September 14th, 1901.  To read more about its sad demise click here.

A week later, on September 21st,  the Rhyl Record and Advertiser reflected on the Theatre’s brief history.  It said “ever since it was erected in 1891, misfortune and ill luck have persistently pursued it”.  It went on to explain that after the initial success patronage was not sufficient to match the expenditure and as a consequence the quality of the entertainment deteriorated.  There was a lack of public support, a strain on finances, disagreement amongst the directors and between directors and shareholders.  The original founders and directors one by one severed their connection with the company.  The whole concern then fell into the hands of Messrs Carter and Warhurst who made huge efforts to obtain public support which may have succeeded had it not been for the fire.




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Billie Manders and the Quaintesques.

Writing about Billie Manders and the Quaintesques in a Rhyl local history blog is akin to reinventing the wheel.  Who hasn’t heard of the famous company of all male entertainers who were so synonymous with Rhyl?  This then, is for for those who haven’t or for those of us who would like reminding.  According to local historian J.W. Jones:  “The Quaintesques, Rhyl’s own concert party, was a phenomenon of show business”


Billie Manders came to Rhyl in 1921, took a lease on the Amphitheatre and opened there on July 11th.  There were seven in the original all male company, which was an immediate success, Mr Manders always appeared as a woman. The shows ran for 44 consecutive seasons until 1964.

bm 6

Every Friday night a new programme was presented.  This ensured regular patronage, from local people in addition to visitors, as one could go every week during the season and see a different show each time.


At the end of each Summer season in Rhyl The Quaintesques went on tour to Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield where they played a few weeks in each city before returning to their permanent home in Rhyl ready for the Summer Season.  This arrangement provided employment throughout the year, something that very few theatrical employers were able to offer.

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In 1934 The Sunday Despatch organised a competition and under the headline “Winning Concert Party” it announced that “the most popular holiday entertainment in the British Isles, as judged by our readers, is The Quaintesques of Rhyl”



The Manchester Guardian reported the death of Billie Manders on October 31st, 1950:

“Manders – On October 28 suddenly in hospital WILLIAM HENRY (Billie) MANDERS of “Pimperne”, East Parade, Rhyl, the devoted husband of Gladys and “Guvnor” of the “Quaintesques” at the Pier Amphitheatre, Rhyl.”  His funeral was held in St. Thomas’ Church, where 1,500 people gathered.  He is buried in Rhyl Town (Maes Hyfryd) Cemetery.

The end for The Quaintesques did not come until after the 1964 season, when Mrs Gladys Manders retired.EPSON MFP image

Billy Manders and The Quaintesques were regularly on the radio, see listings in the Radio Times here:

Thanks to Lynne Maxwell who has sent in two wonderful photographs of Willie Manders, as he was known in his early days.  He changed his name from Willie to Billie at the suggestion of his father-in-law, Mr. Will Catlin.





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