Category Archives: Maritime

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.


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” 
“The Grand Pavilion destroyed by fire 1901”

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The River Training Scheme 1937

The recent construction work at the Foryd and along the west promenade (West Rhyl Coastal Defence Scheme) has kept us interested and intrigued over the last few years.

In 1937 there was similar interest and intrigue over a project called the River Training Scheme, which dealt with training the mouth of the River Clwyd by constructing a groyne. This was necessary in order to solve the foreshore problem created by encroachment of the river in preceding years.

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On examination of reports of Council meetings in the local press, during 1936-7, it appears that the project was riddled with setbacks, delays and spiralling costs.

In the report of the meeting of June ’37 consulting engineers Sir John Wolfe Barry and Partners stated that the length of the groyne was now “completed to its extremity” making a total length of 2,960 feet (902 metres).

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Also, that over the months 63 anchor piles were driven, 650 feet of wallings and 900 feet of capping were fixed.  They also reported that “excavation of the new channel was commenced on May 19th by hand digging”.  At the September meeting the engineers reported that there were currently 94 men employed on the scheme, 89 of whom were local.

In a lovely anecdote a local resident recalls visiting the project, aged 10: “Whilst I was at Christ Church School we were taken up onto the promenade by our schoolmaster Mr Rodgers.  The purpose of the trip was to explain the different speeds of light and sound.  We watched as the piles were driven into the ground and then observed the delay in hearing the noise.  An effective demonstration and one that I have never forgotten”.

It is not clear when exactly the project was completed but the Rhyl Journal of January 29th, 1938 reported that a portion of the newly erected training wall had given way during the recent storm.  Mr Tilby, Chairman of the Road Committee said he had lived in Rhyl for fifty years and had never seen a storm like it.

To see an aerial view (1949) of the training groyne click here

To learn more about the current West Rhyl Coastal Defence Scheme click here








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The paddle steamer “Carisbrooke”

The year was 1906 and, although there was no longer regular commercial trading between Rhyl and Liverpool, pleasure steamers continued to run – not only to Rhyl pier but also into the Foryd.  These steamers often experienced difficulties entering the Foryd harbour on a falling tide, and in August of that year hundreds of curious spectators gathered on the beach opposite the Palace Hotel where the “Carisbrooke” was stranded on the sands.  It had been making for the harbour but the boat got too near to the beach and was stranded.  A powerful tugboat failed to free the vessel which remained on the sands from the early hours of Sunday morning August 12th, until the Tuesday, 14th, when a higher tide than usual helped to refloat her.


An article in the Rhyl Record and Advertiser in June 1906  enthuses about the the wonderful day out to be had going to Caernarfon on board the Carisbrooke.  It describes luxurious salons, a well appointed bar, and of the mountain and sea air to be enjoyed throughout the trip as well as the beautiful scenery.  At Caernarfon passengers could enjoy up to two hours in the town, if the tide permitted, before turning for home.

It seems that the “Carisbrooke” only operated for the 1906 season in Rhyl, although she reappeared as the “Rhos Trevor”.  The “Carisbrooke” was built in 1876 as a pleasure excursion ferry by Barclay, Curle and Co., Glasgow  and operated between Southampton and the Isle of Wight.  An iron paddle steamer, her dimensions were  165.7 feet x 20.1 feet (approx. 50.5m x 6.1m).  In 1906 she was sold to the Colwyn Bay and Liverpool Steamship Company, then in 1907 to the Mersey Trading Co. Ltd and renamed the “Rhos Trevor”, at the end of 1908 she moved on again to W.Hawthorn of Rhyl.  In May 1909 the “Rhos Trevor” was sold to the L&NWSS for short excursions along the North Wales Coast and was renamed “St. Trillo”.  She served as a minesweeper during the First World War, returning to L&NWSS service in 1919.  “St. Trillo” was sold to Spanish owners in 1921, decommissioned in 1932 and broken up in 1935.



Rhyl Record and Advertiser June 16th 1906

Rhyl Journal August 18th 1906

“Maritime History of Rhyl and Rhuddlan” D.W. Harris (1991)

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The “Fawn” – hopes, a near disaster and disappointment.

Picture the scene: a group of men meet at the Star Cocoa Rooms in Rhyl.  It is May 1890 and the group are keen to return to the heady days when steamers used to ply between Rhyl and Liverpool.  In the Chair at the meeting is Mr Robert Jones (boat builder).  A decision is made at the meeting  authorising Mr S.J.Hughes (of Tyn y Coed, Church Street and promoter of the scheme) to call on tradesmen and others to solicit support.  The atmosphere is likely to have been one of hope, excitement, trepidation and nostalgia.

By July a company had been registered with the title “The Rhyl and Vale of Clwyd Steamship Company”.  What they needed now was a boat.

A registered packet service between Liverpool and North Wales was established as early as 1821.  Originally sailing into Bagillt, by 1829 the terminus had moved to Rhyl.  By the late 1850’s it had also become profitable to run summer excursion trips to Llandudno.  The early 1860’s marked the highest point in Rhyl’s steamer trade, but its glory was brief, and by the mid 1860’s the steamer trade began to decline.  The Foryd steamers did receive a boost in 1867 with the opening of the pier when  passengers for Rhyl could also be landed at the town itself.  They could also be picked up and landed at much lower states of the tide.  However, steamer trade to Liverpool continued to decline almost completely, due to a combination of slow boats, high fares and competition from the railway.  There were also problems at the Foryd with the river silting up.

Shares in the newly formed Rhyl and Vale of Clwyd Steamship Company did not sell well initially but, despite this, by December 1890, the Rhyl Record and Advertiser reported that “Messrs Robert Jones, Foryd, and J.Arthur Evans were deputed by their co-directors to visit London and to inspect the steamer “Fawn” at West India Dock.”  The “Fawn” was a single screw (propeller) steamer, unlike the paddle steamers which had previously been used at the Foryd, it measured 100’x19′ (30.5mx5.8m), the cabins had all been re-upholstered.  The purchase was made at £2,800 (approx. £250,000 in today’s money)

fawn 2The “Fawn” image by kind permission of Simplon

A large crowd gathered to greet the “Fawn” when she arrived in Rhyl at 9pm on Saturday, December 27th, 1890.  It was low water when she arrived and she was unable to enter the Foryd.  However, such was the impatience and excitement of some of the directors and shareholders that they went out to inspect her in rowing boats.

In March 1891 the “Fawn”  passed her Board of Trade survey which allowed her to carry passengers and cargo.  By April she had been placed on a commercial footing and was charging 25% less than the railway for carrying goods to Liverpool.

fawn 3The “Fawn” image by kind permission of Simplon

Now conjure up in your mind the following course of events:  You are one of fifty passengers leaving Liverpool for Rhyl on the “Fawn”.  You may know that the regular, experienced Captain Williams has been replaced by the less experienced Captain Griffiths, due to illness.  It is August but it’s feeling very windy and a gale has been reported from Holyhead.  You are feeling uneasy after passing New Brighton when the full force of the gale is felt.  Perhaps alarm is creeping in despite the Captain’s reassurances.  Maybe, when the “Fawn” eventually passes Rhyl pier at 10pm you begin to feel some relief.

However, the seas were heavy, the wind was high, the night was very dark and Captain Griffiths missed the entrance to the Foryd harbour.  To avoid becoming stranded on a pebble bank, he altered course but was too near the outer buoy and its chain entangled with his propeller.  The “Fawn” was stuck fast on the most open and vulnerable part of the coast.  The passengers were in a state of near panic, hymns were sung and prayers offered.  As midnight approached distress rockets were fired and the ship’s whistle was blown repeatedly and loudly.  Eventually the steamer “Hercules” replied to the whistle.  The sound of whistles from two steamers awoke many local people, the lifeboat rockets were launched and more people assembled.  When the lifeboat approached the “Fawn” it sent up a green rocket illuminating a scene of much grandeur.  When the lifeboat could finally get alongside the ship the cheers on board could be heard onshore.  The passengers were all safely brought ashore and by the next tide the “Fawn” was able to enter the Foryd and resumed her advertised schedule.

fawn 1“The Fawn” image by kind permission of Simplon

Recriminations and accusations followed.  The end of this story is best described by D. W. Harris in his book “Maritime History of Rhyl and Rhuddlan” (1991):

“It may have been the “Fawn”s lack of manoeuvrability due to her single propeller, or competition with the railway, or possibly its times of sailing, which not only depended on the tides, but also the weather, consequently reducing its reliability or a combination of all these factors.  The end came the following year.  After only a year’s operation, Rhyl’s grandiose maritime trading venture was at an end.  The company went into liquidation and from the high hopes of the previous year the shareholders, according to the Journal, were left with nothing but sympathy


“Maritme History of Rhyl and Rhuddlan” D.W.Harris (1991)

“Liverpool to North Wales Pleasure Steamers – A Pictorial History 1821-1962” – John Cowell (1990)

The Rhyl Record and Advertiser




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The Times The Sea Changed

On at the Town Hall on February 11th, 2014:

The children from Christchurch CP School have written and created a drama project about the history of the power of the sea around Rhyl.  Working with artists and authors, they have put together an evening to explore some of the times the sea changed.



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Splash Point

This part of the promenade at Splash Point has looked pretty much the same for over 100 years, until this week.

splash pointThe storm of December 2013 will certainly go down in history.

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click on images to enlarge

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little bits of Rhyl’s history have been unearthed by the storm:

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Our thoughts are with all the people who have been affected by the flooding.


Filed under Buildings/Location, Maritime