Category Archives: Memories

My personal memories of Rhyl.

Mr Fred Davies, born in Rhyl in 1925, has been in touch with us to share his memories of Rhyl

My Rhyl History.

During the last eighty years the world has changed dramatically – and Rhyl is no exception.

I can go back almost ninety years, yet although I have not been personally attached to it during the past fifty years, I am well aware of many of Rhyl’s changes.

When I was born at Tynewydd Farm in 1925, which is now not there, it was then in Rhuddlan. I believe the Rhyl boundary was then set at Pendyffryn Road. For several years Rhyl had been part of Rhuddlan Parish and did not become a separate Parish until 1844. However, when on my grandfather’s death in 1929 we moved from the farm to a house in Dyserth Road, some quarter of a mile from the farm, both were then in Rhyl. Unfortunately I contacted diphtheria and spent six weeks in what was then an isolation hospital in Towyn. That too is no longer there for that purpose. Fortunately youngsters don’t seem to suffer that disease these days. We had to move because my father was a grocer and had no knowledge of, or interest in farming.

 I very well remember my grandmother informing me that when she was younger they would often stand on the promenade watching well to do families who would come and stay in the town for several weeks. She also stated that there were notices to be seen in various parts of the town offering the sale of hot water for a halfpenny a jug. Day trippers would bring their own snacks and loose tea but would need boiling water which local residents offered to sell them to make a brew.

In those days there were numerous grocery shops in Rhyl.  My father was manager of E. B. Jones which had no fewer than four shops in the town. They were in High Street: a double one in Water Street: one in Abbey Street and one in Wellington Road. That firm had an string of such shops throughout North Wales. My father managed the one in High Street. Eventually that firm was taken over by a group. george-masonThere were also many other such branch shops among which were Maypole, Melias and Irwin’s. Additionally there were also many privately owned grocers such as Turners, Breretons, Parry’s Esmore, and Harry Evans.

My education commenced in Clwyd Street Primary School. It was followed by Rhyl County School as it was called in those days, having since been renamed a couple of times, firstly as Rhyl Grammar School and then Rhyl High School.

st-annesThings have certainly changed.  In those days I was a choirboy in St. Anne’s Church.  St. Anne’s Church was built through the generosity of Mrs Ann Nicholson. She had originally considered providing a lifeboat until she had been persuaded that the south side of the town was in need of a church to serve the people there. It was consecrated in 1896 – some what before my time – but I well remember the extension in 1931. It added almost a third to its size. Mrs. Nicholson’s generosity was continued by her niece, Miss Henrietta Roberts who lived at ‘Nithsdale’, St. Asaph Street and willed a sizeable sum to the church on her death. I knew Miss Roberts very well, as her housekeeper Mrs Kate Ball, was my Godmother.  It is not surprising that the church was referred to as the ‘Railwayman’s Church’ for there were at least six railwaymen in the choir at the time that I was a choirboy.  Often when in the choir during the summer at Evensong several of us would eagerly await our Recessional Hymn in order to get out.

 pavilionThere was that superb Rhyl Pavilion in those days which unfortunately was deliberately destroyed. The present day Pavilion is nowhere as near attractive. Some of us choirboys when proceeding up the aisle singing the Recessional Hymn would be unbuttoning our cassocks ready to quickly take them off and shoot off to the Pavilion where each Sunday night in the summer there would be a renowned dance band such as Geraldo, Henry Hall, Ambrose, Joe Loss and many others and we’d hope to be let in without paying which sometimes happened – otherwise we’d miss the band’s performance. The Pavilion also housed numerous first class shows during the summer months which attracted so many people.

Above image from 1936 (photo credit: The Marks & Spencer Company Archive)

In Rhyl County School I was struggling to remain in the A stream and in 1939 I left and took up employment as a Boy Messenger in Rhyl Post Office. It guaranteed a life’s employment with a pension at the end of it which was somewhat unusual in those days. I had to ride a heavy red bicycle to deliver telegrams – that was a most important and the quickest source of communication in those days which has totally disappeared due to present technology. That was the year that Marks and Spencer came to Rhyl and improved the town with its big store.  (RHC has Marks&Spencer arriving in Rhyl in 1932 – click here for more information -Ed) Regrettably, like so many previously established shops it no longer resides in Rhyl. My initial wage was eleven shillings a week. (In today’s money that would be about fifty five pence) out of that I had to pay four pence stamp and give my mother ten shillings that left me with eight pence a week pocket money – about three and a half pence in today’s money – yet I was content. We were forbidden to receive tips but strangely we often forgot that regulation when tips were offered!

Post Office employees in those days, having completed forty years service were entitled to retire on pension but many, particularly postmen, remained employed for a further five years in order to eventually increase their pension. They were also in need of continuing their weekly wage during those years. That was a period in my life which carries many memories- especially one. It was my turn for Sunday duty on 3rd September 1939. That duty normally ran from 9.00am until 10.30am. but not on that day. Along with the limited staff on duty I stood in the telegraph room at 11.00am listening nervously, by ‘phone, as Neville Chamberlain broadcast the news that we had declared war on Germany and things changed dramatically. Telegrams came flooding in by telephone and teleprinters were screaming away madly; staff had to be increased to cope with it all and I finished work not at 10.30am as scheduled but 10.00pm and was completely shattered.

post-officeThe Rhyl Post Office was then housed in High Street about two thirds of the way up on the left hand side. Later it was moved to Water Street and I now believe it has been closed down completely. What a shame. As a Boy Messenger I had the most distressing situation anyone could possibly have. In 1940 I had to deliver a telegram which informed the family that their son of 18 or 19 years had been drowned along with almost all the rest of the crew. I did know the person well by sight and that made it even more distressing. From a Boy Messenger I became an S.C.and T (Sorter, Counter Clerk and Telegraphist), which necessitated my working in the telegraph office, on the counter and also in the sorting office, depending on the details of the respective duties.

Times certainly have changed drastically.

In 1944 I was enlisted in the Royal Air Force as a trainee Flight Engineer. However I was never operational, as peace was declared just as I qualified. Having then become redundant I re-mustered in Pay Accounts and spent 1946 in Kenya. It was while I was out in Africa that my father and mother along with my discharged elder brother opened the grocery. shop in Vale Road – on the corner of Millbank Road – which became C.W.Davies and Sons. Having received the news when I was in Nairobi I was naturally interested and eager to see it all but it was not until Christmas Eve 1946 that I achieved that objective, having docked in Southampton in the early hours of that day. I was totally impressed with the findings and when in May 1947 I was discharged from the R.A.F. I had quite an extensive leave which I spent in assisting in the shop despite my lack of knowledge regarding it. Then a mere week before I was due to return to the Post Office, I resigned my pensionable job and joined the family business.

It was truly hard going at times.

Rationing was of course operational at that time and on Monday and Tuesday mornings I would go to certain registered customers’ houses to collect their orders. I would then go back to the shop; see that they were put up and deliver them on a carrier bike the same afternoon regardless of the weather. All without extra charge. In between times I would have to go to wholesalers to obtain goods, serve in the shop, tidy the shelves and do as many routine jobs as was necessary. It was unlike today when customers have to collect their own goods and pay for them at the time. We mainly had to write down their orders put them up and deliver them. Frequently such goods were not paid for at the time and we had to trust our customers that we would get the money the following week. It eventually got to a state that we desperately needed a van but unfortunately due to manufacturers having had to concentrate on wartime requirements and there being a tremendous demand for such vehicles after peace had been declared they were not readily  obtainable and it took us a full twelve months to be able to obtain the necessary van.

As time went on I got married and after eighteen years in the family business when we had three children we had  eleven mouths to feed out of one business. Things were changing drastically. Supermarkets were appearing and our trade was being exploited by them. One had to give serious thought to the future and with three youngsters to consider that was quite a serious concern. After much thought and discussion with my wife I eventually stopped working in the shop and sought other work. Without going into details the first two were not satisfactory so additionally I applied for and became a night switchboard operator in the Telephone Exchange down Wellington Road while still working for my day time occupation.

On duty one night there I was surprised to be notified that there was a personal call for me. On taking it, I found it was from my Superior in my other job who slated me for working there. He told me that my full obligation was to his company and I had no right to be working for anyone else. Fortunately at that time there had been a notice in the Post Office circular stating that anyone who had served three years could apply for a post similar to my former position as S.C. and T. I had been employed at the Exchange for but a few months but claimed that my previous service should count. I applied locally at Rhyl Head Office and was interviewed by a former colleague whom I knew well. He unhesitatingly turned me down on the grounds that the former three years I had stipulated did not count and it meant current three years. I disagreed and stated I would go over his head and approach Cardiff for a decision. Cardiff instantly confirmed that I was eligible and I was offered an appointment in Chester which I accepted.

That was my farewell to Rhyl as a resident and have also left Chester and now live in South Cumbria.

Nevertheless, I have never totally disassociated myself with Rhyl and I doubt if I ever will. I am fortunate in having friends there whom I used to visit periodically despite the fact that so many have unfortunately passed on.

 Rhyl, like so many other places has changed dramatically which is a pity, as it was a great town years ago.

 Unfortunately it nowhere resembles what it was more than seventy years ago. Regardless though I still hold many memories of how it used to be.

 There was the Amphitheatre which housed the Billy Manders show which we always found enjoyable. Behind that building was the entrance to the Pier.

 Will Parkin’s open air theatre was another well established site. I used to stand behind the barrier until a member of the cast came around with a tin expecting money and like many other youngsters we would walk away and return when he had gone. Still the shows were quite entertaining. Years later when I got to know Will Parkin I related to him my sneakiness at watching his show and he was amused.

swimming poolThere were the Pavilion Gardens, the children’s paddling pond, the delightful open air baths, Sussex Street baths, the Queen’s Theatre where I remember seeing Morecambe and Wise way down on the list of artists long before they became famous.

The Queen’s Dance Hall was very popular for many years. On special occasions such as Bank Holidays there could be three dances on the same day i.e. eleven am; three pm. and seven thirty pm. All were extremely enjoyable and well patronised.

There were several well known Banks. On the corner of Bodfor Street and Wellington Road was the Midland Bank which was eventually taken over by H.S.B.C.. Another that was taken over was Martin’s Bank. It was absorbed into Barclays. National Westminister Bank was on the corner of Queen Street and Market Street.

 There were many other renowned shops in Rhyl too. In High Street there was Talbots who sold ladies clothes and materials. Another was Evans Clwydian Cafe. Waterworths, Wellington Road. Wellington Road housed Waterworths. That was a double shop. On the left was an open fronted fish merchants and adjoining it a Greengrocers. That road also contained Garnet Wilson’s gents suits and clothing and Mival’s Florists. Queen Street had Robins Cafe and Maltby’s Butchers.

The number of arcades were somewhat restricted – not like those flooding the Promenade as they are now. The Marine Lake was in full flow and very popular too. There was also the outstanding landmark of the two Water Towers at the top of the hill on Rhuddlan Road. Anyone travelling that way couldn’t possibly miss them.watertowers

People witnessed so many former green fields along the  Grange Road, Dyserth Road and Rhuddlan Road areas which were later transformed into houses, indicating quite clearly how Rhyl has grown.

This contribution is but a small reflection on what Rhyl was like. They were all great days and my memory of them will never fade.

Many thanks from Rhyl History Club for sharing your wonderful memories with us, Fred.



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Honeymoon in Rhyl

donna-and-allenCanadians Donna and Allen (pictured left) visited Rhyl last week to see where their parents honeymooned 70 years ago.  The lovely photograph below shows newlyweds Kathleen, from Manchester, and Canadian Melvin Lambert on the pier at Rhyl during their honeymoon.  Paratrooper Melvin set up his camera on a post, timed it, and ran back to hold his new wife’s hand! They arrived here on January 31st 1946 and stayed in a “bed and breakfast”.  Donna’s Mum Kathleen, who is now 90, remembers that they only walked a little way onto the pier as it was very rickety and unstable.  Another memory that Kathleen has is of going swimming to an indoor pool “not far from the pier”.  Melvin passed away in 1983 but Kathleen has always kept this favourite photograph close by.

Kathleen and Melvin Lambert on Rhyl Pier 1946

The Lamberts only stayed in Rhyl for a few days as Melvin had to return from leave, and although it was wintertime there was plenty to do in Rhyl whilst they were here.  Films were showing in the Regal, the Odeon, the Plaza and the Queen’s including “A Thousand and One Nights”, “Burma Victory” and “Men in her Diary”.
There was dancing every evening at the Queen’s Ballroom to Tom Arnold and his Orchestra with Al Stevenson – “Britain’s Ace Crooner”.

Melvin and Kathleen probably travelled by train.  In the Rhyl Journal of January 31st 1946 there was an advertisement entitled

If your train is late or crowded

It is probably due to
SHORTAGE OF TRAINED STAFF – nearly 100,000 skilled railwaymen, a sixth of the whole staff, have still to be demobilised.
INFERIOR COAL – like the housewife the railways are obliged to use coal of inferior quality during the national fuel shortage.
SHORTAGE OF CARRIAGES – 3,500 carriages with their 180,00 seats are away every day for repair.
SHORTAGE OF LOCOMOTIVES – over 3,000 locomotives, overworked during six years of war service are awaiting or undergoing repair every day.

GWR     LMS     LNER     SR

Many thanks to Donna and Allen and we send our very best wishes to Kathleen from us all here in Sunny Rhyl.



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Farewell Old School – Welcome to the New

Pat Brooks has written many popular pieces for this blog.  Her memories of Knowles’s Newsagent, Tobacconist and Confectioner have proved to be one of our most popular posts.  Pat has also written about her memories of the Jazz Club at the Bee Hotel, and also Grange Road.  In this latest post Pat evokes memories of Rhyl Grammar School and Rhyl High School.

“I recently decided to sort out a case of old photos and some things which my mother had kept for many years.  One was a photo taken in Rhyl Grammar School on the grass area beside the School Assembly Hall, dated 1953/54, which was of a French Folk Dance.  The dance was included as part of a day when we had to speak French to the best of our ability, generally use the language and show how much we had learnt from our teacher, who was I believe Mr. Worthy (crouched in the top right corner probably cringing!).

rh 4

It evoked so many memories of my time there – not all good, not all bad, just memories which are a big part of my life,  – the things I  learned there and some not so much!  I was never the brightest button in the box.  Its strange how some people seem to have stayed in my memory more than others.
Maybe many other people will remember Mr. Messham, Mr O’Hare. Mrs Tudor Owen, Miss Homer Beckett (my favorite), Miss Watson, Miss Davies, Miss Godfrey, Mr Savage and many others who I can remember but cannot bring their names into my head ( an age thing!)  Also, because I live nearby I am watching those memories come and now go, and have to say that I will miss the school buildings as I have seen it from being Rhyl County School to Rhyl Grammar School to Rhyl High School. I was surprised that I could remember most of the children in the photograph, some  are no longer with us which is very sad.  I  smiled when I saw the various dresses we had on as we appear to have all swapped clothes and the fashion – well it just was not there. Imagine 13/14 year old girls now in clothes like that, I think not!
At the bottom of the case my mother had kept the majority of my old school work books and reports. Oddly enough on the day I found
all these I had been to look around the new Rhyl High School and was in wonderment at all the facilities and the beautiful styling,
outside and in, which are available to today’s pupils.

Rhyl High School

I hope that they will take full advantage of all that is offered there and remember that all these things are part of their future , so treasure them. It seems to be a wondrous place to me – I have such memories of the old Rhyl Grammar School and how I was overawed in the same way when I first went there after Primary School.  Now of course I watch its demise – it has had many changes since both me and my children were there and I seem to have feelings of sadness saying goodbye to a part of my history and hello to the new part in the history of today’s children.

As I write this they are way ahead now in the flattening of the old buildings, it is an enormous job which has to be done.  I
know that things are progressing in Rhyl, which is a good thing.  I hope, like me, that many people will have many happy or maybe not so happy memories of this old school landmark, and how many people it has helped to inform and form them into who they are today.

hs 2

So I say a fond goodbye to the old and good luck to the new in the hope that today’s children will go on to bright futures and that Rhyl High School will stay in their memories too.hs 3

Thanks to Rhyl’s School Teachers past and present who are and always have been the true heart of all of our schools. It must be a
wonderful feeling to know you have been a big part of so many children’s lives.”



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A Sea-Side Frolic.

What we wouldn’t give to have a photograph with which to illustrate this little article.  Having said that, the author, William Davis, gives us such a wonderfully descriptive account that we hardly need one.
The extract is from a book that Wm. Davis wrote in 1852 called “A Guide to Rhyl and the Surrounding Country.  What to do and where to go; with Excursions suitable for the Pedestrian, Equestrian, or Locomotive Tourist”.

A Sea-Side Frolic

“Notwithstanding the excellency of the sands for sea bathing, danger attends foolhardiness.  During the summer of 1849, a somewhat laughable circumstance occurred at Rhyl.  A party of young clergymen arrived one morning to enjoy the benefit of the sea-breeze; after partaking pretty freely of the good things of this life, it was proposed to take a drive on the beach; and mine host was ordered to ballast the carriage with a quantum suff. of brandy, soda water and cigars.  With a full cargo they proceeded on their drive, amusing themselves amazingly on their passage by shooting the promenaders with the corks from the soda-water bottles.  At length it was suggested by one of the party, that a wash in the salt water, as the tide was turning, would be an excellent thing for the feet of the young carriage horses.  No sooner proposed than acceded to, and the coachman was ordered at once to proceed into the ocean.  The order was obeyed, and the horses for a time proceeded very quietly; but, suddenly, the carriage wheels sunk up to the axles, probably borne down by the extraordinary weight of theological knowledge the carriage contained.  All the efforts of coachman and horses to extricate the carriage were without avail; and the latter, possibly not liking their bath, began to plunge fearfully, and at length walked off with the pole of the carriage only.  This was not much annoyance to the black-coated gentlemen, as they thought the tide was turning, and the carriage would soon be left high and dry: consequently, the brandy, soda water, and cigars, were called into requisition, to while away the time.  In the midst of their mirth at the odd circumstance that had happened, they were struck with astonishment by shouts from the shore, and at finding themselves floating in the carriage out to sea.  The tide certainly was turning; but it was, to their no small surprise, returning.  Napoleon’s cry was the immediate order of the moment, each one precipitating himself into the water just in time to be able to walk on shore up to the neck, amid the loud laughter of the spectators onshore.”

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Rhyl through the eyes of Francis Frith

In 1860 Francis Frith, a Victorian photographer, embarked on an enormous project – to photograph every town and village in the U.K., especially those with historical or interesting sights.

vic camera

Photo credit: wikipedia.

The Francis Frith website shows 149 photographs of Rhyl and also shares memories of Rhyl.  Click on the links highlighted to find out more…

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Wish you were here…

In our rush to study the images on old picture postcards, the messages on the back often get overlooked.  This is a shame because they provide an insight into social history – the social mores of the day and a tantalising glimpse into lives long gone.

Postcard collecting had its heyday between 1890-1920.  The years before WW1 were considered to be the Golden Age of postcards, before telephones were widely used.  In 1902 Britain was the first country to divide the back of the postcard thus allowing the address and the message on the back and a complete picture on the front.  The efficiency of the postal service was notable,  borne out by some of the messages on the back such as “meet me off the 5.30pm train tomorrow” and “ask Mother to buy bread”.

Greetings were much more formal, no “text speak” or abbreviations here!  LOL.  One exception being “P.C.” – for postcard obviously, not personal computer or politically correct.  One constant element was, of course, the weather!

postcards copy

Here are some of the messages:

To Wylde Green, Nr Birmingham from c/o Miss Cotton, 7, Sussex Street .  Sent September 1917.

“Dear D.  Having a glorious time.  Have had an Express letter from Teddy, he goes to France on Tuesday.  Have clicked with some Officers here.  Write me a letter if you have time.  Love Lily.”

To Honley, Nr. Huddersfield. Sent July 23rd 1907.

“Dear Mother,  I received the under bodice and Emily is very very pleased with it.  I am pleased to say that I am better and ready to come home, Yours, M. E. Green”

To Blaby, Nr Leicester.  Sent August 1934.

“Dear Nora,  Just a P.C. to let you know that we are having a good time.  We have been watching the kiddies cycling this afternoon.  It was raining hard nearly all night, but it has cleared up wonderfully well.  Tell Dad I made a good job of carving the leg of lamb.  We finished it today, love Will and Vera.”

To Prestwich, Nr Manchester.  Sent October 1914.

“Dear Rene and Winnie,  I had my first birthday at Rhyl and I got a lot of birthday cards.  I am coming home tomorrow (Saturday) and will be home about seven o’clock.  I like Rhyl very much.  Our baker is leaving a loaf at your house and mother will be glad if you will bring it round on Saturday night.  Love from Vera.”

To Cheyney Road, Chester.  Sent Ocober 1913.

“It has been very rough here today and has been raining.  Hope you have  not had this picture before.  You see it becomes coloured by holding it up to the light.  JBH”

To Saltley, Birmingham.  Sent May 1912.

“Having a real good time in spite of rotten weather, Hilda”

postcards reverse copy

To Hanley, Staffs.  From “Carlin” West Parade.  Sent June 1918.

“Dear Eva,  Fancy me here for a few days.  I like Rhyl very much.  Fine yesterday went to Llandudno and Colwyn Bay.  Today is very wet, I wish it was hot as I am only here for a few days.  Hope you are better for the change.  Best love, Elsie.”

To Wembley, Middlesex.  From “Moranedd”, 23, John Street.  Sent 13th August 1922.

“Dear Nan,  I am having a lovely time.  Weather fine so far.  I think this is an ideal place.  I made a friend today (Sunday).  Her name is Marie Miller.  She is very nice.  We are going to hire tricycles tomorrow.  We have seen the Jolly Boys and the Punch and Judy.  Hope you are having a nice time.  I got your P.C.  Love from Marjorie xxxxxx”

To Kensington, Bath.  Sent on 23rd May 1934.

“We concluded congress today at 1.20pm.  It has been extremely interesting.  The reception concert and dance were crowded last night.  The weather has been a bit unsettled but this afternoon the sun has come out lovely.  Mr Bailey and I have just been on the pier and I am writing this from the Swimming Bath.  He returns tomorrow morning.  I am going on the Llandudno trip tonight.  I went round Rhyl in the Air Liner on Monday evening.  It was splendid (not long enough).  I think I should like to fly home to Bath in it.  I thought about staying until Sunday.  Do you think this would be alright, it would give an extra day.  Tell Dad I think we shall have to motor up here later in the year.  Mrs Hughes looks after us well.  With love, Wepener”

To Wolverhampton.  Sent July 1957.

“My Dears, weather awful, hope it gets better.  Auntie and Daddy giving us lots of nice things to eat and nice big fires to sit by.  Very good trains, packed coming, hope it’s quieter coming home.  See you Tuesday, love from Neil and Susan.”

To Kingston, Jamaica.  Sent 1950’s.

“Dear Olive, do you still remember me?  I thought I’d drop you a card and see if you want to write to me again.  We are having a holiday here at Rhyl.  Yours, Alicia Hammersley.  p.s please write”


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