Category Archives: Tourism

Walking Pictures

I’m sure many people will have “walking pictures” in their family album – walking picture cameramen were busy in Rhyl from the 1930’s to the 1960’s.
 “Go Home on a Postcard – The Story of Walking Pictures” is a wonderful website with lots of information and examples from across the U.K.  Simon, its creator, has kindly contributed this interesting article:
“I always wondered who in the family used to run ahead of us in the street to take our photograph!”  So wrote one lady after finding a website called Go Home On A Postcard, devoted to the forgotten art of the Walking Picture.  The answer was simple, none of them did.  Instead commercial photographers lurked on street corners from Edinburgh to Eastbourne, snapping people walking towards them, and then showing them a kiosk where they could buy a souvenir print later in the day to take home, or post back to a friend.
And it was a booming trade, especially in the 1930s and again after WW2, only fading away as shops began to offer fast turn around on customers own films in the 1960s, and people began to holiday more abroad.

Rhyl, being a popular resort town, drew many people on day trips and short holidays, so was always going to attract walking picture cameramen. The earliest examples I have seen are from 1930 on Wellington Road (above), and 1933, of a father and daughter emerging onto on West Parade from John Street (below). The camera operators are not identified but while many street photographers remain anonymous, others have come to light.

Fiona’s mother (born 1923) and grandfather, circa 1933, probably Rhyl. Several blocks on sea front West Parade match style, but one block has been pulled down on corner of John Street.

EMPIRE FILMS were one of the bigger firms in the trade, and operated via a franchise system, supplying out of the box kits to get started in the business. They were at work in Edinburgh in the mid-1920s and were certainly taking walking pictures in Rhyl during the 1930s. Empire worked with old movie cameras, which turned out three frames printed onto a souvenir postcard. So for 1/6d you could be a film star. Most people cut these up to send to friends, so the strips are hard to find today, but most do have the Empire logo on the back.
The walking picture trade largely ceased during WW2 as materials were hard to come by but it was a popular low-cost occupation for ex-servicemen to get into when they came back home after 1945. This great example shows four friends in Rhyl on VJ Day, August 15th 1945.
It may have been taken by James Hobson, who having worked for EMPIRE FILMS before the war set up MOVIE SNAPS in 1945, based at 45 West Parade in Rhyl (and also at Aberystwyth Pier). He used a newer type of cine camera and sold the prints as strips. James was quite an entrepreneur and is said to have employed players from Rhyl football team during the week to take the photographs. Certainly it was a trade where many firms provided casual work for local people or students when it got really busy, taking pictures, working in the darkroom or a kiosk.
This example shows two frames still together, and dates from 1947. It’s possible MOVIE SNAPS kept going into the 1960s as cine strips of children on beach donkeys and on the prom in Rhyl have been seen.

David Gumbley, age 6, with parents Lewis and Winifred on holiday. Rhyl 1947.

The walking picture below from 1960 shows (l-r) Sheila Warburton, Mrs. Joan Peacock (a neighbour and godmother) and mum Gladys Warburton on holiday.
RHYL HOLIDAY SNAPS took walking pictures at the pier entrance, but little is known about them. Some pictures of Rhyl pier do show a walking pictures kiosk not far from the entrance, so maybe this is where they sold their prints (if anybody has an original of this postcard Simon would love a decent scan).
HANDS BROTHERS were based at Westbourne Avenue in the 1940s and pictures of soldiers walking down streets in Rhyl taken by them have been seen.
Other photographers worked in bigger towns and cities year round but decamped to places like Rhyl for the summer season to take walking pictures. SILVERTS for example had a studio in Manchester but took walking pictures in Rhyl in the summer in the early 1960s.
It is unusual for families not to have a few walkies in their old albums and hopefully this has helped explain what these souvenir pictures are all about. Some photographers would take hundreds in a day, thousands in a season, so there are likely to be many more around!
You can read more about the trade on Simon’s website and find out how to submit examples for this growing archive (and a forthcoming book). And do let us know if any members of your family worked in the trade or have any more examples.


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Summer Crowds

It has been wonderful to see the crowds in Rhyl this Summer – our new hotels, SC2 and other attractions – are all helping to put Rhyl back on the map.
Crowds are nothing new to Rhyl as this postcard, taken in front of the Queen’s Hotel on West Parade, shows. It is particularly poignant as it is dated 1913 – just a year before the outbreak of the First World War when their lives, almost without exception, will have changed forever.

The card was sent to Mary in Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire. Gertie wrote “Can you find G, Dan and I on this p.c. Having a lovely time. Best love, Gertie.”

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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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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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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.

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”.


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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Flights from the beach

It’s that time of year again – the very popular Rhyl Air Show is now in its eighth year and is taking place this weekend, August 27th and 28th.

plane 3

It has brought to mind a favourite photograph from our archive of an aeroplane at Kinmel Bay.  (pictured right).  In the mid 1930’s Kinmel Bay Air Services sold flights from the beach.  A local man who remembers the flights says they cost “about 2 bob or half a crown” (approx. £8 in today’s money).


The following information is taken from a book called “A Flying Life: An Enthusiasts’s Photographic Record of British Aviation in the 1930’s”


photo credit: with kind permission of Fonthill Media Limited.

The AVRO 504K (left) began life as E9353 with the RAF, and received its first C of A (Certificate of Airworthiness) and registration G-ABWK in June 1932. It was operated for a while by the Essex flying Club at Abridge before it passed to Kinmel Bay Air Services.  For a while it flew holiday makers from the beach at Rhyl.  The picture shows it returning from such a flight on September 1st, 1934.  In 1935 it was sold abroad.


plane 2

photo credit: with kind permission of Fonthill Media Limited

The AVRO 504K G-EBYW, right, is pictured on the same day in Rhyl/Kinmel Bay.  It was initially registered to Surrey Flying Service in September 1928 and based at Croydon.  After service with Kinmel Bay Air Services the aircraft passed to local man Edward Clerk in 1934, but was not flown after its C of A expired in June of the following year.


If anyone has any information about “Kinmel Bay Air Services” or any memories of flights from the beach, we’d love to hear from you.



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