In October 2017, Marion took us on a fantasy holiday from London to Holyhead and Ireland, and showed some of the highlights that people would have enjoyed in 20th Century North Wales. We were mainly on the railway, which came here in 1848, and really opened up the area to tourism. Before the age of the trains, visitors would have had to contend with poor roads and stage-coaches to get around.
Marion's transport collection is a magnificent record of how we traveled in days gone by, and in this presentation, she showed us a wide variety of vehicles. From Chester station we traveled west and at Holywell, a motor omnibus took us from the out-of-town station, to the town itself, where we could see the Holy Well. A steam lorry took the freight from the station to wherever it was needed.
We took a detour onto the Prestatyn to Dyserth railway, and then arrived at Rhyl station, much the same now as when it was built. In Rhyl we saw the Monorail which had a short life – just a few weeks on the prom in the 1970s, and went to the dolphin show which was near the fairground. The Miniature railway opened in 1911, and is still a big attraction in the town. We were also on the beach when the world's first passenger hovercraft came in from Wallasey in 1962. [I was actually there! – it really was astonishing to see this huge 'boat' suddenly leave the water and make its way, crab-like, up the beach. I will never forget that sight!! …. K.]
In Llandudno, we walked along the longest pier in Wales, watched Ferrari's performing birds and went up the Great Orme on the Railway, which opened in July 1902.
We continued to Deganwy, where we boarded one of the river steamers for a wonderful trip down to Trefriw, to visit the Roman Wells, and then take a tour of the area by coach and horses. Other tours that we could have tried were the Loop Tour from Betws-y-Coed, the Silver Armchair coach tours and the char-a-banc tour around Snowdonia. The jewel in the crown was, and still is, the rail journey up Snowdon. It is hard to believe that in the early days, the only protection from the weather were some rather elegant curtains at the carriage windows.
We crossed the Menai Bridges on to Anglesey, where we found a very rural scene, of sheep being taken down the middle of the main street in Llanfair PG. We visited the unfinished castle of Edward I in Beaumaris, and the capital of the island, Llangefni, a small market town, then as now. We arrived at Holyhead station and boarded one of the LNWR boats for the 3 hour trip to Dublin, where some beautiful Irish scenery awaited, and there, sadly, we had to end our holiday, and make our way home.
It was another superb presentation from our Chairman, and we hope that there will be another from her in next year's programme.
Eric Coulton was our speaker in November, 2017, and his talk centred on the area between Rhuddlan in the south and the River Clwyd delta area in the north, which includes Kinmel Bay to the west and Rhyl to the east.
Beginning in Rhuddlan, which was occupied in Anglo-Saxon times, Eric told us how important the town was in the 13th Century, when Edward I decided to build another of his castles there, in his attempt to control the Welsh population. His difficulty lay in the fact that the Clwyd was not navigable as far as Rhuddlan and he need to bring in the building-stone by boat, as the surrounding area was, at that time, marshland. He solved the problem by canalizing the river to give access from the Irish Sea. Edward's first Parliament was held in Rhuddlan – we can still see the 'Parliament House' on the High Street – and in 1283, the 'Statute of Rhuddlan' gave Wales its independence and new judicial powers. Edward was in Rhuddlan when his first son was born in Caernarfon, and he founded the tradition of the monarch's first son being given the title of Prince of Wales.
The area is bounded by three great country estates – Bodelwyddan, Kinmel and Gwrych, and when, in 1794, the marshland was drained, and embankments raised, some development, and roads were built across the area, linking the surrounding towns. In 1848, the Chester to Holyhead coast railway was opened. It needed a rail bridge over the Clwyd, and at that time, there was only a ferry for foot passengers. The Ferry Hotel on the west bank in Kinmel Bay is a reference to it. Between 1862 and 1928, there was a wooden toll-bridge over the Voryd near the mouth of the Clwyd, but it became unsafe towards the end of its life, and bus passengers had to walk across and board the bus again on the other side. Soldiers walking in from the military camps were chadged half-price on the toll.
In 1932, the familiar art-deco 'Blue bridge' was erected to take road traffic, and in the harbour, the new 'Dragon's Bridge' for pedestrians and cyclists only, was opened in 2013, completing 15 miles of dedicated cycleways in Denbighshire and Conw.
The railway brought holidaymakers from England's industrial towns, and the area developed to cater for the tourists, with attractions such as the Marine Lake and the Miniature Railway.
On the west of the Clwyd, 1000 acres of the land purchased by the Kinmel Estate after the draining of the marsh, was bought by The Kinmel Bay Land Co., Ltd., divided into small parcels and sold to people who wanted to build their own homes. The area became known as Kinmel Bay in c1925, and postcards were issued by the Kinmel Bay Land Co., Ltd. to advertise the project. However, as no basic services had been provided, it must have been very disappointing for those who had dreamed of building a better life in North Wales. The unethical land company went bankrupt in 1931.
Sandy Cove was originally a private estate of holiday homes, which later became permanent residences.. Sunnyvale was taken over by the military during the war, and there is a series of postcards which show the estate. One card of 'Aled Gardens' is captioned 'Allied Gardens'…
Today, the North Wales coast has one of the highest concentrations of holiday caravans in Europe. Eric's talks are always engrossing and enjoyable, and his illustrations are beautifully presented.
In January 2018, we enjoyed looking at albums that members had brought along.
There was a wealth of interesting postcards. Jane brought a family collection that had belonged to Nellie. She was part of a wandering troop who appeared in music hall in different parts of the country. When she had to stay home due to illness her friends sent postcards from each venue. Many were pictures of children and she was always addressed as My Chum.
Keith had a collection from a mystery photographer. It seems he travelled from the north of Lancashire down to Cheshire and into Wales taking pictures. They were very distinctive with a wide white border and a photo with curved edges in the centre. Keith would love to know who the photographer was because there is no name printed on the cards.
Trebor is trying to collect all Tucks Oilette cards. He brought an album by the artist Agnes Richardson. These cards of children and fairies are very distinctive. The pictures were replicated several times and Trebor is looking for all the variations.
Olivia and Lynne had some photographic cards of Glan Conwy Hawarden, the villages where they grew up. They both made comments about how much they had changed.
With other cards of North Wales shop fronts, orchids, wooden cards and football it certainly made a fascinating evening.