October 2018

There were no contemporary postcards in the first episode of Derek Bond's "History of Prestatyn", on 8th. October, as the period under the spotlight was from the end of the Ice Age, c10,000 years ago, to the arrival of the Romans in Britain, in 43AD.     

             Animal bones were unearthed in a cave in Trelawnyd, and included those of  the huge Cave Hyena, which has been extinct for c11,000 years, the Woolly Rhino, extinct for c10.000 years, and the Great Irish Elk, with antlers 12' across, extinct  for c7,000 years. Other bones belonged to wolves, reindeer, lynx, goats, dogs and horses.

                        During excavations for new homes in the town, a workshop and small stone tools were discovered. These were sent to the British Museum, and were dated to the Middle Stone Age, c8000years ago. The British Museum sent experts to oversee the work on this unique site, and it became an important place for students to visit. The finds were displayed in Prestatyn's first Museum, which opened in 1950 to showcase the work of the late Gilbert Smith, architect and amateur archaeologist, who died in 1947. The museum had closed by 1974. 

             In 1923, the 4000 year-old skeleton of a lady with a fishing-rod was found by workmen digging a trench at the lower end of High Street. She may have fallen into the water and drowned. In 1939, her remains were sent to the Royal College of Surgeons in London, together with the remains of a Viking Warrior which had been found in a ship-burial in Talacre. Unfortunately, the RCS building was bombed and the two skeletons were presumed lost. However, the Warrior has now been found, so it is possible that the lady will be also.  

                Pottery, jewellery, weapons, shields, hut-circles and ditches from various times have been discovered. The early huts developed from basic shelters to the larger Iron-Age ones [800BC-43AD], with wicker fences,  latrines,  thatched roofs and animal pens.          

             The Romans reached Wales within the decade after their arrival in Britain.

                       I think that most of us were surprised to learn that there were humans living in the Prestatyn area so long ago.

The estimated population of Britain 9000 years ago is 1,200, but 5000 years later, it had increased to c100,000.

             Derek will be back in June for the 2nd episode of the story of Prestatyn, where his family has lived for at least 200 years.

 

In November,2018 Keith Hough opened a window onto the north-eastern corner of Wales, within a triangle with points in Chester to the east, Connah's Quay on the Dee to the north-west  and Mold in the south, an area of about 20 square miles.  Keith's family were water-men on the Dee, and he has lived in Queensferry all his life. Deeside is the industrial area of North Wales, but this talk showed that there have been some beautiful and interesting buildings in the region, many of which have been altered or demolished .

            In Queensferry, the Jubilee Bridge, near Keith's family home, was erected in 1896 and dismantled 4 years later because it didn't work properly, and Asda's petrol station replaced the 1907 C.P. school.

The well-respected 'Canon Drew' school in Hawarden has been demolished.

            Because of Dr. Beeching's 1960's railway reforms, many of the original station buildings have disappeared or are in poor condition, including Sandycroft, 1884-1961 and Connah's Quay, 1870-1966.

            In Shotton, the Conservative Club, 1911-1995/6 was famous for its snooker, while the 'Palais-de-Danse', a social centre and skating rink, is being restored. 

            Ewloe suffered the loss of a good 1760's house when a new road was built, while modern houses are now on the site of Hawarden's 'Famous Toffee Shop'. The card below was published by W.B. Jones, "Post Office" Series, Hawarden, is postmarked for 1907, and was sent to India.  The shop was owned by

'Mother Huffton'. The message on this card reads "I believe this shop is well known to everyone in this village on account of the goodness of the toffee turned out from time immemorial" 

            Many churches and chapels have escaped demolition by being re-purposed; one in Queensferry is now a stock-room for a shop.

            Meadowslea Hospital in Penyffordd, a TB and wartime hospital, is no more, and the Boar's Head Hotel in Ewloe is under threat.

            In Connah's Quay, the 1950's  coal-fired Power Station closed in 1984, and the huge cooling-towers were dismantled in 1992. A new gas-fired Station opened nearby, in 1996. Another industrial building is the 1907 office block for John Summers & Sons' Steel Works, in Shotton, now Tata Steel. Although it is under threat, the building is still standing at the time of writing, and contains the oldest original lift in Wales.

            Hawarden was the home of Amy Lyon, later to become Emma, Lady Hamilton. She had been born in Ness, Wirral, in 1765, but moved to Hawarden with her mother, Mary, following the death of her father, Henry. They lived with Mary's mother, Mrs Kidd, who was a carrier in the village. Her old thatched cottage was on the Highway, near to the Fox & Grapes, and was demolished in the 1890s. Emma moved to London, married Sir William Hamilton in 1791 and became Lord Nelson's mistress in 1800. She died in 1815, and is buried in Calais.

            Some of the area's other lost houses  are the 15th Century Aston Bank, which was a convent from 1930; Broughton Hall 1478, part of the Glynne Estate, and rebuilt in 1754. Its claim to fame was that it was used to train spies during WW2. 100 folding bicycles were found in the cellars.     Hawarden Castle, home to the Glynne family, into which 4-times Prime Minister, William Gladstone married in 1839, was built in the 1750s and remodelled as a castellated folly in 1809-10.  Wepre Hall of 1776 was demolished in 1960, but the lovely wooded parkland surrounding Wepre Brook was saved, and is now a public space, administered by Flintshire County Council.   The 1960s saw many of the old buildings demolished to create areas for much-needed new housing.

            Keith's knowledge of, and great affection for, this area, coupled with some stories of his boyhood escapades, made for a most enjoyable and entertaining evening

 At the December 2018 meeting, Karlyn  gave a talk about

                                Christmas cards and the Royal Mail.

The Royal Mail celebrated 500 years in 2016.

 As far back as the 12th century, the Monarchs were using Royal Messengers on horse-back to get their communications around the country.

There is a Welsh Connection!.. In 1516, the Royal Mail was established by the Tudor Henry VIII. He had appointed the newly knighted Sir Brian Tuke [d.1545] as the first Master of the Posts, and it was he who set up a network of post-towns across the country.

In 1635, Charles I allowed the general public to use the service.

In 1660, the Post-Office Act made it a publicly-owned service, and at that time it employed 45 sorting and delivery staff… now there are c140,000!

At first, the mail was still carried by horse and rider, but from the late 1700s into the 19th Century, coach and horses were used. The first Mail Coach went from Bristol to London in 1784.  They stopped at the designated post-houses to change horses and crews, and to allow the passengers to rest. The coaches travelled mainly at night when the roads were less busy.

There were by then special post-roads radiating from London, to get the mail around the country more easily – our local one is the London- Chester road, which was extended to Holyhead to get mail to Ireland by boat. Before the bridges were built over the Menai straits, the mail coaches had to cross the treacherous sands at low tide.

In the mid-1800s everything changed. Until then, only the wealthy and educated classes could use the mail, as it was very expensive, and the lower classes were often unable to read or write. Before 1840, letters were charged by the number of sheets used, and the distance travelled.

Sir Rowland Hill, 1795-1879. was a schoolmaster and postal reformer. His mother was afraid that she wouldn't have enough money to pay for the delivery of mail, when the recipient had to pay the cost, so he was instrumental in introducing the famous 'Penny Black',,the world's first adhesive stamp, on 6thMay 1840.

The Penny post made mail communication accessible to many more people….the Royal Mail's website gives the figures as 67million items sent in 1839 and 242million by 1844.

In the later 1800s, the education acts meant that new schools were built, and general literacy gradually improved.

Pillar boxes were suggested by P.O. worker and writer  Anthony Trollope, who knew about their introduction in France. The first was a dark-green one in Jersey in 1852. The oldest still in use is in Barnes Cross, near Sherbourne, Dorset…..Llandudno has a good variety of boxes.

London was the first place to have 10 post codes in 1857..based on the compass points..W; SW etc., a system devised by Rowland Hill and revised by Anthony Trollope. Liverpool was the first provincial place to have them in 1864.Modern postcodes were introduced as a trial in Norwich, 1959 and completed 1974.

Some other significant dates in the history of the Mail:-

1870 the first postcards appeared, but were plain, with no pictures.

1870 – Telegraphs service

1881 first postal orders

The Parcel post was introduced in 1883, which encouraged Mail-order businesses – one of the first is said to be the Royal Welsh Warehouse, a Welsh-flannel firm owned by Pryce Pryce Jones, in mid-Wales, which sent out catalogues to its customers.

The letter-carriers, as they were known, adopted the new name of 'Postman' at this time.

1894 Picture postcards came to Britain.

1912 Post Office added National Telephone service.

The Royal Mail website has a wealth of information about its history.

Eventually, trains, ships, bicycles, motor vehicles and then aircraft were able to transport vast amounts of mail around the UK and abroad. I mentioned the 1936 GPO film 'The Night Mail', which is available on the internet. It's a short film, and includes W.H. Auden's famous poem of the same name, which was commissioned for the film, which shows the journey and workings of the London to Scotland Mail train.

It is said that the idea for the first Christmas card came from Sir Henry Cole, who was a pioneer of the 1840 Penny Post with Sir Rowland Hill. He wanted something to send to his  friends and family at Christmas, when he was short of time to write letters.  He asked artist John Calcott Horsley to design a card for him in 1843. It was 11.43cm high and 14.61cm wide [c4½" x 5 1/8"].  1000 were printed and hand-coloured.

The design is in 3 panels….the centre shows the family around a table, toasting their friends, while, in contrast, the outer panels show the help given to the poor families who have little to eat or wear.  The printed message is a familiar one "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year", with a space for a signature in the lower right corner. I would have expected a religious theme, but perhaps the spirit in the country at that time influenced the artist…Horsley brought his design to Cole on the 17th December 1843 and Dickens's 'A Christmas Carol' was published 2 days later, on 19th.

The cards not used by Sir Henry were later sold at 1/- each, which at the equivalent of £3.50 today, was in the luxury category at the time.  One of these cards recently sold at auction for £4,200.

Although it proved not to be popular at first, Sir Henry's idea was eventually taken up by the printers and publishers of the day, including the well-known firm of Raphael Tuck & Sons, who went on to produce some of the finest postcards. 

The Christmas Card soon became an established part of the festival.

Many famous artists and writers offered their work for the new cards, among the artists were Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane, and competitions were held to find new designs.

In fact, the volume of Christmas mail had become so great that even in 1880, the Post Office was asking people to "Post early".

Father Christmas made an early appearance, in robes of various colours, and Mrs Claus was invented in 1899.

Another of the popular Christmas themes on cards was the robin but before 1861, the postmen themselves were called 'robins', because their uniform jacket was red.

            We looked at Christmas postmarks – 'posted in Advance for Christmas Day'; Christmas day postmarks, as there used to be collections that day… and the favourite Welsh village  postmarks of  Nazareth, near Caernarfon and Bethlehem, near Llandeilo, Carmarthen.

            The postal service to the Armed Forces is an extremely important part of the Post Office's work. It originated in 1882 with Army Post Office Corps during the Egyptian and Sudanese campaigns. In 1908 it became the Royal Engineers [Postal Section], and in the late 1990s, it became the BFPO. It serves as a vital link between our forces abroad and their families, especially valued at Christmas. In WW1, soldiers sent Christmas cards home from the war zones, including the beautiful embroidered ones. Prisoners of war also produced cards for their loved ones at home.

            In 1941, a new form of communication, the Airgraph, was developed because the soldiers' mail took a long time to arrive from the Middle East.

The Welsh Philatelic Society [now the Welsh Postal History Society] newsletter of May 2006 explains the process:-

Senders were given an 8" x 11" sheet, illustrated with a Christmas design, and with sufficient space for a short message. After completion, it was handed in at the Post Office. A miniature photographic negative was made and despatched by air mail. At the destination end, a photographic print 5" x4" was produced and then delivered to the addressee in a small window envelope.

Charity Christmas cards now raise over £50million for good causes. In 1949, one of the earliest charities to use them was UNICEF – the United Nations Children's Fund….The first design they used had been sent to UNICEF by a 7 year-old girl from Czecholslovakia , who wanted to thank UNICEF for the milk they had provided for her village….it shows children around a Maypole.

  In their first year, 130,000 cards were sold…by 1960, over 17 million in 114 countries, netting over $1million in profits. UNICEF used top artists for their designs – Picasso, Matisse, as well as art from around the world.  Popular figures of the day, such as Marlene Dietrich, were used in their campaigns…

Christmas stamps.

 Britain is the only country which doesn't have its name on the stamps.

The first Christmas set was issued in 1966 –it was the product of a children's competition on the tv's Blue Peter programme. You will probably remember the designs – a bright blue and red 'portrait' of King Wenceslas and a snowman.

Since the 1970s, all the sets of stamps have been reproduced as sets of postcards.

Benham's of Kent have issued silk versions of stamps on postcards for collectors for many years. 

            Another recent development by the P.O.  is a POST-A-PHOTO special service, where anyone can have a photo printed as a postcard. The one I showed was an early Christmas postcard, which had been turned into a new postcard.

Today we have the e-card, and I had one to show at the end of the talk, but I couldn't get an internet connection!

March 11th 2019.

BBC cameraman and local historian John Lawson-Reay, has a connection to the sea, as his family owned and ran the Lawson Steam Tug Company on the Tyne from the 1850s. Coal was brought from the collieries on rail wagons, which came onto a staithe, a pier built out into the river, where the coal was transferred to the ships which had been towed into place by the tugs.

  In March, he began his talk with a look at North Wales shipping from the 19th and 20thcenturies. Before the main roads and railways were built, shipping was the best method of transporting people and goods, with small paddle boats running up and down the coast. John showed a selection of old prints and postcards to illustrate this part of the history.

The 'Albion' was the first paddle-boat to ply between Liverpool and Menai Bridge in 1822, and was advertised as sailing to 'all parts of North Wales'. 

'La Marguerite', was a famous, luxurious pleasure paddle-boat known as a 'Floating Palace'. She came to Llandudno in 1901 and was in service until 1925, when she ended her life in a local breaker's yard.  She had been on duty in WW1, ferrying soldiers across the Channel.

The 'Greyhound' also a paddle-steamer, 1895-1936, was first owned by the North Pier Steamship Co., Ltd., and ran between Blackpool and Llandudno. Between 1915 and 1919, it was a minesweeper.

Some of the other ships shown were the St. Tudno II, the Rhos, Colwyn, St Seiriol, St Trillo and the IOM steamer King Orry. Many of the pleasure boats were used in WW1 and WW2 in various roles.

To get the passengers on and off the boats safely, a pier-crew was employed, which was often made up of ex-naval men.

More recently, in 1962, the world's first passenger hovercraft arrived in Rhyl from Wallasey, Wirral.  It was a Vickers-Armstrong VA-3, operated by    British United Airways and fuelled by BP, whilst in Wallasey. It was to be serviced and maintained in Rhyl. It had a cruising speed of 60mph, had a 2-ton weight capacity and could carry a maximum of 24 passengers plus a traffic-officer. To mark the occasion, there was a special hand stamp on mail posted in a box in the Post Office on July 20th

The restored  ships,  MV Balmoral and PS Waverley often come during the summer to take passengers for cruises along the coast, and John was on hand to record their visits. The Balmoral, operated as a charity, had been refitted, but as the hull-plates were not thick enough, the work needs re-doing.

We also have visits by other ships, such as the 'Viking Sun', a gigantic liner which regularly comes in to Holyhead.  

John's focus then changed to local shipping disasters and mishaps. In 1831, PS Rothsay Castle, from Liverpool, ran aground on Dutchman Bank, near its destination, Beaumaris, and most of the 150 people aboard lost their lives. The Penmon lifeboat station was established as a result of the tragedy.

In 1890 the 'Turtle Dove' was stranded on rocks at the Great Orme and in 1896 the 'Lady Agnes' ran ashore. The 'Caterina', taking salt from Runcorn to Riga in 1869, was wrecked on Llandudno beach. The 'Rhosneigr', was sunk in 1908, and its remains are still to be seen at low tide off Rhos Point.

We had been teasing John about the perfect positioning of some 'trained' seagulls in his photographs, but during the talk he came back at us with a delightful close-up of 2 gulls standing on his own car-roof!   

In 2012, John's camera captured the scene when the 82m long German cargo boat 'Carrier' was driven onto shore in a gale and was stranded. The boat had just loaded limestone at the Raynes quarry pier in Llanddulas. 2 helicopters rescued the 7-man crew, but the boat was scrapped. The A55 was closed in the area, in both directions for 2 days, to enable the ship to be attended to.

These days, we don't have local photographers who produce postcards of such events, as we did in years gone by, so it was a rare treat for the Club to have John's superb photographs which capture some of the recent history of North Wales.

 

              Inline image

Photograph by John Lawson-Reay

 

Here's the report of the last meeting on August 12th…..

  In a busy session in August, we made our final arrangements for the fair, and then went on to vote for the Best Talk of the Year. The winner was Keith Hough, for his well-researched presentation on the lost buildings of the north-east corner of Wales, from last November. 

            The focus of the meeting then changed to the Annual Competition. This year we had 10 entries, all anonymous, and a secret ballot decided the winner of the Brass Post-box Trophy.

            The topics were:-

Oil, Cotton, Electric – scenes of our industrial heritage, showing how these things were produced.

Disaster at the Palace - the fire at Rhyl's Queen's Palace entertainment centre, 1907. –  one photo showing the building before the fire, and 3 of the dome falling onto the pavement below.

Yes, it is Wally' - varieties of the identical 'Curly Locks' set 8706 by Tuck artist WF - Wally Fialkowska. In one set, 949, there are German language backs, and another, as set 3128, has WW1 rationing captions.

Action shots of the Amlwch Football Team, Anglesey,, by local photographer, R. Lewis Williams, who was able to produce photos showing movement, at a time when photographs required a long exposure time, and subjects which were still.

Memories of Childhood Villages - 4 lovely views of Gronant,  taken at various times in this small village near Prestatyn,

3 Exquisite Flower-studies from the Smithsonian, Washington, in the delicate far-eastern style, and one showing a heron on a fallen tree-branch.

 

Village Post-Offices. including some animated scenes in Cemaes, and Llansannan, This display reminded us that, at one time, almost every village had a Post-Office.

Old Family Homes in Gwespyr, a hamlet near Prestatyn – a record of houses occupied by this person's relatives, and a good way of illustrating their family tree.

Early transportation – These cards show happy holiday-makers on packed Chars-a-banc in locations such as Rhyl and Dwygyfylchi.

The decision wasn't an easy one, but the winner was Marion Turner, for her remarkable set of cards from the Fron Goch German Prisoner-of-War Camp, near Bala. It was housed in a disused whisky distillery, and used in WW1, and after the Easter Rising 1916, when Irish prisoners, including Michael Collins, were kept there.

Last year's winner. Keith, presented her with the Trophy.

 

Club Bulletin, October 2019.

   The September meeting began with a welcome to a new member, Andrew.  We then had reports from the Fair Team-Leaders, which showed that the event had been very successful for the Club, and also that there were one or two things we could improve. 

We asked people for ideas for talks for next year's programme, and several members, including Andrew, offered to speak – thanks to everyone who came forward.

Our speaker for the evening was Club member Lawrence Corrieri, who is well-known for his many and varied collections. The subjects  of his talks are always a closely-guarded secret, until he delves into his bag and reveals the contents. This time, we were astonished to find that he had brought his collection of cards of hearses and coffin-carriers.

Before motorised transport was available,  the deceased person was carried on a pedestrian bier, in a coffin, or on horse-drawn carriages. Undertakers often had several other occupations in a community, and Lawrence showed a particularly nice card of a horse-drawn hearse outside an undertaker's shop.

  In the 19th Century, London was short of space for new cemeteries, so they were built in the outskirts of the city. As few people had their own transport, railway lines were specially designed to take the mourners and coffins from the city to the cemeteries. One of the companies was the London Necropolis Co, which, in 1854, began a train service, the London Necropolis Railway,  from Waterloo Station to the huge new cemetery in Brookwood, Surrey, a journey of some 23 miles.  The train operated almost every day, and the service ended in 1941.  Sydney, Australia, also had a Necropolis Station until the 1930s. The funerals of Queen Victoria, George VI and Sir Winston Churchill  had all used trains and the Bluebell Railway in Sussex had a special compartment for coffins.

In road transport, we saw cards of buses, motor-cycles with trailers or sidecars, and trams  adapted for this special purpose. One of these American tram carriages was later repurposed as a camping car for train-spotters. Another  in Buffalo had a drop-down side for the coffin to be housed, and a shelf above for the flowers.  In a Glasgow Museum, there are hearses by Rolls-Royce and Vauxhall.

Other vehicles which have been used are tandem-cycles, a military tank, a Reliant-Robin, and a Morris Traveller. When some of the motor-hearses had finished their work, they were used as camper-vans or converted for Banger-Racing.

 Also in the collection were views of Funeral Directors' premises and comic cards. There is a Museum of Funeral History in Houston, Texas, which produces postcards of the various kinds of transport used for this particular purpose

  We wonder how Lawrence can top this superb presentation in the future.

 For more about the fascinating story of  the London Necropolis Co., go to:-

www.bbc.com/autos/story/20161018-the-passenger-train-that-carried-the-dead

 

 

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