In September, 2018 Trebor Roberts was our tour-guide for a trip around old Wales, with his collection of Tuck Oilettes.
This superb series appeared in 1903, and the cards are usually in sets of 6, and show views, often commissioned by Tuck, from various landscape artists of the day, although they are not always signed. Our tour begins with a view of 'Mostyn Street, Llandudno' from set 7871 by H.B. Wimbush. The cards were produced for sale in the holiday areas of the country at that time, which explains why cards of much of the Lleyn , and the eastern side of Flintshire have almost no Oilettes at all.
From Llandudno, we travel east, along the coast, through the tourist towns of Colwyn Bay, west Denbighshire, with a view from set 7419 [anon] "Storm at Colwyn Bay" and Rhyl, Flintshire, where an unusual overprint on a view of 'Rhyl Palace and East Parade' reminds us that the Palace was "Destroyed by Fire - November 24th. 1907". On the back of the cards there is often a description of the area or a note on the view, and on this card, from set 7576, the note includes this:- "The Palace is a handsome pile of buildings in the centre of this parade, where are found the much frequented Arcade and Palm Gardens, and also a magnificent ballroom, one of the best in the Kingdom".
Occasionally a Welsh view is one of a set which has views of other areas of the UK, and Rhuddlan Castle appears in set 794, Picturesque Castles of Great Britain, along with Caernarvon and Conway.
We hop down into east Denbighshire with scenes of Llangollen, and Valle Crucis Abbey by moonlight.
Bala, Merionethshire, gives us an Oilfacsim, with a textured card which mimics brushstrokes. In Radnorshire, the Llandrindod Wells set (7542) is probably photographic in origin. Breconshire was represented by set 7754, Builth Wells, by Ernest Longstaffe while The Wye Valley set 7647, is one of only a handful of sets by A.R. Quinton for Tuck - he is much better known as a prolific artist for the J. Salmon publisher.
In South Wales, the 7-card set 1458 of Newport, Monmouthshire, includes urban scenes, while the Cardiff views (7889) bear the city's arms. We pass through towns including Penarth [set 6207] and Pontypridd, [set 6220] Glamorganshire; Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, [set 6212], and Tenby, Pembrokeshire, seen in set 6477 'Quaint Corners - Tenby' by Frank L. Emanuel, whose views have a very much lighter and fresher palette than the usual Oilette style.
Turning north, we visit the holiday destinations on the west coast - Aberystwyth, set 6211 with another 'Storm' scene; Barmouth, set 7083 by W. Meredith; Dolgelly, set 7095, by E. Longstaffe and another moonlight view, this time of Harlech.
'Picturesque Wales, Snowdon', set 7877, by H. B. Wimbush, shows us the highlights of the area, including 'The Summit of Snowdon'. Cards of these areas were often bought by visitors on coach trips from towns such as Llandudno.
There are no cards to be seen beyond Criccieth, so we go through Carnarvon  and over the Menai Strait with set 7872, by Wimbush, to Anglesey where we giggle at the "Welsh Rarebits" comic cards of set 9340.
There is an interesting 12-card set, 2908, entitled "A Trip to Europe", which charts a voyage from New York to Liverpool by ship. It features a Welsh view, ' Steamer Passing Holy-head light.'
Back on the mainland, we continue east via Penmaenmawr  and Aber falls , and then take a detour up the Conway Valley through Bettws-y-Coed with sets 1723 and 1724, Picturesque North Wales series 2 and 3, and arrive back in Llandudno in time for tea.
In addition to the view sets, there is a set of 'Welsh Costumes'  and a set showing the uniforms of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers . Charting the numbering of some of the cards can be a little awkward, as some designs were re-issued in other sets over the years.
The book which lists most of the Tuck sets [not just the Oilettes] is 'The Picture Postcards of Raphael Tuck& Sons'. edited by J.H.D. Smith, and published by IPM, 39 The Rookeries, Marks Tey, Colchester. CO6 1DY. ISBN 0 9523719 6 0.
There is an excellent website which lists the individual cards, not just the sets, and most of the cards are illustrated. The site is searchable, so that you can quickly find items relating to your collecting areas. TuckDB Postcards: A free database of antique postcards published by ...Tuck. https://tuckdb.org/
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…
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.
Photograph by John Lawson-Reay