These two pictures encapsulate the promenade of my youth and form a backdrop to events in the Reso…
I’m unsure how this shot was made – either a helicopter or giant crane would explain it! To the left is the 100 yard Swimming baths and between there and the Royal Floral Hall are the notorious, dank, cold mouldy changing rooms. The white area jutting into the pool opposite the diving boards were where the Miss Rhyl competitions were held in the summer. The locals tended to congregate at the far end of the pool near the fountain… which meant walking in agony over the loose tarmac along the side of the pool.
Beyond the far end of the pool was Uncle Eric’s – where you could ride clapped out bicycles and tricycles or swing on the double ended swings for a few pennies. You can see the ramp just in front of the Lifeboat House where the waterproofed tractor used to drag the lifeboat out to deeper water on a caterpillar tracked sled.
Just beyond the lifeboat house were the chalets that could be rented out in the summer to give all day access to the beach – it was in one of them that I was introduced to baked beans and sausages in the same can! All cooked on a two ring Burco electric oven by Auntie Doris!
On the distant right is the Alexandra Hospital which started life as a Children’s sanatorium… part funded by the Grosvenor family from the winnings of the Horse Flying Fox – which is why a Flying Fox appears as a weather vane over the hospital!
Near the East Parade Road were a series of “illuminations” – nothing to compare with Blackpool though. Rhyl was an early centre of capital – I doubt that our illuminations amounted to more that 500 watts of coloured lights – shining through Disney characters and illuminated animals for about 100 yards of the front!
The rest of the East Parade, the more salubrious end of the Promenade was made up of large residences and bed and breakfast establishments.
Probably taken on the same day as the previous photograph is this view of the West Parade. Nearest the camera are the greens and to the right the Clwyd Ices booth “Often Licked – Never Beaten!”
The lorry is on the sloped access to the beach which was effectively an extension of High Street, so that holidaymakers could stream in a straight line from the railway station or Vale Road Coach Park onto the beach. The dark brick building near the lorry are the toilet block and hidden in the shadows in front of them was a large sea mine, painted red which was a donation box “for those in peril on the sea!” Just out of sight was the multi-coloured booth of Professor Green, Rhyl’s Punch and Judy maestro.
Next comes the Rhyl Silver Band bandstand – the band continue to go on today, thankfully!
The oval of treacherous grey gravel is the cycle track where unwitting young holidaymakers often came to grief and ended up in the First Aid dressing station.
The red pagoda roof is one of the beachside café and beyond that is the roller skating rink. This was another generator of trade for the First Aid post!
Then the crowning glory, and most distinctive building along the North Wales Coast – Rhyl Pavilion. It was an impressive building in the day, but was magical at night when a succession of coloured lights played upon it. The white dome was over-painted in the War to avoid offering a distinctive landmark to German bombers targeting Liverpool docks. The Pavilion hosted all the big name entertainers of the day as well as regular circuses. It has been a subject of great anger in the town that the building was demolished in the early seventies. The popular story was that the dome was condemned because it had cracks in it. The dome was actually sound, as was proved when, during the demolition the dome fell to the ground in one piece. It was actually the supports for the dome which were fatigued and deemed beyond economic repair. A sad end to an iconic and much-loved building on which my Taid, as a floor-layer, had had a part in the construction, just after the turn of the century.
Beyond the Pavilion, and hidden from view, was a large paddling pool (often called the piddling pool) and a boating lake. Beyond that was the Coliseum Theatre, originally open air and latterly covered which housed the Pierrot troops of entertainers like Billie Manders (a female impersonator) who provided slightly risqué family entertainment variety shows. In its later years the Coliseum always seemed to be hosting a production”On Ice” – how they managed to refrigerate the stage there was beyond me!
The large houses to the left are the main holiday accommodation of the town – which extended into all the side streets leading away from the beach. One of these was Edward Henry Street, in which L.S. Lowry stayed and painted scenes of the town whilst on holiday from Salford. This section of the promenade was also famous for the slot palaces and Bingo – the haunt of many a Rhyl lad trying to beat the odds with a well placed nudge!
Where the beach meets the road in the far distance was the Ocean Beach funfair and beyond that the Harbour from which boat trips of the bay could be purchased. Rhyl ended at the Foryd Bridge, as did the county of Flintshire to which Rhyl belonged at this time.
The wooden and loose stone groyne marked the pathway into the harbour – the largest ships entering were timber ships from Norway and the Baltic, which fed the premises of Charles F Jones – joiners and carpenters in a large building on the harbour. A single goods line made its way to the harbour off the Clwyd Valley line and there was usually at least one 16 ton coal wagon near the small goods crane on the edge of the harbour.
This side of the groyne was also the site of the sewage outlet pipe and some very murky water tended to congregate there – I once had to rescue my brother from some dubious bathing at this point!