Tag Archives: Queens

The Queen’s Building in Rhyl… a place of delights for the town for many generations.

Rhyl developed as a tourist resort really, there was very little in the area that became the town before the railway from Chester to Holyhead arrived in 1848. Before that there was the large house called Ty’n Rhyl and a few scattered farms, one of which can still be seen at low tide between Rhyl and Prestatyn, swallowed by the sea.

The town quickly developed as a coastal resort when the railway arrived and there was a massive building programme which included hospitals and sanatoria as well as private schools, of which the town had many.  Other than the railway station, which was further expanded in 1900, the most impressive building was undoubtedly the Queen’s Building.

The Queen’s Building occupied a commanding position at the top of the High Street and faced north onto what was being turned from a beach with sand dunes, into an extensive promenade. The building developed quickly into what we might now describe as a leisure complex. From its opening in1902, it provided a host of facilities to keep both locals and holidaymakers amused.



Initially the building had a large glass dome in which an exotic zoo was housed and a tower above in allowed visitors an unbroken view towards Snowdonia, Blackpool Tower, and some say the Isle of Man. I can remember a small  but engaging exotic zoo on the second floor of what later became the Queen’s market. The zoo had such exotica as piranha fish and large snakes, all presented in the semi gloom. I remember looking for what I think was a python, only to find that it had moved imperceptibly to within a few inches of me behind which I hoped was unbreakable glass.

Looking down from the balcony, which also housed a fortune teller, one could see the full extent of the Queen’s dance floor, a beautiful sprung floor which rivalled, and some say exceeded the floor at the Blackpool Tower. John Jones in his book Rhyl: the Town and its People (1970)  reckoned the floor could accommodate 2000 couples. Certainly in the war years it was full to bursting with the troops, Canadians in the first war and Americans in the second who were based at Bodelwyddan Camp a few miles away.  My mum and her friends had tales to tell of nylons and sweets readily available there, often in return for a dance. Delly Hagin told me of the excitement of dancing there and the disappointment of choosing a boyfriend for his looks and not his dancing ability, which resulting in her abandoning her dancing stilettoes, and walking home barefoot with her sore feet.


There was also a theatre which accommodated all the stars of the day from the music hall acts to more modern singers like Cliff Richard. My uncle was lucky enough to meet Laurel and Hardy there and was presented with a  book in recognition of his creative writing.

The first talking picture shown in Rhyl was shown at the Queens Show Boat being followed by The Singing Fool and All quiet on the Western Front. Much of this part of the complex closed as a cinema in 1960.

I have only one memory of one of the two night clubs at the Queens. That was sneaking in whilst still at primary school in 1968 with a friend who crept between my legs to avoid paying. Being tall, I was not questioned about my age, although I doubt they would be happy to have known that two 11 year olds had gained entry. It was the first time I’d heard live music from a local band called the Purple Chapter and we placed ourselves next to the enormous speakers. It was several days before we could hear again.

In latter days the building experienced a rapid decline and only recently has it been purchased for development from the Parker family who have owned it for a number of years.

All the various elements and entertainments mentioned so far are as nothing when compared to the original building, much of which was destroyed by fire in 1906. It was rumoured that the original facilities extended to a large aquarium which was situated, appropriately at the road now called Aquarium Street, where my girlfriend used to live. That is a distance of almost half a mile from the initial Queens building. It was said that the sites were connected by a Venetian style canal with gondolas and gondoliers imported from Venice!

Many people have shown a great interest in what became of these underground canals. Certainly my cousin Gerald, has seen the entrance point to the canal system over fifty years ago when it was in disrepair. My friend, Rhyl Historian Stuart Jones, has become intrigued by the canals and set up a social media group to ‘Save Rhyl Queen’s Building!’ in the hope that some of the building could be restored to its former glory.

There have been documentaries and historians covering the canal system and it is part of the local mythology. The fact that the Parker family were so intent on keeping people out of what might remain of the system on safety grounds, only added to the mystery, with some people saying the system was intact, whilst other claiming that it had been filled with concrete and that there was nothing left to see.

The building is in the process of re-development and probably little of the original building will survive the process.


Stuart and another local entertainment guru, Karen Woodham, were recently granted access to the building by the developers. Certain parts were off limits due to safety concerns, but here is their report of what they found of the former splendour of the building…

Queens Building Rhyl, a last visit to the building by Karen and Stuart.



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Rhyl Promenade 1970s… the way we were.



Came across this video taken by a discerning holidaymaker from the top of the slide at the Ocean Beach fairground.

I reckon, given some of the sites featured that it was taken in the seventies, which to me feel like last week. I was in Rhyl yesterday at the Hub café, just the other side of the river estuary from where this film starts. So much has changed.

A lot of investment has gone into the town, mostly focussed on the promenade, with a refurbished theatre, a new Sun Centre SC2, most places to eat and a number of hotels open, or under development.

The next stage of the development is the town centre and the Savoy Hotel, former home of the Bistro, and the Queen’s Building. The persistent rumour is that there are still gondolas and part of the underground canal that once was rumoured to stretch past Aquarium Street. No doubt the redevelopment will reveal what, if anything is left.

Anyway, enjoy the film and see how many places featured in the film crop up in the Reso book…

Rhyl Promenade 1970s


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A century of Rhyl on screen



Thank you to Rhyl historian Stuart Jones for the heads up about this little gem about a century of Rhyl History.

There are some wonderful contributions from Rhyl residents. Great to see Colin Jones of the Rhyl Blogspot and Dafydd Timothy who was so supportive when the original Reso books were published.

See the film here by clicking on the link below…

Rhyl Your Century

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Colin Jones’ Blog Spot on Rhyl


jklmlPhoto from Colin’s blog of a pre war Birmingham family enjoying themselves on Rhyl Beach


I’m not the first to have a lasting affection for my home town that has turned online.

One of my inspirations has been Colin Jones’ blog, which has been a constant source of amusement, memories and enjoyment.

I feature in one of the posts together with the Rhyl Junior High School Rugby team of 1969. My abiding memory of that team was playing on a frozen pitch at Glyndwr (then the Junior High School) and performing what others described as a ‘brave’ blockage of a long kicked ball with a rather sensitive part of my anatomy. I knew I had dome some serious damage, but it was thirty seconds, due to the cold, before the agony kicked in.

The blog is a compendium of  key places, events and people that makes up the historical fabric of the town. Strange to think that so much of what was our daily lives as children now forms historical records, of which, without people like Colin, would be lost in faded memories.

I send Colin my thanks and best wishes as he scales down the blog and concentrates on new challenges. Thank you for your research and insights into our great town.

Visit Colin Jones’ Rhyl BlogSpot


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The Rhyl Little Venice Mystery

What I am about to relate continues to surprise and intrigue me… it dates back to the turn of the century and is central to an understanding of Rhyl’s past.

When the resort of Rhyl first took off with the arrival of the railway after 1848, a series of attractions was proposed and built to entertain the holidaymakers.

Among the grandest was the Queen’s Theatre on the Promenade just to the west of the High Street. The Queen’s had a massive sprung dance floor, which can still be seen if you visit the indoor market, which rivalled the one at Blackpool Tower!

There was a zoo of sorts and a massive glass dome on the top of the building.

Underneath the building and, depending on whose account you rely, there was an extensive underground canal system, complete with Venetian gondolas and Italian gondoliers. There had been plans to build an extensive aquarium and pleasure park further to the west of the Queens – and indeed to this day there is an Aquarium Street which commemorates this plan. Some say the canals stretched this far and even further.

There was a terrible fire at the Queens complex in 1907 which destroyed the glass dome and the facilities were cut back after that. Certainly the canal and gondolas became the stuff of legend. It was said that some time after the fire the canals were abandoned and some people have commented that what remained of the canals were filled in by the 1960s so no evidence remains of the system.

The Parker family, a long-standing name in Rhyl, own the complex and have said that there is nothing left of the canals. Despite this, many in Rhyl, including my friend, local historian, Stuart Jones, are desperate to have an exploration underneath the Queens complex and gather any relevant information so that the canal can be properly documented.

This is the only one known image of the canal, which only adds to the intrigue…



This just in from Stuart Jones, giving some more context:

Taken from Rhyl Record & Advertertiser, 4th April 1903…. some interesting info about “Little Venice”:




The directors of the Queens Palace have made the most eleborate and attractive arrangements for the delectation and amusement of the visitors to Rhyl from Easter to the end of the summer. In the short time it was opened last summer the Queen’s Palace proved that it had caught on with the pubic in a manner that suggested great possibilities for the future, and encouraged by the support extended them the Syndicate have been induced to embark upon further enterprises which bid fair to supply Rhyl with a place of entertainment and of amusement equalled by few places out of London.

Since last summer the basement underneath the ballroom has been utilised and transformed to represent Venice, in the centre is a water arrangement to represent one of the Venetian canals rising out of which are artistically decorated arches to suggest some of the bridges for which Venice is noted. The ceiling is decorated to convey an idea of the blue Italian sky, while the sides are covered with paintings depicting Venetian scenery.

Real gondolas manipulated by Italian boys will take the patrons of Venice twice around the canal for the small charge of one penny. Venice will besides contain several features of interest. These will include a large number of automatic machines, embracing the latest novelties in mechanical inventions.

Close upon 100 stereoscopic lens will be in use to magnify some of the best specimens of the photographic art. There will be stalls on which fancy goods, and refreshments will be exposed for sale, and the whole place will be brilliantly illuminated by an extensive installation of electric light.

In one of the side rooms there will be on view Barnum and Bailey’s huge giant, who measures nearly eight feet in height. In another room there will be a shooting gallery arrangement, where good marksmanship may be cultivated and encouraged. But perhaps the most interesting place in this subterranean resort will be a chamber devoted to a waxwork collection of criminal celebrities.

These will be located in a chamber peculiarly suitable for adding a touch of realism to the gruesome array of murderers comprised in the collection. In two cell-like recesses there will be a representation of Chapman, the poisoner, administering the fatal dose to Maud Marsh, whilst another tableau will represent the atrocity perpetrated by Edwards, of Leyton fame. The ‘Chamber of Horrors’ represents the criminal contents of one of the best-known waxwork exhibition in the provinces, the whole of which have been purchased by the Syndicate.

With the exception of the ‘Chamber of Horrors,’ the whole of the many and varied sights of this wonderland may be viewed on payment of the small charge of two pence. The tower and dome have now been completed, and the electric lift is in working order. In the first room of the tower there will be an exhibition, of wax- work figures of unprecedented magnificence for a provincial town.

The Royal group, with the King and Queen on the throne, and other members of the Royal Family in close contiguity, is an especially artistic and beautiful study. Eminent politicians, great soldiers and savors, and epoch and history making men are delineated in life-size figures in large numbers. A scene describing ‘Jim, the collier’s son,’ will occupy one room to itself. The collection numbers several hundreds of figures, and they are being specially attended to. The large and commodious room where the collection will be on view is specially adapted for an exhibition of this kind, being spacious and lofty, and well lighted and ventilated.

In the room above, which may be described as the dome, there is a collection of several hundreds of automatic machines, consisting of all kinds of devices and novelties, from telling one’s weight to telling one’s fortune. There are also a large number of working mechanical models. One might spend a couple of hours in this room alone, and find himself amply amused the whole of the time.

A spiral staircase leads from here on to the crow’s nest, which surmounts the dome, and from this altitude there is commanded a marine view of rare charm and magnificence stretching forth for fifty miles east and west, and in a southerly direction a view of hill and dale, of rivers and rivulets such as is to be seen in no other spot on this coast.

To ascend by the lift to view the waxworks, and the hundred and one other attractions provided in the tower entails only the small charge of two pence.

These new additions to the Palace attractions will all be open to the public on Easter Monday, and from thence continuously. On that day there will be an Eisteddfod at the Palace, the Syndicate having offered very large sums in prizes for choral, solo, and instrumental competitions. We are told that the entries are very large, numbering altogether close upon 700. Some of the best Welsh choirs will compete, and will find powerful rivals in several well known English choirs.

After Easter Monday the usual variety programme will be submitted to the patrons of the Palace., interspersed, of course, with dancing, which will be specially catered for. The Syndicate have been fortunate in securing the services of Mr. Edmund Bosanquet, the celebrated violinist, who will commence his duties on the 1st day of June as musical director, and he will wield the baton over a band, of twenty-two picked instrumentalists. So that the quality of the music discoursed will have special attention paid to it, an all important element where dancing and variety programmes are combined.

Among the artistes who will appear the week commencing Easter Monday will be Jack Barnes’ with his Cinematograph, Mr. Frank Dunlop, Miss Dot Boline, Miss Marie Feldon, and others. The bookings for later on in the season include most of the leading music hall artistes, so that altogether there, is a prospect of a most attractive time of it at the Palace.

Since last summer many improvements have been made in the Roof Gardens, which are now more beautiful and mere luxurious than ever. Further decorations and additions to the furnishing appointments have been made in the Cafe, and the general comfort and the requirements of the patrons of the place have been consulted to even the minutest detail. It will altogether be found to be one of the most gorgeous, brilliant, and varied places of amusements to be seen anywhere, and it may be depended upon to attract many thousands of visitors to Rhyl during the next few months.

Meantime rapid progress is being made with the alterations and additions to the Queens Hotel and the new Cafe. No expense is being spared in making the Cafe thoroughly up-to- date. It will be furnished in the most luxurious manner, while the scheme of decorations is on a costly and most ambitious scale, and will exceed any of their kind in any cafe in the country. It is expected that these alterations will be completed in June.

The hotel arrangements themselves will also be on the modern principles. Practically all the shops in the Arcade have been taken, and the tenants are busily putting in the fixtures and fitting’s.


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