'A glimpse into the Halcion days of Denbigh and my fathers childhood'
Bryn Hughes Evans
OH - HAPPY DAYS! By Bryn Hughes Evans
I was born in Denbigh in 1939, the third son of Emyr and Myfanwy (Van) Evans. My father was a baker by trade, but moved to work at Evan Jones & Son ( Electrical and Wireless) in Highgate, where he was Manager of the business for many years. My brothers are Granville and Mervyn, and my sister, Betty. My home throughout my young life was at No.2 Rose Villas, in Middle Lane, the middle house of a block of three, almost exactly half-way down the Lane. I will, therefore, try to recollect the residents and landmarks of that part of Denbigh some 60 odd years ago!
Moving up the Lane from my home, next-door at No.1 Rose Villas lived my Auntie Meg and Uncle Ike Edwards, their daughter Nancy, and my Nain (Harriet Davies – Meg and Van’s mother, and widow of John Willie Davies – butcher). Ike was a bus driver with Crosville, and Meg, a real friendly, colourful character. I recall that she would organize trips to the Blackpool Illuminations, and to Pantasaph Monastery at Easter, etc., and I remember the excitement early on a Sunday morning, of seeing a Crosville bus making its way down Middle Lane (well off-route!) to pick us all up. (I wonder if Crosville ever knew that one of their buses went missing for the day!).
Continuing up the Lane, the next house was the home of Dai Edward and Bessie Thomas, and their children Kathleen, Brenda and Edgar. Uncle Dai was an attendant at the North Wales Mental Hospital.
Next door up were Mr & Mrs Davies and children – Lilian and Marcus. I remember Mr Davies as quite an elderly gentleman ( probably some 20 years younger than me now!), who always smoked a heavy pipe, and was caretaker of the Clinic across the road. He would grow all his flowers and vegetables in the gardens in front of, and behind the Clinic – all now, alas, car park!
Their neighbours were Will Savage Jones and his wife and daughter - “ a good joiner, but likes his drink!”
Next came the considerable expanse of the playing field of the County School ( later – the Grammar School ). It was on the School field in 1953 that we had our ‘Street Party’ to mark the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth. I also recall that, some years earlier (possibly during the War), the field was used for a display by, or competition between local Fire Brigades ( NFS ).
The first house after the top entrance gates was that of a Mr & Mrs Jones, the retired caretaker and cook at the County School.
Their neighbours were the then caretaker and his family - Mr & Mrs ‘Pit’ Williams, Gwyn and Bryn. The major interest of the boys of the Lane at that time was, of course, playing football, and it was Gwyn who excelled over all of us by going on to play for Wales at Amateur level in later life.
A schoolteacher and her husband lived next to them – a Mr & Mrs Jones – and I have the memory of a young boy in particularly recalling that Mr Jones had a large BSA motorbike and sidecar!
Another young boy who was to do well in later life – becoming a Burgess of the Town, Mayor, County Councillor, football referee, and long-serving Secretary of the Denbigh Flower Show – Emrys Williams – and his parents, brothers and sisters, lived in the next house.
Now, we reach the top of the Lane. No.3 ,up a short flight of steps, was occupied by a family named Clayton.
No.1 was part of the corner building adjoining Post Office Lane – an original ‘corner-shop’. As a youngster, this was always known to me as ‘Peters’ Shop’ (Mr & Mrs Peters), and later became the shop of Mr & Mrs Trevor Jones – who lived in Grove Road.
Around the corner lived the Hookes family, and their neighbours, Mr & Mrs Royles – a window cleaner – and their son Roy, who was in school with me.
On the opposite side of Post Office Lane lived a ‘Miss Nellie’ Jones – again, one of my teachers at Frongoch – and adjacent to her house was the entrance to ‘Y Berllen Farm’ – but I was not allowed to wander any further into that area!
To return now down the opposite side of Middle Lane, my recollections of the first two cottages are really from my later life, when they were occupied by Danny Jones (who worked in the body-shop of Smithfield Garage) and his family, and next door, Phil and Nancy (my cousin) Pendlebury , and daughters Dianne and Christine.
Then came a run of high stone walls and outbuildings which were, in effect, the rear perimeter of the gardens of Mr T.Gwilym Davies, Dental Surgeon, at ‘Lyndhurst’ in Vale Street. I was a childhood friend of Mr & Mrs Davies’s son John and, at the ages of 9 or 10, we contributed a great deal ( or so we thought!) towards the building work to create what is now ‘Grovehurst’ in Middle Lane. This house was subsequently occupied by a Mr & Mrs Dickens and their daughter. Mr Dickens remains prominent in my memory as he, in due course, became ‘Manager’ of our football team – Denbigh Juniors (Under 16), and I feel was quite inspirational in leading us to a number of successes in the Youth Football of the area at that time. Later, the property was the home of a Mr Chadwell and his family, an Assistant Dentist with Mr Davies.
Behind the high stone wall on the ‘up-side’ of Grovehurst was built ‘Llys’, which became the home Sir Francis Williams, QC.
Returning to the ‘down hill’ journey, we now reach Lon Cobner – or Dr. Lloyd’s Lane, as it was always known to us. The walled grounds running the full length of the right-hand side were, again, the gardens of substantial town houses in Vale Street - principally,’ Whitehall’. In later years these would become progressively built upon, to become the individual homes of Emlyn and Christine Jones, Tom and Vida Kelly ,Idris and Hannah Lloyd, Mr Wynn Rogers, and their respective families. The large property on the corner of Vale Street seems to have been, for as long as I can remember, the County Headquarters of the Womens’ Institute.
Facing this building on the opposite side of Dr.Lloyd’s Lane is the Beech House Doctors’ Surgery. (I recall a Dr.Duff setting my broken arm there, at the age of about 7 or 8, after I had fallen off the roundabout in ‘The Rec.’!) s
Then comes the Old Coach House belonging to Beech House, where Toc H held their meetings in the upstairs room, and my father garaged his first car down below (an `Austin A30 - ‘the Bluebird’ to the family!)
Next door was the home of Mr & Mrs Boycott and their children, Margaret and Colin. Mr Boycott ran a busy plumbing business. From their garden there was a side-door leading directly into Middle Lane, and as children we used this from time to time – mainly to retrieve footballs lofted over the quite high stonewall!
The housing on this side of Middle Lane finished here, but then there was – and still is – the Clinic. I am sure I must be imagining it, but I sense that I remember being weighed in that silver-panned baby scale, under the watchful eye of Nurse Evans! I certainly do remember, however, lining up with my fellow pupils from Frongoch outside the Surgery of Mr Fussil, the dreaded School- Dentist! Who could forget?!
To continue down the Lane from Rose Villas – at No.3 lived our very good neighbours George and Dorothy Roberts – he, a dental mechanic with Mr Gwilym Davies – and their children, Geoffrey and Michael.
Then came a terrace of four cottages – the first, No.31 Middle Lane, formerly occupied by a Mrs Powell, subsequently became the first home of Joan and I and our son Paul.
Next-door at No.33 lived relatives of mine - Peter and Esther Roberts. He was an engine driver on the railway, (LMS!), and I have happy memories of occasional rides on the footplate of shunting engines (steam, of course) with Uncle Peter.
Their neighbours at No.35 were Mr & Mrs Alec Jones and their daughter Ann. Mr Jones was, for many years, the caretaker of the Denbigh Liberal Club on High Street.
In the last house of the terrace, No.37, lived Mr Dai Jones and his wife May. Mr Jones also, was a railwayman.
At ‘Kendar’, next door, lived Mr & Mrs Harry Ellis. I believe that Mr Ellis was Manager at the Gasworks on Rhyl Road, but seemed to be far more well known for his prowess in winning, year after year, the major trophies for the large flower displays at the Denbigh, and other local Flower Shows.
The last house in the Lane - ‘Rofft ‘– was that of my Uncle and Aunt, Bill (W.O.) and Evelyn Jones, and their son Gwynne. W.O. was the proprietor of Evan Jones & Son, and I remember on one Sunday morning being crowded into the highest (and smallest!) room in the shop building in Love Lane, together with numerous relatives, to witness the first television pictures to be transmitted to Denbigh (a black and white Test Card as I recall!). I also have a vague memory of the two schoolgirl evacuees from Guernsey whom my Uncle and Aunt took in during the War.
The Rofft garden extends as far as the junction with Grove Road (‘Red Lane’) where, directly opposite, the High street fruit and vegetable merchant, Solly Hyman, had his transport yard and garages. Many a ‘Test-Match’ and ‘Cup Final’ were played on that extremely cobbled yard!
On the ‘up-side’ of the yard lived Mrs Batten Jones, and her children, Haydn, Margaret and Anne.
Their immediate neighbours were Mr & Mrs Dai Davies, proprietors of Owens & Davies, grocers and sub-post office in Townsend.
Set back from Grove Road somewhat, at Bodawen, lived Emlyn and Hilda Jones and their four sons ( and close friends of mine), Alwyn, Euryn, Berwyn and Selwyn. Mr Jones was employed at the Timber Yard at the bottom-end of Grove Road. I have only a vague memory of a young man named Iolo living in the adjoining house.
The first house of the neighbouring terrace was the home of another Emlyn and Mrs Jones, and their children Beryl and Neville. Mr Jones also was an attendant at the North Wales Hospital.
Again, facing the junction with Middle Lane, was the home of the proprietors of the Timber Yard, a Mr & Mrs Lloyd.
Their neighbours were Police Sergeant Richards, his wife and children, Bobby, Betty and Patrick – also good school friends of mine.
I cannot recall the names of their immediate neighbours but, next door again lived a Mr & Mrs Williams and their son Ernest – another school friend, and who went on to work with the then LMS. Their neighbour at ‘Bronberllen’ was Ernest’s ‘Auntie Katie’ (I know no more!).
The end house of this row was occupied by ‘Mr Morris – Inspector’! An Inspector of what, I don’t know! I think, possibly that he was an employee of the Water Board. A Mr & Mrs Davies lived next door at Bryn Trefor. The last house at this extreme of my ‘patch’ was the bungalow of Mr Jack Roberts, whose garden reached down as far as the stream in Cae Fron, and always appeared to me to be a mass of greenhouses and flowers.
Adjoining this garden were a number of public allotments, at one of which I spent many a happy hour ‘helping’ my father to grow his vegetables! Whilst, in those early post-War years it was extremely necessary to try to provide vegetables from the garden / plot for the family table, and Dad was, in fact almost self-sufficient in this way, he did also win many prizes for his ‘veg’ at local Flower and Produce Shows.
On the lower side of Grove Road, beyond Hyman’s Yard, is a terrace of seven houses. I recall only the occupants of the first and last. At No.33 lived Mr George Griffiths - employed at the North Wales Hospital - his wife, Aunt and son Robert – another school friend of mine. At the other end of the terrace lived a Mr & Mrs Williams and their son Raymond. I believe he was a painter, whilst she was a nurse at the Denbigh Infirmary.
Adjoining this end house was the Timber Yard – a thriving and bustling sawmill, with timber arriving and departing both by road and rail.
Also travelling in the same manner were cattle and sheep, from the railway pens alongside. I can remember them being herded along the road, down Vale Street and under the Railway bridge, and away along Rhyl or Ruthin Road.
The Goods Yard and the Railway Station were at this end of my ‘patch’ - and what wonderful buildings these were – now, unfortunately, lost forever!
At the bottom corner of Grove Road is Llys Meddyg, the former home of the internationally famous harpist, Osian Ellis.
Next to this property was the Memorial Hall (now Theatr Twm o’r Nant), which, for a period during the War became a temporary barracks for American soldiers (G.I.’s). I can remember, as a cheeky toddler, waiting outside the Hall and asking them as they emerged – “have you got any gum chum”? The fantastic response almost every time was to be thrown several packets of chewing gum, and popcorn, etc.—We thought we were in Heaven!
A few years later, after the War, a little chip-shop opened at the corner of Grove Road and Vale Street – ‘Mickey’s Café’. Around the corner from the Café, into Vale Street, was the final building on my ‘tour’ – Salusbury Place – already derelict at that time. Nowadays, the site of the Lidl’s Store, and before that, both a manufacturing business and a biscuit factory (Marsden’s), it was originally the very substantial home of Dr. Evan Pierce. Its very large gardens stretched across behind the house as far as Middle Lane. The vast area of beech trees and derelict formal gardens was, of course, another wonderful playground for us. It is very pleasing to see that the gardens of the Monument erected in memory of Dr. Pierce, across Vale Street from the house, are currently being extremely well renovated, with a view to shortly re-opening to the public, after many years.
I will return now to where we started – to Middle Lane. My early education had been at Frongoch Infants and then the Junior School - both in Grove Road, and now used as the Magistrates Courts .I then moved on to the Grammar School in Middle Lane. Although I can recall most of my excellent teachers over the years, there is one who quite prominently stands out in my memory – not for his excellence, but for quite the reverse really! He was Mr Clem. Edwards – ‘Woodwork and Metalwork’. I clearly recall being ‘ taught ‘ at woodwork how to dig up worms from the School field, and at metalwork, how to make metal ‘minnows’ – both ‘bait’ for his passion in life – fishing!
The School had few facilities, which nowadays would be expected, such as an Assembly Hall or Gymnasium, and morning Assembly/ Prayers were held in the adjoining chapel schoolroom – ‘Bodawen’. Access to Bodawen was across the girl’s yard and past the bike shed!
Beyond Bodawen and into Post Office Lane was the School’s unofficial ‘tuck-shop’ – ‘Addie’s. This was a small general grocers and bread shop – but Mrs Addie also sold sweets! The original property also incorporated a small commercial bakehouse and was, in fact, built for my wife’s grandmother, Mrs Alice Evans, wife of Rev. John Howell Evans, who ran it for many years (including a small café upstairs) as a family business.
In conclusion, I know I now see my young life in and around Middle Lane through rather rose-coloured glasses. The War started the year I was born – and in reality, life was very hard for everyone throughout, and well beyond, the War Years. However, it is wonderful to be able to recollect also, so much happiness with my family and friends, mostly based on self-motivated play and sport. Two sets of coats thrown down in the middle of the Lane, and we had a ‘Wembley’ football pitch! – and the match finished only when the town gas-lamp lighter arrived to light the street lamp on the corner of Dr. Lloyd’s Lane! It was then bedtime.
O’h – happy days!
Bryn Hughes Evans
04 / 03 / 2007