This book is dedicated to the people of Denbigh and especially to the memory of the late local historian R M (Bobi) Owen who died a short while before this book was created but whose input would have been invaluable.
This digital book was created as a result of memories and stories shared by an enthusiastic group who met with E Dilwyn Jones, Associate with Book of You, at Eirianfa Denbigh between mid-March and late April 2022.
These two gentlemen are fondly remembered by the Welsh-speaking community of Denbigh as great men of the press, publishing and poetry in Wales. Neither was born or bred in Denbigh but both lived in the town so long that they will forever be associated with it. They are "Famous People" to Welsh-speakers but they were both great characters and, as such, are included here.
Many know a wonderful and true story about Mathonwy who, before one Christmas in the 1970s, booked tickets for his wife and himself to see what he expected to be a religious film in Rhyl. After a bus journey and some waiting due to the bus and cinema times not coinciding, the couple only stayed in the cinema for 10 minutes after realising that the "Emmanuel" of the title did not this time mean "God with us"!
The big surprise in our session on the schools of Denbigh was, very simply, the number of schools named, 16 and the vast majority still open today:
St. Brigid's, Bron Dyffryn, Caledfryn, Fairholme, Fron Goch, Gwaenynog, Heulfre, Denbigh High School, St. Hilary's School, Howell's/Myddleton College, Love Lane, The National School, Pentre Mawr, Ysgol Twm o'r Nant, Ysgol y Dyffryn, Ysgol y Parc.
Denbigh County School pre-war 6th form
National School 1970s with Bobi Owen, Headmaster, at the back. The school no longer exists but many had happy memories of their time there. It was situated near the old Crosville bus garage now used for local businesses whilst Tai Clwyd/Grwp Cynefin have built flats on the old school site.
Ysgol y Parc, infants, 1994 when the headmistress Beti Wyn Evans, mother of film actor Rhys Ifans, was retiring.
We begin a small selection of the tour down Memory Lane relating to Denbigh Shops over the years with fond recollections of The Gem sweetshop on Bridge Street before the turning for Mount Pleasant - the building now houses the credit union but was once the shop where the famous Carol Vorderman worked when a schoolgirl living in Denbigh.
Llewelyn Bartley outside his shop off bridge street.
Mr Bartley was remembered as a lovely man by members of the group but his shop was almost always in chaos. Anyone wanting a particular type of new shoes would be brought an example of just the right thing to try on and Mr Bartley would sing the praises of the make and quality of the shoe and would say what a bargain it was for one reason or another only then, when the customer agreed to purchase, to end up completely unable to find the second shoe in the pair!
This was the Star Shop where the Halifax is today and was run by Robert Owen who was very prominent in the town as were his daughters Ann and Rita later.
Rudi was a true character of Denbigh who ran a sweetshop just opposite the old cinema on Love Lane. For many years, local children would buy stocks of sweets to enjoy during the Saturday morning film presentations at the cinema.
Denbigh had a town cinema on Love Lane. It opened as the Scala in 1928 before being re-branded as the Wedgwood Cinema in the late 1970s. It closed in October 1980 and was re-opened by Lewis Colwell in 1982 and renamed the Futura Cinema. After closing in April 1996, the auditorium was used as a second-hand furniture store for a while, and the front part of the building became a video hire library. In 2009 the building was granted planning permission to be turned into eight apartments.
Boots the chemist staff in the 1980s including Len Jones in the glasses and white coat who was the dispenser and thumbed a lift daily to and from his work in Denbigh from his home in Llanarmon yn Ial and Mr Gierke on the right who did the unloading and displaying of stock.
Myddletons now a betting shop, fond memories of Gwyndaf Pritchard running it.
There were three Mellard's shops in Denbigh until the 1980s: the ironmongery shop in Crown Square, the china shop in Back Row and the garden shop in Crown Lane. They were remembered by the group and can be seen in the film on the next page, which also shows such places as the old garage in Chapel Street, The Bull before it was The Guildhall and some of the big name shops still on the High Street.
This shop used to be a fish and poultry shop as shown in the picture above. The following wording is from an advert to announce their opening posted in the Denbighshire Free Press in 1919. FISH for Everybody E. W. DAVIES (late of Bells Stores) CORONATION BUILDINGS, DENBIGH, Begs to announce that he has opened at the above Premises a FISHMONGER, POULTERER, FRUITERER, and GAME DEALER BUSINESS. .I Fresh Fish Dpassed Poultry Daily. a Speciality. All Goods will be sold at the Lowest Current Market Prices. All Orders, posted or otherwise, personally attended to. NOTE THE ADDRESS Coronation Buildings, Back Row, DENBIGH
The Fron were very successful in the annual Sunday School Festival.
St Thomas' on Vale street remains very successful today and has always attracted a good congregation as a result of being the only English medium non-conformist place of worship in the town. Many preachers recall that, if they were for any reason to lapse in to Welsh half-way through an English sermon, at least 50% of St Thomas' congregation would still understand every word - due to a considerable number of Welsh-speakers who had married non-Welsh-speakers and joined them in St Thomas'.
Members of the group recalled J H Griffith, a minister at Capel Mawr issuing a letter to members in the 1950s expressing concern that the number of communicants attending evening services had fallen below 300 - a figure that would never be achieved today.
St Mary's in Lenten Pool - fondly remembered as the venue of many weddings and funerals.
Denbigh Asylum opened in 1848 to provide care for Welsh speaking people with mental illnesses.
According to Clwyd Wynne who has written a book on the asylum, "There was no form of treatment for mental illness up until the 1930s really, so for the first 78 years or so of the hospital, the only treatments were employment and recreation." He said patients were routinely put to work in the hospital's gardens, laundry or kitchens: "In the laundry alone, there were about 25 to 30 patients working there and only two staff." (Taken from a BBC interview in 2021)
On the left are pictures taken of the dining hall ready for Christmas dinner. On the right is a patient being treated and the on site hair salon.
One very regular theme in our discussion about the North Wales Hospital was the changing attitudes over the years to mental health, sexual orientation and unmarried mothers.
Some recalled very nice and respectable but astoundingly innocent young girls in the 1930s or 40s finding themselves pregnant. As unmarried teenagers they were quickly bundled off by their parents to the North Wales Hospital and branded mentally ill, on the basis that it was then more socially acceptable to have a mentally ill daughter than an unmarried one "with child". The specialists at the session argued that, theoretically, it was not possible to place someone in the hospital unless they were somehow mentally ill as they would be assessed. That said in the pre-NHS era (pre-1948), girls would in practice be accepted in the hospital if their parents paid.
In 1995 the hospital was closed, it changed hands many time over the years but it now has planning permission to be turned into housing.
The famous people associated with Denbigh are sometimes famous in Wales and through the Welsh language, but sometimes their fame has spread further afield.
We have mentioned Gwilym R Jones and Mathonwy Hughes previously, but Dr Kate Roberts "the mother of the Welsh novel" lived in the town for many years. She, like Mathonwy and Gwilym R, being involved in the Gee Press established by Thomas Gee, another great Welsh-language figure. Many remember Mathonwy, Gwilym R and Dr Kate as a formidable trio in Welsh committees.
As well as the mention already made of Carol Vorderman, Welsh actors Phylip Hughes and Gaynor Morgan Rees have also lived in the town, Gaynor continuing to do so and having been town mayor.
Denbigh has boasted of associations with many famous people over the years. Only some were born in the town and the group immediately thought of the town's most famous ever son H M Stanley - born John Rowlands near Denbigh Castle.
Also, Emlyn Hooson Q C and MP who defended in high-profile murder cases and, as a Liberal MP at the time, questioned Jeremy Thorpe about rumours before the famous Thorpe scandal.
A more recent son of the town is celebrity chef Bryn Williams who is married to musician Charlene Spiteri.
Osian Ellis, the internationally-known harpist was not born in Denbigh but resided in the town for some years as a child when his father was the town's Wesleyan chapel minister.
H M Stanley, Osian Ellis and Bryn Williams are the subjects of our subsequent film clips.
Associate for Book of You: E Dilwyn Jones
Specialist contributors on North Wales Hospital:
Dafydd Lloyd Jones