BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC News in video and audio
Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 April 2007, 18:49 GMT 19:49 UK
Rise and fall of Rhyl's funfair
A view of the former amusement park seen from a water shute (From Image  of Wales, Rhyl, courtesy of Tempus Publishers)
The former amusement park before the promenade was developed
At one time, Rhyl's funfair was probably the biggest of all the resorts on the north Wales coast.

The town took off as a resort once its rail station opened in 1848 and by the 1890s the Marine Lake fairground was seeing thousands of visitors annually.

After the second World War, the funfair moved to its present site on the seafront, but later fell victim to the rise of the overseas package holiday.

Rhyl's decline as a resort has seen a rise in its crime and social problems.

Like most of the resorts along the north Wales coast, Rhyl's destiny was secured with the railway from Holyhead to England and the rise of the seaside holiday for the working classes.

After its rail station opened in 1848, visitors could choose to arrive and leave by train rather than risk sea-sickness as a boat passenger.

It was declining by the 60s - it happened very slowly, as it went down and down - now it's collapsed altogether
Retired fisherman John Povah

The railway also led to tracts of flood plain west of Rhyl being reclaimed from the sea, as well as the West End of the town.

Rhyl's Marine Lake was created as part of this reclamation and was the site of the funfair from the 1890s to the 1950s.

From the turn of the century, visitors were enjoying many of the rides and activities associated with a British funfair.

One of the first was a water shoot. This was soon joined by a helter skelter and another taller slide with a seat lift to the top. Then came the big dipper and much later still, bumper cars.

The river caves took visitors on a boat ride through imaginary caves and gardens, while a haunted house and the hall of mirrors were the preserve of the brave-hearted.

Rhyl seafront
The seafront funfair once made Rhyl a top holiday destination

There were also traditional tests of skills such as coconut shies, rifle ranges and the roll-a-penny.

While all this was going on, four miniature steam trains took up to 80 passengers at a time on the railway around the lake.

Retired fisherman John Povah, 71, remembers how the miniature trains would have a whistle dialogue with the full-size steam trains entering and leaving the town.

"That was all you could hear all over town was this 'whistle' and 'beep' as they were whistling to each other. It was part of it," he said.

Visitors boomed until the Second World War and even continued during it, even though British soldiers and later US servicemen were billeted in the large houses along the promenade.

Mr Povah said towards the end of the war the Allied troops were replaced by Italian prisoners-of-war, who were free to wander the town and visit the funfair.

The fairground moved to its present site on the seafront in the 1950s but the 1960s saw the nemesis of the British seaside trip, cheaper jet travel and the rise of the overseas package holiday.

"It was declining by the 60s. It happened very slowly, as it went down and down. Now it's collapsed altogether," added Mr Povah.

Rhyl funfair demolition debate
18 Apr 07 |  North East Wales
New shops plan for central Rhyl
27 Mar 07 |  North East Wales
'End of funfair' plan submitted
22 Dec 06 |  North East Wales
Mini golf tees off park's revamp
21 Mar 07 |  North East Wales
Keeping it Rhyl
23 Aug 06 |  Wales


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific