Gallery 14 - Changing North Wales
North Wales has always been an interesting region for fairs and amusement parks - firstly for the elusive nature of many of the locations, and secondly for the great sense of change that sweeps through the area reflecting broader social trends such as the decline of the British holiday and the associated demise of the sea-side park. This gallery looks at some of the larger parks in the region, at some of the lonelier locations, and at the refreshingly successful Victorian Festival held in the immaculately preserved resort of Llandudno.
With Lancashire and Merseyside showmen nudging in to the region to provide travelling fairs at working towns and villages such as Queensferry, Fflint and Connoh's Quay, the resort side of things commences with Prestatyn and the major resort at Rhyl. Prestatyn has never boasted a large park of any sort, whereas Rhyl has a rich history which has sadly gone into a rapid demise. Three large parks formed the basis of Rhyl - the Marine Lake, Ocean Beach and Voryd Park. Marine Lake downscaled on amusements towards the 1960s with Ocean Beach and the adjoining Voryd (run by Twigdons and then J.J. Butterworth) providing the thrills and spills. These two parks combined following the fire of a separating building, and the newly extended area remained as Ocean Beach. The park included an in-house built Water Chute (other Chutes were built around the UK by Rhyl's engineers), the large Pinfari 'Jet Stream' Roller Coaster (originally new for the ill-fated Battersea Park), and various modern Roller Coasters. In 2007 the park saw its last season, bringing an abrupt halt to the fairground tradition in the town.
The adjoining resort of Towyn flourished as a caravan park destination, and as Rhyl went in to decline, amusements at Towyn began to take hold with two parks springing up in the 1980s. These parks remain as ongoing concerns, though the area has battled with various flood-tides throughout the years.
Colwyn Bay had the long-standing 'Happy Hour' park run by J.P. Collins as part of the expansive Collins empire. This venue was seldom photographed or recorded, and references to rides in residence is not backed up with photographs. The location of the park was tight against the railway line and the old A55 road, as the geography of the region west of Rhyl began to be dictated by the northern edges of the Snowdonian mountains pushing hard against the coast. Colwyn Bay's park survived in the 1980s under the ownership of Arthur Barnard, who took over the reigns in 1962, however the park was levelled in the 1980s as the A55 through road linking the North West with the important port of Holyhead expanded to take the increased traffic. This expansion changed the character of Colwyn Bay and many smaller resorts west of the town of Conway.
Llandudno remains a popular resort, isolated on the peninsula characterised by the Great and Little Ormes. The resort maintains a classic pier and Victorian feel, but has never housed a large-scale amusement park. A small childrens fairground persisted up until the 1980s, and the town saw regular visits from the Simons family through the summer months. The introduction of the Victorian May Day Festival has allowed fairground attractions to give the town an exciting pulse, if only for a few days.
A mechanical elephant provided unique thrills for Colwyn Bay's holidaymakers in the 1950s.
Many photographs of the park are taken from the train window...
The Tidman Gallopers remained in the park until the end, and were popular with the enthusiasts.
Monty Hammond's Maxwell Waltzer occupied a spot at 'Tir Park' in Towyn through the 80s.
The Knightly family established a park in Towyn up against the sea-barrier - this is their modern Jackson Waltzer.
Knightly's park has seen steady changes - an Octopus (ex sailor Joe White) guested in 1994.
The 1970s in Towyn is not well recorded - the Appleton family opened briefly with equipment such as this Waltzer.
Luke Knightly has a good sense of humour and novelty in operating the park.
This 'Gyro' is pictured at Prestatyn in 1979 - it was used to make a thrill ride in Scotland.
Ffrith Beach borders on to Rhyl - this Ghost train stood there in 1980s.
Farrell's Dodgems also stood at Ffrith Beach in the 1970s.
For 2008 the Robinson family have taken some of the machines from the closed park at Rhyl to be used at Ffrith Beach.
The Seldon family were tenants at Rhyl in the 60s and 70s.
Rhyl's Maxwell Waltzer suffered damage and was later rebuilt.
The original Tip Top operated with 16 cars until a car became detached - amazingly no-one was hurt!
The Webber family presented a classic set of Dodgems - advertised for sale in 1978.
Llandudno Victorian Festival sees traditional rides.
With the streets also flanked with thrills galore.
What would the Victorians made of this white-knuckle experience?