The Refugee House



The House on East Parade where our Refugees lived had a very interesting history. It was a lodging house, later a cinema and even the scene of a jewel robbery! Three censuses: 1861, 1901 & 1911 and many newspaper reports give us an insight into some of the residents before Colonel Wynne Edwards gave over the house to the Refugees.


This photo is taken from a Magic Lantern slide, and used here with the kind permission of Mr. Philip Lloyd, author of the wonderful book “Glorious Rhyl, A Peep at its Past” which is available to order in all the libraries in North Denbighshire. It’s not currently available from Amazon – we possibly bought the last copy!


1861 Census:

The Lodging House keeper was Mary Dobson, who was born in Bolton in 1812. With her were her three children – Margaret (born in Canada in 1843) Robert (born in 1850, also in Canada) and Frank, who was born in Pendlebury in 1852. There were two servants listed in their household, Mary Roberts & Martha Roberts, both of Gronant.

Also in the house:

Brailsford Bright (born 1811) a retired merchant from Derbyshire and Emma Bright, born in Middlesex in 1805.

Henry Atkinson, born in Ireland in 1825, and his housekeeper Sarah Moses, who came from Kent.


In January 1877 a doctor, G. J. S. Camden MCRS who lived in the house, took to the pages of the Western Mail (and those of “The Lancet”) to discuss, at length, the symptoms and treatment of Hydrophobia (Rabies) as apparently it was quite prevalent in dogs in Liverpool at the time. He writes to the Western Mail from 2 East Parade, although we cannot find evidence of him practicing from this address. After this date, and up to as late as April 1882 we can trace him to 18 West Parade. Apparently the treatment for those bitten by a rabid dog was 30 grains of iodine of potash dissolved in three tablespoons of water to be taken at bedtime. However, the Refugees in Rhyl project suggests that you do not try this at home.


We found newspaper reports from late in the 1800s where a family by the name of Hughes is mentioned as living at 2 East Parade – usually with regard to church functions. In the Rhyl Journal of February 27th 1892 we found a notice of an auction taking place inside the house where Mrs. Hughes had instructed J. E. Roberts & Co. to auction off all the furniture.


In 1893 a commercial traveller staying at the house used the Rhyl Journal to extol the virtues of his dogs’ favourite biscuits:

Mr. G. H. Simpson, East Lynne Company, 2 East Parade, Rhyl, writes

“I have used your Patent Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes for my dogs for the last three years and can speak highly of their quality.”

in what is clearly an advert for Spratt’s, of Bermondsey.





In 1896 there were residents by the name of Lloyd in the house. The Misses Lloyd donated 5 shillings to the RNLI (Rhyl Branch) in January of that year.


1901 Census:

The Lodging House keeper was Catherine Evans, who was born in Llanstumdwy in 1849. With her was husband Ellis Evans, originally from Pwllheli. On the census, he is listed as a “Tinplate Worker”. We found newspaper advertisements over a considerable number of years where Ellis announces his business “Ellis Evans & Co.” of 39 High Street, Rhyl. He was a Tin & Copperplate merchant, also dealing in paint & varnish, wallpaper, glass, sheet ironwork, plumbing and all kinds of repairs. Mrs. Evans was a member of the Women’s Temperance Union.


Ellis Evans wasn’t too happy with the noise on East Parade in 1905. He complained to Rhyl Urban District Council’s Roads Committee in August of that year about “noises from the donkey stand, minstrels and especially the motor cars immediately in front of his door” and he hoped for a speedy removal of this “most serious grievance”!


Catherine & Ellis’ daughter lived with them in 1901. Her name was Nance and she was born in Rhyl in 1877. Nance married in December 1905 – this is from the Rhyl Journal of December 30th:


Marriage of Miss Nance Evans.

The marriage was solemnised at the Parish Church, Tuebrook, Liverpool, on Saturday, of Mr. George Jeffers, son of Mr. J Jeffers, of Tuebrook, and Miss Nance Evans, only child of Mr. and Mrs. Ellis Evans, 2 East Parade, and a popular member of Brunswick Welsh Wesleyan Chapel, where she acted as assistant organist. The ceremony was performed by the Vicar of Tuebrook, in the presence of a large congregation. The bride, who was given away by her father, was becomingly attired in a bright blue costume with a white hat, The bridesmaid was Miss Gwynne Trevor Williams, Criccieth, and the duties of best man were performed by the bridegroom’s brother, Mr. Fred Jeffers. A numerously attended reception was afterwards held at the home of the bridegroom’s parents. The wedding presents formed a very extensive and costly collection.


And also living with the Evans family at the time of the census was their niece, Maggi Roberts from Porthmadog, aged 20.


Ellis Evans tendered his notice to quit his tenancy of the house on October 1st, 1904. However, he must have had a change of heart as he continued to live there (or at least continued to pay the rent) until May 1912. After this time George Jeffers paid the rent (Ellis’ son-in-law.) The Estate Rent books, held at Denbighshire Archives, show that the rent per half year was £50 in 1905, which reduced to £40 by 1907. We found lots of letters about the state of repair of the house – including some where Rhyl Urban District Council were telling the owner (Thomas Alured Wynne Edwards) to sort out the drains. Tenants wrote to Wynne Edwards on many occasions complaining about various repairs needed. Many of these letter still exist, and make quite interesting reading. They are available at Denbighshire Archives.


In March 1906, a man was charged with begging at the door of the house. He claimed his name was Thomas Clarke, and that he was a tinsmith. He requested that Annie Roberts (the maid at 2 East Parade) call her mistress to the door, whereupon “he begged”. Later in the day, he did the same thing again and when he was refused he used “disgusting language”. In mitigation, Mr. Clarke claimed he was only singing. He was sent to prison for 14 days hard labour, the Rhyl Bench clearly using Mr. Clarke as an example having stated that they were “determined to put a stop to the begging nuisance”.


The following month the house was the scene of a daring jewel theft, as detailed in the Llandudno Advertiser of April 28th 1906:



At a special police court at Rhyl on Friday a young married woman named Bessie Hersee, Grange Road, Colwyn Bay, was charged with stealing a dressing bag containing a pair of diamond and pearl earrings, gold chains, and other jewellery of the total value of £20 together with a Post-office order for £8, belonging to Miss Ellen Tayleur, a Ruthin lady, who was staying at 2, East Parade, Rhyl. The defendant denied the charge. Miss Tayleur said she was reading at the window on June 10th of last year when she saw a woman ascend the front steps and go away some time later carrying something under her cloak. She could not swear that the prisoner was the woman, but she was like her and dressed like her. On going to her room that night the witness found it in great disorder, dresses having been taken down from the wardrobe and the drawers of the dressing table having been ransacked. A dressing-case, which that morning was safe in the room and contained a pair of diamond and pearl earrings, two gold neck chains, and other trinkets, and a post-office order for £8, were missing. Other evidence was given that the dressing bag, containing two photographs from one of the trinkets, was found on the down line between Foryd and Abergele stations, and that a letter, along with one of the neck-chains and a suit of clothes, were received by Mr. C. A. Taylor, a Rhyl pawnbroker. The letter was signed Bessie Hersee, and the writing was known to the pawnbroker as that of the prisoner. Sergeant Roberts said he questioned the prisoner at Colwyn Bay Police Station. She then stated that she had bought the trinket from a strange woman who called at her house for 5 shillings. She did not know the woman, who was dressed in black and resembled the prisoner. She said she did not know where the other articles were, but would try to refresh her memory. When charged with the thefts she said she knew nothing whatever about the matter. The defendant, who pleaded not guilty, was committed for trial to the Quarter Sessions, bail being accepted.


So what happened to Bessie? Well, this was not the first of Bessie’s indiscretions. The earliest recorded incident was an appearance at the Caernarfonshire Spring Assizes in 1892 where she was charged with stealing a sealskin coat. Given her previous good character, she was released without a custodial sentence.

In July 1900 she appeared in front of the Caernarfonshire Quarter Sessions charged with six counts of theft, but there were another twenty charges against her. She was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.

At the Denbighshire Quarter Sessions  in October 1905 Bessie faced a further three charges of theft, and the bench were asked to take into account the pending case from East Parade. The jury once again found Bessie guilty, and she was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.

In 1908, Bessie served a further month inside for stealing sausages and veal from a butcher in Llandudno. She died in Conwy in 1938 aged 70.


1911 Census

In 1911 there are only two residents listed on the census: John Wild, no occupation given, who was born in Thirsk in 1849 and Ada Wild, born in Liverpool in 1872. We found that Mr. & Miss Wild had been residents in the house for a considerable period – five years earlier, in June 1907, they are listed among the guests at the wedding of solicitor’s daughter Elizabeth Frances Gamlin to Glaswegian John Gordon. Among the other guests at the wedding are Refugee Committee members Mrs. Bromley and Mrs. Eyton Lloyd. Mr. & Miss Wild gave the happy couple a silver card case. 2 East Parade, whilst a long term address for the Wilds, is clearly a temporary arrangement, as they are always listed as “Visitors”. In 1910 they appear on the list at 2 East Parade as “Mr. J. Wild, Esq. of Rhyl, and Miss Wild, ditto.”

Another wedding that involved John Wild was that of his youngest daughter Gertrude Wynne Wild in April 1909 to the Reverend Thomas Jenkins, Rector of St. George and Chaplain of Kinmel and former Rector of Rhyl. The maids of 2 East Parade gave the couple a hand-painted tea cosy as a wedding gift,  and many members of what would become the Refugees Committee also gave presents: Mr. & Mrs Bromley, Mrs. DeRance, Mr. & Mrs. Joshua Davies, Dr. & Mrs. Eyton Lloyd & Dr. & Mrs. Hutton. There is a Miss “Dumpy” Hutton listed as a train-bearer. This could possibly be one of Dr. & Mrs. Hutton’s two daughters – at this time Barbara would have been 7 years of age and Gwynedd would have been 4.

We know that there was a Mrs. Wild (or Wilde) on the Refugee Committee, but this was not John’s wife. Mary Elizabeth Wild passed away on August 6th, 1891 in St. Leonards-on-Sea, having travelled there “Seeking renewed health in foreign climes.” John and Mary had at least three daughters – Gertrude, Ada, and one who is listed among Gertrude’s wedding guests: Mrs. Cole Bowen. (Mary Florence Wild, known as Daisy, married Mervyn William Cole Bowen of Ireland in Ceylon in February 1900. Mervyn was a civil engineer with the Ceylon Government Railway.) Daisy obviously stayed with her father and sister, as she is on the list of visitors to 2 East Parade, with her home listed as “Ceylon”

John died in Rhyl in 1923, aged 75. We do not know what address he was at by this time – he must have left 2 East Parade by 1914 as it became home to our Refugees.


As 2 East Parade was a Lodging House, there were many people through the doors. But in between censuses we’ve found details of another family who lived in the house for a number of years, and who were heavily involved in church life. They were the Hughes family, and we can place them in the house from as early as 1883 right up to 1892, when the lady of the house sold off all the furniture. In a directory found in Denbighshire Archives dated 1886, a Mrs. Margaret Hughes is listed as the proprietor of the house.


The Rhyl Advertiser of January 1883 details the marriage of Margaret Elizabeth Hughes, of 2 East Parade, to Henry Hughes, a slate merchant from Birmingham.


In 1886 Margaretta Anna Hughes aged 13 died in the house (Rhyl Advertiser).


…and the Rhyl Journal of January 1st, 1892, advertises that aforementioned sale of furniture:

Sale by Auction

by J. E. Roberts & Co.

Preliminary notice

No. 2 East Parade

J. E. Roberts & Co. beg to inform the general public that they have been favoured with instructions from Mrs. Hughes to SELL BY AUCTION on the above premises the whole of very valuable and choice Modern HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE AND EFFECTS on TUESDAY, MARCH 1ST and the THREE FOLLOWING DAYS.


The earliest mention of 2 East Parade we can find is in January 1856, when the North Wales Chronicle reports the death of a Captain Hughes of Bridgenorth who died in the house of “inflammation of the lungs” in his 61st year. Also in that year, a Mrs. Parr died suddenly in the house (North Wales Chronicle, June 7th, 1856).


John Lloyd, the former publisher of the “Amserau” (a Welsh language newspaper) and Jane Catherine Morgan, wife of the Rector of Llanfor, Bala and daughter of the late Reverend G. G. Owen of Ymwlch, Caernarfonshire, both died in the house in the August of 1873, and Frances Browne, the widow of Peter Browne, former Chief Constable of Flintshire died in the house in June 1909.



Advertisements for staff placed in newspapers give us some more names of former residents of the house, and their domestic requirements:


The Wellington Journal, Saturday, 19th August, 1882

Wanted, Cook (good plain); able to bake and make butter; small family – Apply with all particulars, to Mrs. Dickson, 2 East Parade, Rhyl.


The Morning Post, Monday, 5th June 1899

Can Lady or Gentleman recommend thoroughly respectable youth (17), well trained in pantry work, as page or underfootman with parlourmaid? Church of England, strong, tall, good personal character indispensable; £11- £16 – Mrs. Jayne, 2 East Parade, Rhyl



In September 1907 a Mrs. Peter Browne of 2 East Parade advertised for a “Lady Companion” who is a Protestant church-goer and can “write, read and be useful in household matters and nurse if required.” It’s also required that she is “cheerful”!



The opening and closing of the Cinema Royal



This excellent picture of the High Street entrance of the cinema is from the collection of the late Mr. Peter Adams, used with the kind permission of Mr. Colin Jones, who writes the “Rhyl Life” blog.


The Cinema Royal was built across the back gardens of 1 and 2 East Parade in 1920. The front of the building had a verandah added and became the Cafe Royal.


The earliest advert for the cinema we can find is in May 1920.

There are two films scheduled: “King Solomon’s Mines” for three days from Monday, May 10th and “The Wishing Ring Man” for three days from Thursday, May 13th. (Rhyl Advertiser)

The original owners were Llewelyn and Roden Edwards. Their company, “Premier Cinema Co.” was wound up in September 1925. After that, Rhyl Entertainments were in control, with Llewellyn and Roden joining the board of the new company. Roden was still responsible for booking the films – archive copies of “The Kinematograph” list Roden as the booker, with his address in 1931 being “St. Aubyns”, Highfield Park, and in 1939 “Beechcroft”, Brighton Road.
We also learned that there were 710 tip-up seats in the cinema, daily matinees, and that in 1938 tickets were priced 9d to 1s 3d.


There is an obituary of Roden Edwards in the January 1939 edition of “The Kinematograph.” He had died on January 24th, 1938, aged 66.

Llewelyn was 14 years younger than Roden. He remained with Rhyl Entertainments for a considerable period of time. He is listed in the 1954 edition of the “Kinematograph” as the managing director, also a Justice of the Peace and the Chairman of the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association. His address at that time was “Alvescot,” Brompton Avenue, Rhos-on-Sea. A previous address listed for him in the 1947 and 1950 editions is “Englefield,” Russell Road, Rhyl.


(Rhyl Entertainments Ltd. was wound-up in 1978, the liquidators having met with the company at the Westminster Hotel in April of that year.)

“The Era” Newspaper was used at least twice to advertise for musicians:

Wednesday, June 6th, 1923:

Wanted, for week commencing June 25, 1923, at Cinema Royal, Rhyl (N.W.)
Cornet and Drums (with effects)
Must be competent executants: Men who have played “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” preferred.
Particulars and terms (to include matinees) to W. Whittaker, M.D., Cinema Royal, Rhyl.

(According to Harry Thomas’ excellent book “Memory Lane, Volume 2”, the film “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” played at the Cinema Royal in 1923. The Kindle edition of the book is available from Amazon here.

Reference copies of the book are available in all north Denbighshire Libraries, and 3 copies for loan are held in Rhyl.)

Wednesday, June 20th, 1923:

Wanted, for Sunday Concerts, commencing July 1, at Cinema Royal, Rhyl, N.W., Violin, Flute, Clarinet, D. Bass and two Horns. Refs. and terms, first letter, to W. Whittaker, M.D., Cinema Royal, Rhyl.

The last mention we found is in the Manchester Evening News of February 17th, 1939:


Rhyl’s oldest cinema, the Cinema Royal, has closed. It has been sold to Messrs. F. W. Woolworth for the erection of a new store. The cinema was owned by Rhyl Entertainments Ltd., and was opened in 1920.

Woolworths moved into the building from the store they had operated on Rhyl High Street since 1928. They demolished the Cinema Royal building in 1956 to build their new shop. It is now B & M Bargains.