Rhyl to Wallasey Hovercoach

After Telstar, Rhyl’s residents and visitors have this week been privileged to see another miracle of scientific progress – the Vickers-Armstrong VA-3, which arrived on Sunday to prepare for the first scheduled passenger carrying hovercoach service in the world. 

Strange but true!

It says so here.

The world’s first commercial passenger hovercraft service ran briefly from Rhyl to Moreton beach in 1962, but ended when a storm hit the passenger hovercraft while it was moored, damaging its lifting engines.


I’m fascinated by hovercrafts, they were for a while the future that we seemed to have been promised, a future that had consistently failed to arrive.

Until even they failed to arrive, or depart for that matter.

I do have a love of doomed hovercraft services – I’ve been to Pegwell Bay.

Youngest passenger was 21 months old Martin Jones, 128, Marsh Road, who travelled with his mother, Mrs Millie Jones, an usherette at the Odeon Cinema: his grandmother Mrs Jean Morris, and Mrs Morris’s 14 year old son, Tony, a pupil of Glyndwr County Secondary School, the first schoolboy to travel on the hovercraft.  Mr Tony Ward of 13, Aquarium street, a popular figure as accordionist on one of the local pleasure boats a few seasons ago, and his 20 year old daughter Rosemary, cashier at the Odeon, who were among the first to book seats at the North Wales Travel Agency, were also among the passengers.


Mrs Handley was the manageress of the Sports Cafe and got to know all the crew as they had all their meals there, even a farewell party with a cake in the form of a hovercraft.

The Queen and Prince Philip had received an invitation to undertake the trip, but declined perhaps just as well, for on what proved to be the final journey the hovercraft left Wallasey at 1.15 p.m. on September 14th and both engines failed en route.

There has been talk of reviving the service, a service that sadly seems so far to have defied revival.

“It really will be a feather in our cap for Rhyl.”









Penrhyn Bay – Ranch House Style

There is some far-flung corner for Wales, that is forever California.

As the clippers and steamers left the Mersey Estuary for the New World, cram packed with emigres some centuries ago, would they expect on their return, some centuries later, to find this architectural cultural exchange, located sedately on Penrhyn Bay?

This is a typology with a limited vocabulary, but spoken in a lilt, with an ever so slight, polite Mid-Atlantic drawl.

Lightly clad, stone-faced, light and almost expansive the seaside bungalow.























Launderette – Welshpool

When walking the streets of Welshpool, one often finds oneself outside.

Outside a launderette.

I paused.

The porch was decorated by the most enchanting mosaic, Vickery and Co.

Hosiers, Hatters and Outfitters.

Politely, ever so politely, I asked the two local lads if they would step aside from their porch perch one moment, I snapped.

And walked on.

Upon my return, nobody was here, I hurriedly occupied the vacant space, with the expansive volume of my incurable curiosity.

Here is what I found.

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WH Smiths – Newtown Powys

Life is full of tiny delights.

Newtown, a town of tiny delights, my journey through Wales by bike took me there.

None more delightful and surprising than the branch of WH Smiths, its exterior adorned with the most beautiful of signs, tiles and lamps.

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Curious, curiously I  explored further, the porch housed a newspaper and magazine stall with further tiled images.

These tiles were made by Carter & Co. at their pottery works in Poole, Dorset in the 1920s. Commissioned by the retailer, they were installed in the entrance ways of a number of its branches. They were intended to advertise the wide selection of books and other items on sale, however their distinctive Art Deco style and the scenes depicted also expose a great deal about society at that time.

In subsequent decades, particularly during periods of refurbishment from the 1960s, many shops lost their decorative panels, either being removed or covered over. Only seven branches of WHSmith are known to have their tile panels intact, with a few surviving in private collections. Many tiles were rescued by WHSmith and these can now be seen in a museum housed in the Newtown branch in Powys. 

Further information

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The staff were typically helpful and accommodating – directing me to the Museum upstairs – just pull the rope to one side.

Go take a look 

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Laundrette – Emlyn West Wales

You could be in the middle of nowhere.

You are in the middle of nowhere.

Though never six feet from a rat, or a mile from a main road.

Moments away from a laundrette.

Imagine my amazement, on arrival in a town straddling the border of the counties of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire in west Wales and lying on the River Teffi.

A launderette.

The heady of mix of interior austerity.

Functionally muted green, grey sky blue, nothing added.

An all too distinctive aroma of who knows what – warm water, soap and humanity?

Wash your dirty linen in public.

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Llanidloes – Shopfronts

In the heart of Wales, former centre of the flannel industry, stands Llanidloes.

Through civic pride, love and local doggedness, the decorative shopfront prevails unabashed.

The finest selection of carved and moulded wooden filigree, hand painted signs, large open panes, tile work and the odd suspended folk-art sheep, adorn substantial Victorian properties, rich in the market town tradition of controlled opulence. A varied typology, the majority continuing to trade, the odd domestic conversion retaining its retail characteristics, whilst maintaining its modesty, behind tightly drawn net curtains.

Go take a look.

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North Wales – B&B

Just two Bs and an ampersand, but what volumes they speak, secrets they contain, what does go on behind closed doors?

Bed and breakfast, an immovable feast.

Various does not begin to describe their variety, a cornucopia of dolorous decor, quizzical cuisine, curios, carpets and cohabitees.

So knock on, walk into the hall, up the stairs, open that door – who knows what fate awaits you.

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