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Many changes

Although I have not (yet) reached the then ripe years of Mr Anwyl, my own memories of the town go back to
the first days of the First World War, and it occurs to me that there have been so many changes in Denbigh
again over this period, that I venture to emulate his example by placing on record some of my childhood
recollections of the town of my birth. I do so not with any pretence of being a historian, but rather in the
thought that possibly what I write may be of interest to someone in the future and als, I must admit, for my
own amusement
A momentous age
It occurs to me, that we., of our generation, have lived through a most momentous age a period which has
been one of social revolution of standards and public attitudes, and one which has seen the development of
transport through the growth of the motor car, of air travel and now, even space travel. There have also, in
this same been so many fundamental inventions and discoveries which have had such a bearing upon life,
not the least being firstly radio and then television, and so many others from plastics to atomic energy all
of which were unknown in our childhood days, inevitably, therefore, the town of Denbigh, and the life of its
inhabitants, have greatly changed in most ways, but not all, for the better and what follows is an
endeavour to recapture some memories of the town as it was 60 years ago.

General memories
In the days of my childhood Denbigh was the proud county town and one of the then four boroughs in the
county of Denbighshire. It had earlier been an important industrial town, in its prime as such in the 18 th
century being the main industrial centre in North Wales, noted for its tanneries, glove making, cloth and
cotton mills, shoe making and an important wood centre. The local wood fair was held on 2 days in June,
and attracted buyers from Yorkshire. Clogs were made for Lancashire, whilst in 1800 the output of gloves
was 7000 dozen pairs, many of which were exported to the West Indies (why gloves in the West Indies, I
wonder ?). The then famous bleaching works at Lleweni were, in the 18 th century, the biggest in Europe.
One record of the day refers to Denbigh as the Northampton of Wales (no doubt a reference to shoe
manufacture) whilst a report of 1769 records The town at present is large, pompous and well built and
besides its manufacture of gloves, and the business of tanning, which are briskly carried on, it otherwise
enjoys a tolerable trade and is reckoned the best town in North Wales.
The peak of industrial prosperity in Denbigh past by the early 19 th century, although shoemaking remained
prosperous until the end of that century and tanning continued to the early years of this century. By the days
of my childhood, therefore, most of these industries had disappeared, but there still remained a few.
Principally there was still a Boaz Joness tannery and candle factory, whilst of the two woollen mills the
one at Lawnt had gone but that of Messers Hughes at Pont Ystrad was still functioning, albeit only just.
There still remained 4 prosperous flour mills at Brookhouse, Felin Ganol, Henllan and Segrwyd
respectively. There were two very busy blacksmiths still operating in the town, they being the Roberts
brothers in Post Office lane and Jig Cartwright in Vale St, immediately below the then Hope and Anchor inn.
I just remember Parry the Maisters in Windmill St, this being the last of the many malt houses in the town.
These then were the industrial remains of Denbighs manufacturing prime and alas, they too have now all
gone as have also the 15, or so busy grocery businesses, which supplied the town and district at that
time, before the advent of supermarkets.

Nevertheless, even in days in which I write, Denbigh was still one of the busiest market towns in North
Wales, and it was then an important railway junction with the lines converging from Chester, from Rhyl and
from Corwen. In fact about the turn of the century a company had been floated to construct yet another line
from Denbigh via Rhewl to Clawdnewydd, Cerig y druddion and round to Llandudno. Although work did
start, and some miles of track were laid, the company failed and the project was never completed. Other
than agriculture and the retail trades, the main sources of employment in Denbigh during my youth were the
railway and the North Wales asylum (as the North Wals hospital was then known) each of which employed
staff in excess of 100. The hospital in those days was a very different establishment from the present day
institution. There were then som e 1700 inmates, securely closeted in locked wards and guarded paddocks.
The padded cells and straight jackets were still in use, and it was a great stigma indeed the be committed to
the Asylum.
Hue and Cry
On occasions when a prisoner ~escaped there would be a general alarm, a hue and cry with a searching
of the countryside to recapture the escapee within the statutory 14 days. There were just one or two
exceptions long term trustees, who were allowed into the town on errands one such who functioned in
this capacity for many years being a well known and popular individual known as Mate There was
apparently so little different in Mate from any man in the street that I once asked him why hid did not apply
for his discharge (which was then the system) only to be told that he had a damned good home at the
hospital and that if he gave it up he would indeed be daft enough to be certified. In the case of the
Railways, apart from the staff of station master, inspector, platform porters, booking clerks and signal men,
there was also the busy goods depot and the railway sheds where Kwiks supermarket now stands, with its
staff of drivers, firemen, engineers and so on.
These were the early days of the Motor car and motorists were the select few. For journeys beyond the
immediate locality, the railway was the accepted mode of transport, and the service from Denbigh was
efficient and reliable originally of course the London and North Western railway; then the London Midland

and Scottish railway, only in the more recent years the nationalised British rail which some 20 years ago
deprived Denbigh, like so many other places of its railway facilities. For local transport, 60 years ago, the
horse still reigned supreme. Most of the bigger shops had their own horses for deliveries, the local doctors
both had their pony and trap whilst in the town there were two establishments, Tommy Williams Armoury in
Highgate and Price Jones Berllan, Post Office lane each of which maintained horses for hire with a wide
variety of horse transport, from small traps and gigs to stylish laundaus, also for commercial use, floats and
lorries and there was also the horse drawn hearse. The largest of the vehicles available were the brakes or
wagonettes drawn by teams of horses and capable of carrying 20 or more passengers. There were 2 horse
drawn station busses which plied between the railway station and the high street. Apart from relieving
passengers of the long walk up Vale street, those buses were a boon to the commercial traveller of the day,
who would arrive by train, bringing his samples in large skips, or hampers. The station busses were run by
the two principal hotels the Bull and the Crown and the horses were on call, to tow the local fire engines
(a steamer and a manual) as and when required to the scene of a fire. The fire call in those days was by
means of a public bell on the county hall, to be rung by anyone needing the fire brigade day or night. The
horses knew the purpose of this bell as well as any Fireman, and living in Vale Street as a youngster, I
recall many occasions when the horses standing in the station yard with the bus would hear the fire bell and
would immediately dash up Vale Street with an empty bus, leaving the driver stranded on the railway
platform and would present themselves at the fire station. Often they would arrive there before any fireman
and would stand impatiently, pawing the ground, waiting for someone to uncouple them from their bus and
attach them to the fire engine. D. W. D