. This transcription has followed the original, extremely neat, hand written script precisely. There are numerous, too many in my view, commas but they do not detract from the superb account of life in Meliden in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with comment up to and including 1976.
Sadly, I have lost the record of who the author actually was, but having lived in Meliden from 1952 through to 1968 and with it being a small community where everyone knew everyone else I fell must have at least been aware of him if not actually knowing who he was.
Jeffrey Blythin September 2019
Formerly of 48 Ffordd Pennant and then 3 Forrdd Pennant.
(Original author unknown – can anybody shed some light?)
Looking back over the past years, and considering the many changes that have taken place, in the history of Meliden, now swallowed up in the new Rhuddlan Borough Council, one can hardly realize, that at one time, it was the Senior Parish and controlled even Prestatyn, as the designation then was Prestatyn in the Parish, of Meliden. Eventually it was part of the St. Asaph Rural District Council, but later in 1934, owing to New Government Legislation we were taken over by the then Prestatyn Urban District, and although a plebiscite was taken, and the villagers voted against, (only 4 voted in favour) we had no option.
There were 4 Representatives for the Meliden Ward. Over the years we were under the St. Asaph R.D.C. many improvements were carried out, such as main sewerage, with modern water toilets, piped water into the houses etc. previous to this, we carried drinking water from a pump situated on the right-hand side of the Church Hill, which is still remembered as “Allt-y-Ffynon” (Well Hill). Later stand pipes were situated here and there, and each householder was given a key, which was paid for annually as Water Rate, which was installed in a lock on the standpipe and turned to release the water into the buckets, during the dry weather, when the rain water Butts could not be filled for washing day, we had to carry water for this purpose from the brook at Pwll-y-Bont. This we did in journeys on Saturday and emptied into zinc Baths and Tubs etc, so that our parents had plenty of water for Mondays washday, and also for our personal baths. It is surprising to think that after all these years our source of fresh water supply, still comes from “Ffynon Asaph” in the Marion Mills above Dyserth, and although it supplies Dyserth, Meliden and Prestatyn, and the population grown out of all proportion to the old days, we have never been short of water, and notwithstanding the amount used on the large Holiday Camps etc, that have opened during the last few years, apart from the ‘fight’ the villagers put up over going over to the Prestatyn U.D.C.
Another instant arose, which caused quite an uproar, was when the old Churchyard, was full, and no more space available for new graves, and we were informed that we would have to use the existing Council owned cemetery at Coed Bell situated between Prestatyn and Gronant. As this would entail having to hire a Motor Hearse & Carriages for such a distance, and consequently incur expense for the elderly folks less able to meet the extra expenses, a committee was formed with representatives of the Church and the 2 Non-Conformist Chapels. They decided to buy the field facing the Church, but were informed that it would lie too near the dwelling houses, as there was a stipulation laid down, as to the distance a Cemetery should be from residential areas, however one County Councillor who represented Meliden on the County Council informed the committee, that there was a loop hole in the Act, inasmuch that it did not state anything about extension to existing Churchyards. Consequently the villagers held Whist drives Socials, and many other forms and means of raising £400, which was needed to buy a piece of land, at the bottom of the Church yard, this was done and part of the wall knocked down and the extension carried through, and is now part of the Cemetery. The first person to be buried there was a Mr Slack. The new extension was consecrated by the Vicar the Rev. J. Thomas and the first burial was in early 1939.
When the Talargoch Lead Mines were in full swing, Meliden was a very busy place, and the miners working there from the village and surrounding areas, owing to the influx of families many cottagers saw an opportunity to gain something out of the industry, and they opened small shops in their front parlours, selling groceries, sweets etc, etc. Many of these continued to operate after the closure of the mines, one or two even up to the time of the first World War of 1914-18. One we remember well, was the little shop kept by Mrs Jane Brooks, in the end cottage, facing the side of the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Mt. Pleasant, we can still remember the smell of Cheese, Pickles and some home made commodities, and on occasions the smell of Paraffin which she also supplied.
Then there was the sweet shop at the end cottage in Post Office Terrace, kept by the old Mr. & Mrs. Jones. She also kept the Village bakehouse at the rear of the cottage, the outhouse is still there at the rear of the cottage now known as Mandy. In our days our parents would make up the dough, with the yeast previously bought from Mrs. Jones. The dough was put in a 4lb tin and the tin marked with owners initial in Chalk, we took this to the bakehouse on the way to School, and called for the baked loaf on the way home. It was fascinating to us children to see the long scraper and peel bringing out the loaves, and the delicious smell of a fresh crusty loaf still lingers. The oven by the way, was heated with gorse collected from the mountain side, it was stacked on to the slabs on the bottom of the oven, then when heated enough the ashes were racked out, and the bread to be baked put in, and a slate slab placed on the entrance and sealed up. We would pay 1 penny I believe for baking and then spend a halfpenny on sweets, (which was our pocket money for the errand) if not on sweets, it would be a bottle of pop. We lads would forget to return empty bottles and accidently break one, to get the marble out for our marble games. The marble was forced by pressure of gas, to the top of the bottle, and was pushed down to release the pop, these same bottles today are collectors pieces, and worth quite a lot of money.
What we looked forward to as Children, was the visit every Saturday of the greengrocers van, which came from Dyserth, and stopped at intervals, along the main street in the village. Our delight was to purchase 2 oranges or pears, invariably we would wait until the last stand, at the front of the Red Lion Inn and get a bargain in an assortment of left overs from the bottom of the crates, Cherries, Plums etc and receive quite a bag full for our penny. We wonder what has become of the small green pear which we used to buy by the pound they were very sweet and juicy and about 1d a lb. they were called Green Chisles, we had them from “Brookdale” from the Misses Lean, aunts of the present owner Miss G. Kermode.
As mentioned, owing to the thriving industry of the Lead Mines of Talargoch, the little “front room” shops did pretty good trade, but as the workmen were only paid monthly (and that according to weight of lead produced between say 2 or 3 men working together) the shops were forced to allow credit for the goods supplied till pay day. There in one instance, where an English person, new to the arrangements sold some goods, and when asked to “put it down” promptly replied “No indeed, ready money for me”, from then on he and his descendants were given the nick-name John Ready Money. Many a one was given a nick name in those days, and there are many families well known to older residents, who are still known by the nick-name handed down from ancestors. As stated the miners were paid for the weight of lead, after the waste which they called “Black” was washed, and sieved out, and put in piles. This was done at the ‘Olchfa’ or Wash place, the part of the Mines where now stands the Senior Citizens Bungalows.
At one time a ‘Ghost’ used to haunt the Olchfa in the night, and no one would dare go along the path leading to the Railway crossing, to go up to the field to Tan-Rallt. (The folk then were very superstitious.) until one stout hearted man a Mr. John Hutchfield took matters in his own hands, and when he saw the ghostly apparition, gave chase across the Railway, and up the field towards the cottages at Tanrallt, halfway up he picked up a white sheet and then he saw a cottage door, open and shut quickly, on knocking that particular cottage door, it was opened by a panting woman named Sally Downing, who kept house for her two brothers. It transpired that her ‘ghostly’ trips to the ‘Olchfa’ was to transfer lead from other workers piles onto her brothers lot, consequently making it more lucrative for them at the expense of their fellow workmates. No more ‘Ghosts’ were seen on the ‘Olchfa’ after that.
Pay Day was a day of festivities, stalls were put up in front of the Miners Arms, (renamed since Melyd Arms) where quite a trade was done in Clothing, household utensils, Shoes etc. etc. also the Home made toffee Stalls. Apart from the usual “Knock down Sally” and various games, there was dancing and singing, accompanied by the Talargoch Band. There was also a special competition between the menfolk for feat of strength in wrestling and fisticuffs, some we heard were wise enough not to imbibe too much, then found it an easy matter to overthrow their opponent, who was already unsteady, owing to the amount of drink he’d had. As for the sale of intoxicants, there were plenty of inns at that time in Meliden. Eight in fact. ‘The Castle Inn’ in Bryniau, ‘The Crown’ in Tanrallt, ‘The Rest’ in Pen-y-Maes’ ‘The Star Inn’, ‘The Swan’ and ‘Kings Head’ in Mt. Pleasant and then the ‘Miners Arms’ and the ‘Red Lion’ now only three of these remain ‘Star Inn’, ‘Miners Arms’ (renamed ‘Melyd Arms’) and the ‘Red Lion’.
We had one Butchers shop only, during the early 1900’s, until after the first World War when another opened. Although we who remember almost 80 years ago, we would see Meliden without its Butchers Shop. The first one we remember was old David Thomas, who kept a small but spotless, ‘white washed’ wall shop, with scrubbed block and boards, and well washed and ironed white apron, doing good trade, especially when the visitors were about. David’s only drawback was, that he used to have trouble with the English language. Apart from slaughtering animals, for his own shop, he went round killing pigs etc. for people who reared their own, as many did in those days, some of the old pig stys can be seen today, at the rear of some of the cottages. The pig was killed to supply the family with meat, and also to sell to help towards paying the rent to the property owners. As noted David was very poor at English speaking, and once when the then vicar asked him, when he could come and kill his pig, his reply was “Well Sir, I go kill Miners Arms today, (they kept pigs there) I kill myself tomorrow (for his own shop) and I kill you on Friday. When we went to the shop for a piece of meat, he’d weigh it and then give us a ‘Ready Reckoner’ kept near at hand, to work out the price for him. We remember too visiting his slaughter house, at the rear of Melyd arms, or nearer the spot where the Chemist shop now stands, we went with a jug or other receptacle to hold the pig’s blood, and our parents would make lovely black puddings in earthenware dishes from this mixed with Thyme and Sage and rice etc. really delicious. We lads were given the bladder, which we later blew up, and when dried out, placed in leather casing for our football.
There were many remarkable characters here in the old day, like the old Jane Glastwr. (Glastwr was the Welsh name for a mixture of Buttermilk and Water), that was her nickname, not that she like that sort of drink, she was more partial to the ‘stronger kind’, when she could collect enough money, by charing at local farms. One trick she used especially in the summer, when there were plenty of visitors walking about, was to wrap her arm up in some kind of bandage, and stand somewhere conspicuous, holding her arm across her chest, when approached she would inform them that she had had a terrible accident, and in sympathy would receive some money to buy something for herself and “family”. (She was a spinster to us who knew her) needless to say where the money went, sometimes she’d try and sell Turnips or a cabbage, which she said the Farmer had given her in lieu of pay, but no doubt had pinched from the store room at the Farm on the way out. There are not very many of the older cottages left now, except at Mt. Pleasant, The Crown, Kings Head Terrace, Pots Office Terrace, Cefn-y-Gwrych.
There were seven cottages in a row from the Church gate down to the Red Lion at one time, these were called ‘Tai Cochion’ (Red Cottages) there were one or two noted characters living there, old Mr. Roberts the cobbler, where we took our shoes for repair, and where the menfolk used to visit to air their views on matters of the day, while old Mr. Roberts cobbled away, also Mr. Pierce the part time postman who delivered the mail at 8.am walking right down to the Shore boundary of Meliden and Rhyl to farms with a postcard, which had been posted in Liverpool or other town or City in England the previous evening, and all for 1/2d stamp for the card and 1d for a letter. What a change today, when despite Modern Sorting Machinery and Motor Transport we pay 6 1/2p for a four day lapse between dispatch and delivery, and that for only a few miles distant.
Apart from the St. Melyd Church up to 1850s or so there were no other places of worship, and the first to be built was the present ‘Welsh Presbyterian Chapel’ on the corner of Ffordd Talargoch and Ffordd Tanrallt. This was opened in1860, and it is interesting to know that when Lord Mostyn the wealthy land owner, and who still owns Rights of Estates in the area, was approached to sell the land, where the Chapel now stands, refused the frontage piece, but offered them some other land up the Tanrallt Road, but the reply he got was ‘Your Lordship’ we want ‘Jesus Christ’ in the front, this reply evidently touched a soft spot in Lord Mostyn’s heart, and he gave them the land. The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was built later at the other end of the village, but was later turned into two shops and two houses, and a new Chapel was built in 1926 opposite the Presbyterian Chapel.
Many are the Folks and School friends we have known in the village and who have left and made good citizens in various spheres of life in the cities of England, and in America and other parts of the world. It is very pleasing to see Meliden change with its bright new bungalows, and large Council Estates etc, but looking back we feel we did have a happy childhood, and remember with gratitude, the help and advice we received, and many a good example we were able to follow in later life, given by parents, Church leaders, and School teachers. One benefactor who has not been mentioned, was an eccentric gentleman, who lived with his housekeeper at Maes Melyd which still stands, the last of the older property on the Church Hill.
Mr. Williams had a great liking for the School children, and apart from taking interest in buying presents for Christmas, he had a huge contraption made, called the one wheel coach, this was a wooden structure on the (Irish Jankig Cart principal) but had one huge wheel in the centre only, and side seats and brass rails, this was drawn by the older boys in the school, by ropes attached in intervals with cross poles, and the boys would be two abreast (six aside) a seat at the front with a metal Arch (for Floral decorations when required) was for the May Queen and the side seats for the retinue with their backs to the wheel. This we pulled to Rhyl for the May Day procession, the last time it went out in its glory, with the boys in sashes and coloured caps was in 1913 and I was glad to be one of the team. What happened to the old (One Wheel) as it was called, no one seems to know, but it would make a wonderful piece of antiquity today as it is doubtful if there had been before or ever after one like it in the world. Another thing Mr. Williams did was to have a huge coffin made, this was a masterpiece in Walnut with panelled sides, inlaid with pleated purple satin, we remember seeing it in his bedroom on a dresser and it gave us a feeling of awe. His ambition was, that on his demise, he was to be wrapped in a sheet, placed on a plank and then carried in the coffin which was ‘outsize’ to the grave, and after the service, to be lifted out and buried, and the coffin to be used for future burials, so as to save the poorer folk of the village the expense of a normal coffin and undertakers fees. Needless to say this never transpired, and the fancy coffin was covered up in the soil for ever.
Lead and Zinc mines at Talargoch, idle since 1884, are said to have been worked by the Romans, but there are no records of this, and are not mentioned in Doomsday survey. High Sheriff Edwards of Trecastell was engaged in Mining for lead here in 1604-11. Census of 1831 shows 79 men of Meliden and Prestatyn to be engaged in mining. Period of greatest prosperity was 1844 – 1884. During these years 57,752 tons of ‘galena’ were raised yielding 43,821 tons of lead, and showing 9 ½ oz of silver to the ton. Zinc was raised during 1854-84 yielding 49,810 tons. Pumping was abandoned May 1884 and pits filled with water. The ore was found in three veins veg ‘Pantons’ running Northwest, Talargoch in the centre, and Cae Llys (Llys field) running North East, the pit was 360 yards deep and 1,400 yards from the centre shaft. At Talargoch as at many other mines in the country the mine managers were referred to as Captains. From 1830 to 1894 the Talargoch captains were Captain Ishmael Jones 1830 – 1856 Captain Bowen 1856-7 Captain Ellis? – 1876 Captain Rean 1876-1884. The Captains lived variously at Dyserth Hall, Plas Talargoch and finally Brookdale Cefn-y-Gwrych. Captain Rean was the grandfather of Miss. G. Kermode who now resides at Brookdale. Captain Ishmael Jones was presented with a Silver Tankard suitably inscribed for sinking the first shaft. He was the grandfather of the late Mr. Joseph Jones, Post Office Terrace. The cup is now in the possession of his daughter Mrs Gwen Jones.
Sequel to the account of the ‘Ghost’ at yr ‘Olchfa’ two grand-children of Mr. Owen Hutchfield on holiday from U.S.A. visited Meliden enquiring about the old home address and its whereabouts. I did not see them personally, but they had seen some friends of mine, who would not give them the information they wanted, on my being informed, and their U.S. address being left I have sent them copies of births of four children of Mr. & Mrs. Owen Hutchfield, taken from the register at the Welsh Presbyterian Chapel at Meliden and giving details of whereabouts of their grandfather’s home ‘Pen-y-Waen’ on the Bryniau to Gwaenysgor road, which still stands today. I also gave them the account of their grandfathers chase after the ‘Ghost’ as related in my previous account.
– End –
(Original author unknown – can anybody shed some light?)