by H. Victor Harley.
Mr. J .H. Edwards, Deputy Registrar of Births, Deaths & Marriages in the Sub-District Mold, within the District of Holywell, sat at his desk in September 1919 and certified that my birth was duty registered at Entry 167 of Register Book No.62. A Certificate of Registry was given to the informant on paying a fee not exceeding three pence, and this was later taken to Mold Food Control Office for my ration book to be issued. The town’s statistics would subsequently include me in the number of live births, as communicated to the Urban District Council by the Medical Officer of Health in his routine report. As a sort of completion note I was eventually baptised in the Primitive Methodist Chapel, which is now a second- hand furniture store near the roundabout at the end of Chester Street.
The Great War had ended less than a year earlier, and although my ration book must have been necessary, I have no recollection of ever having been aware of it. It would lake a year or two before I became aware of the town and its U.D.C.
Imagine a time with no public electricity supply to the town and when the streets and the larger houses as well as shops, schools and buildings were lit by gas. When oil lamps, candles and matches provided light in the smaller houses, of which there were many. In the dying day you lit the lamp rather than switched it on. When Sunday was Sunday and you wore your best clothes, and public houses and shops were shut. Motor vehicles were on the increase in the town but horses and carts were commonplace. A Council employee pushed a cart (with brush and shovel) and kept the streets clear of horse droppings. Cattle were driven on the hoof to the auction mart. Silent films were shown at the picture house in the Assembly Rooms of the Old Town Hall on Mold Cross. Wireless (or radio, today) which would be powered by batteries, had not reached the domestic scene. Music from acoustically recorded gramophone records came from wind-up gramophones. Telephones were few, while newspapers cost a penny. Some houses in the town were not fit for human habitation, others had insufficient sanitation.
These were parts of the urban environment of the time when I was born and this is where Mold Urban District Council comes in. They had a job to do, and the backgrounds are interesting to discover, as we turn to contemporary minutes of Council meetings.
The U.D.C. was twenty-four years old in 1919 and was concerned with matters like : tarring the roads, poor housing in Milford Street (or Bedlam, as the area was colloquially called then), the state of the slaughter houses and that we ought to have an abattoir, together with many other civic problems. In 1919 Mr. Eli Mould, who ran the silent film shows in the Old Town Hall, was given permission to show pictures on Good Friday, as long as these were of a sacred nature. Later on, requests of this kind were made by Mr. J. L. Schofield who became identified with the Savoy Cinema in Chester Street. As an aside, I remember Mr. Mould as an elderly man, with someone pushing him around the town in his three-wheeled bath-chair, with its long steering-handle.
The Council dealt with smoke nuisance from steam vehicles in the High Street and with people who made applications for petrol storage licences. Crosville were planning motor bus services and the nuisance of cars must have been anticipated because the Council wanted to impose a speed limit in the town. Mr. Mould proposed erecting a purpose-built Cinema / Theatre – the Savoy was still a few years off. The Surveyor was under instruction to have the Daniel Owen Monument cleaned.
In 1920 the Council sought permission from Mr. Lewis E. Lloyd of Bodlonfa to have some gate pillars at Meadow Place removed as they were a danger to the public. 1 lived at No.1 Meadow Place then but never heard anything about pillars being removed. No doubt I was loo young to understand the problem. A stone stile suggesting that there might have been meadows there is still in place. From later on I remember Mr. Lewis Lloyd as a tall and smartly turned out man. He used to leave new cigarette cards at our front door because collecting such cards was one of the things that small boys did then.
The Council was given a German field-gun as a Trophy of War. This was to be placed at the top of Bailey Hill, but was later left near Bailey Hill Cottage, and was removed in 1922. Four machineguns were to be placed on the Town Hall balcony. I do not recollect seeing or hearing anything of these. Some years later I did see the German field-gun in the Council Depot at Ponterwyl. It was eventually dismantled, and only by chance it seems was an accident avoided, because the dismantler might not have known of the power of a field-gun’s recuperator!
The Medical Officer of Health reported the filthy state of the slaughter house behind The Griffin Inn, and that it was merely a converted cart shed. Slaughter houses were always abhorred. There were eight or nine in the town; probably every butcher had his own. The one on Clayton Road ( then Clay Lane) still carries its name as a health and fitness club. I suppose that is modem slaughter in its way ! It was easy in the conditions of the time for a small boy to witness the procedure, as the latest frightened animal was being converted into the raw material of next Sunday’s roast beef. It seemed very cruel, and could not have been all that hygiene ! The Medical Officer of Health repeatedly recommended having an abattoir. In 1920 the Education Offices were given a First World War shell but this was stored in the Town Hall. Many years later such a large shell, perhaps from something like a 15 inch gun, could still be seen just inside the foyer. It was no longer there after the Second World War. Smoke nuisance from parked steam vehicles was reported from Ponterwyl, and much to my present surprise, my own father submitted basic plans for his later garage in Chester Street, near Ponterwyl. Crosville buses used to stop outside the Victoria Hotel, and a licence was issued to Crosville Motor Co. Ltd., to keep 2,000 gallons of petrol in an underground tank in the Victoria Hotel’s yard. By 1921 plans produced by F.A. Roberts, architect, for a cinema in Chester Street, were passed, subject to the satisfaction of the Medical Officer of Health, and to that of the Inspector of Nuisances. New houses were to be built, and recommendations for tenancy were biassed towards people who had served in the forces and those with large families. Amongst other happenings in 1921 the Finance Committee authorized the spending of £27 for purchasing a new Oliver typewriter. A proposal to move the street market stalls from the High Street to Grosvenor Street was rescinded. Two cow-sheds and three loose boxes in the Star Hotel yard required drains. Mold Gas and Water Company were to increase the supply of water to Milford Street and Grosvenor Street. Liability for cost of reception and treatment of destitute persons suffering from infectious diseases was discussed as Council business. More discussions took place on the supply of electricity to the town. Because of distress in the district the feeding of children in accordance with the ‘education (provision of meals) act’ was to be put into operation using some money held in the ‘Soup Kitchen Fund’. Steam traction engines were still causing smoke nuisance and the w.c. in Price’s Field, New Street (opposite the Ruthin Castle public house) was screened off from public view. A meeting held at Caernarfon decided that the 1923 National Eisteddfod would take place in Mold. Urinals came under the Council’s watchful eye, with the interior of those at the Old Town Hall to be coloured by Council employees. The fellmongers* trade (the tan-yard to the local inhabitants) in Wrexham Street was the only offensive trade in town. National Rat Week came, and places attractive to vermin were stated as the rear of King Street, the rear of Castle Street and Earl Road. Filthy buildings were reported in Milford Street and The Old Pied Bull in Pentre was censured for having used its wash-house as a stable. Correspondence was considered concerning an award to a local hero for service in the wartime Royal Navy raid on Zeebrugge.
Amongst the many items from 1922 the chip vendor was criticised for standing with his horse and cart at night in the wrong places ! He fried potato chips in a small portable frier in his cart, whilst the horse stood patiently – no doubt with a nosebag. The horse had been known to go to sleep in the shafts ! In summer time the chip frier was removed and replaced with equipment for the sale of ice cream. Talks about the supply of electicity continued and some townspeople caused a nuisance to neighbours by keeping poultry. Mold Gas and Water Company lit and extinguished the street lights. The poem about Leerie the Lamplighter was popular at school because we were familiar with his coming ‘with lantern and with ladder’.
Mr. J.L. Schofield of Mold Kinema Enterprises appealed against the rent he was charged for his use of the Assembly Rooms in the Old Town Hall. Town library reader membership was now over 1,000. Complaints were made about the rowdyism of stall holders when setting up their street stalls in the early morning on market days, and thereafter stalls were not to be erected before 8.00am.
In 1922 the Council bought a mare for £56.14s,0d., but it wasn’t suitable, and sold it the following year for £51. Another horse was bought for £40.10s.6d. and the Council’s lame mare went for £11. Crosville had permission to remove the 2,000 gallon petrol tank from the Victoria Hotel yard and install it at their new garage at Ponterwyl. Although not specifically mentioned in Council Minutes, it is interesting to note that the BBC was formed in 1922, and people began to have wireless sets. By 1923 the requirements for the National Eisteddfod were being discussed and £37. l0s.0d. was paid for tablets to be fixed to Daniel Owen’s birthplace and to that of the Welsh poet Alun, and also at the Chester Road site of the discovery of Benlli Gawr’s supposed burial mound. Disorderly conduct of young persons using the Reading Room was reported. In those days the town library and the reading room were on the ground floor of the New Town Hal! in Earl Road.
By 1924 a transgressor in Victoria Terrace had a manure heap within 12 yards of his house, and another one kept a pig at the rear. The Council’s weighbridge was sold by Mr. R.S. Davies for £20 and the Council decided to take no action concerning an alleged offence against Mrs. MacDunich, proprietress of the Old Hawarden Castle common lodging house in Milford Street. Houses in Ponterwyl experienced flooding and colliery subsidence damage at the New Town Hall in Earl Road was investigated. The public library had now 1,210 members. In toiletry matters the question of providing additional lavatories in the town, the conversion of an engine room on the Old Town Hall into a ladies’ lavatory whilst incorporating the existing ladies’ lavatory into additional gents’ facilities and the need to supplement the at present totally inadequate water closet and urinal accomodation in the County Hall Field occupied the minds of the Building, Sanitary and Farm Committee. The writer regrets the sometime passing of the historic notice above at least one corner guard rail of the Court House saying, ‘DECENCY FORBIDS’ ! This was there probably long before 1924 and for a while afterwards, but only the rail and the fixing holes tor a notice remain today. Traces of similar guard rails can be seen at other corners. Permission was granted to the Mold War Memorial Committee for use of a site on the Bailey Hill for a memorial monument, should the Memorial Committee want to put one there. 1925 came. The rear of No.3 Chester Street was reported as being in an unsanitary condition because it contained a midden heap surrounded by sewage and pigsties improperly paved and drained. A butcher’s shop fronted the area and probably a slaughter house behind. Pigs were kept at the rear of 26 Wrexham Street in contravenuon of byelaws. Sanitary conditions at the back of the Drill Hall, and at the Foundry Yard in Wrexham Street, were severely criticized, as was the condition of the slaughter house in the same street. The painting of lamp posts with two coats of Post Office Red and two of cream colour, with Copal varnish for the bottoms and enamel for the tops, at 4s. 10d. per lamp post, was approved.
Houses were to be built in Cemetery Road ( now Alexandra Road), and cases of overcrowding were reported in Garden Place and Clay Lane. Slaughter houses, sanitation, street, stalls, and such like matters continued to be discussed, and the onward creep of supply of mains electricity to the town assumes prominence. Applications continue to be made for planning permission to erect receiving aerials for wireless sets.
Mold Gas and Water Company still lit the Street lamps and four dozen new burners were required. The Council resolved that white lines for better control of traffic should be placed at points agreed with the police. There was more negotiation with Mr. J.L. Schofield for the rent paid for his cinematographic shows at the Old Town Hail. The attention of Mold Gas and Water Company was to be called to the inefficient lighting of the town, and the cost was asked of having lamps lit throughout the season, irrespective of the moon’s phases.
In 1925 the County Council warned that petrol pumps in the town streets should not be placed on a highway nor on a footpath adjoining a highway. Imagine today, petrol pumps being installed so as to serve petrol with swing- arms over pavements, in the town. At that time one was installed in New Street, near The Cross, and another in Wrexham Street.
The War Memorial on the Bailey Hill was to be unveiled in March 1926, and would be taken over by the Council. The electricity service was coming nearer and it was going to cost about £6 to wire a house for electricity. It was in this year that the writer moved from the Infants School in King Street to the Big Boys department. From Headmistress control by Miss West to Headmaster control by Mr. Macfarlane. By now some of the Councillors were personally known to me, as also were some of their activities in the Highway Lighting and Watering Committee, Housing Committee, Building, Sanitary and Farm Committee, General Purpose Committee, Electricity Committee, Housing Committee, and at Ordinary Meetings. They dealt with the general matters of the day, which from today’s reading, show mostly a different Mold from that which we know now. An original intention in this present article had been to pursue their work up to the time I was ten years of age but I propose to suspend the study here, and just mention a few items yet to come. A child suffering from scarlet fever was admitted to the Isolation Hospital, St. Asaph, for which a weekly charge of £5.5s.0d. would be made. The Bailey Hill was considered to be in a deplorable state. The Council were asked to provide paving in front of the new picture house in Chester Street in keeping with that of the next door Post Office. It was agreed that the picture house should pay half the cost. Local authorities were advised to try to discourage the use of steel-tyred vehicles because of road damage. Unseemly conduct of street stallholders was to be brought to the police’s notice. A new Medical Officer of Health was appointed. In the following few years it was of particular interest to the writer that the minimum age for joining the town library was reduced to 10 years, so shortly after that birthday I joined and was given the borrower number 1900. It wasn’t long before I got into trouble with the librarian for reading too many books !
It is also of interest that the council’s formal ‘switch – on’ of electricity came in February 1927 and the gas lighting of streets was discontinued. In 1927 electric lighting of the Alun County School was considered, and on one occasion, someone in New Street complained about the noise coming from the often used fair ground in New Street. To a small boy it was always an exhilarating occasion when there was plenty of noise and when you could see the Tillings-Stevens petrol-electric road tractors generating electric light for the stalls. At some time traffic lights were installed at the King Street / High Street junction, and people said then that the robots were coming to town. This was in the event disappointing because robots were hitherto envisaged as mechanical men as in strip cartoons. There is plenty of interest to be found – in what you would never dream of today – in the bound copies of the Minutes of Mold Urban District Council Meetings held at the Flintshire Record Office at Hawarden.
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