Brian Bennett Memories of the 1950s and the 1960s.
I have put together a few of my memories of growing up in Sychdyn during the 1950’s and 1960’s. It is a follow-up to Mrs Jennifer Harley’s & Miriam Hagan’s article in Ystrad Alun, 11, 2010 ).
Over the past six years or so Ystrad Alun editions, at least two articles have been written with regard to Sychtyn/Sychdyn /Soughton memories.; both fully informative and well
written. Before I proceed I’d like to begin my recollections when our family arrived in Sychdyn village in May 1953; just weeks before Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation, and together with my twin brother David, I started at Sychdyn School on the 17th of that month. We were placed in the middle classroom in Mrs Blackwell’s Class. Mr Grosvenor Lloyd was the Headmaster and Miss Gymer was in charge of the Infants. It was a typical post-War fifties village school, with the three Rs prominent in tuition, with strict discipline and, yes – the dreaded cane saw action. Good memories, even if we did get shouted at many a time by the local greensman for kicking the football / cricket ball over onto the adjacent bowling green.
Coronation Day, 2 June 1953 saw great celebrations in the village with a procession and communal tea party for all the school children, which preceded the grand opening of the new playing fields opposite the school, which was duly donated and opened Mr John Wynne-Bankes of Soughton Hall. I remember the occasion well, racing to be the first ones on the new swings – didnt make it though ! – I was too small and slow. The Wynne-Bankes family were always held in the highest esteem in the village and it was only right and proper that if the family were seen out and about around the community, the boys/gents would tip their caps or forehead and the girls/women would curtsy — such was the respect the family were held in.
School days – One of the highlights of the school sporting year was the annual football / cricket matches against Northop Primary School. I can’t recall who refereed the football matches, but I do remember Mr Lloyd and Mr Stevens (Headmaster of Northop School) umpiring the cricket matches, which always took place at Northop, because we didn’t have a cricket pitch at Sychdyn, but we did play them occasionally in football on the Park which was near to Mr Wynne-Bankes’s Soughton Hall, which was actually halfway between the two communities.
At the time of our arrival in the village, the Post Office was run by Mrs Powell in the premises opposite the Cross Keys Public House. It remained as a Post Office until the late 1950s when the shop and the business closed, and the licence was transferred to the newly built shop/Post Office, built and run by Mr & Mrs Selby in London Road where it still trades today. At the north end of the village, next to the Memorial Hall stood the Co-operative Society Store — always known as the Co-op, which was managed for many years by Mr William Williams of Mold, ably assisted by Mr Alan Blackwell from Mynydd Isa. One of the assistants I well remember was a local beauty queen namely, Christine Fryer from Bryn y Baal, who later married Mr Gary Talbot ex-Chester Football centre forward and noted photographer. I can still remember our Members Dividend number being 614.
I believe the Co-op, which incidentally was a branch of the Birkenhead Co-operative Society, ceased trading in the 1960s, and has since been converted into a desirable residential dwelling. A c. 1920s image of the old Co-op below, looking very much as it looked in the 1950-1960 period — obviously with different personnel. The extension on the right of the building was always the drapery dept. Note the signage above being spelt as Sychtyn.
Another shop I vaguely remember was a Sweets/General Stores in The Willows opposite where the Hairdressers salon is situated today. This business closed around the time of our arrival in the village. Another small business was run from Mr & Mrs Ames’s near the area we call ‘The Tap’ where she sold ice-cream and Sunday newspapers from a doorway down the side of their house. This building still survives on Penybryn Road, but has been greatly extended.
The Memorial Hall — always figured prominently in the 1950s / 1960’s social life of the village, as it still does, but with different activities, e.g. the weekly Dances when the ‘Teddy Boys’ roamed. It was not unusual to see the odd fight taking place, especially if the Mold lads were in town! Always a popular venue where many a local romantic liaison was formed. Jumble Sales were prevalent and popular, together with the Weekly Youth Club which met for at least two nights a week. Also, there was the New Year’s Eve dances run by the Bowling Club, which was a tradition for years and, of course, every Sunday afternoon at 2.30pm was the Sunday School which was well attended. I personally was always in Mrs Fanny Hughes’s Class who resided at the Council Houses on Maes Gruffydd or Blackbrook which was often wrongly named. Mrs Hughes was a lady I recall with great respect who did a marvellous job at keeping us boisterous youngsters under control. I pleasantly recall one of the highlights of our year was the annual Sunday School outing to Rhyl. It was always noticeable how the attendance at Sunday School rose in the preceding weeks leading up to the date of the outing. The Sunday School sessions closed in the 1960s.
Growing up in this period, children were always children, and we were no different from children today in many respects. We were often chased off farmers’ fields for either trespassing or playing games, usually football. Two farmers come to mind, Mr Edward Williams (Penybryn Farm) who we called ‘Tedda’ and also Mr Cannon from where we always called Cannon’s Farm, who were both strict individuals, but I think their bark was worse than their bite, because I am sure they used to chase us, as being more of a keep fit exercise than a disciplinary measure!
Saturday afternoons were always a bit special in the 1950s / 1960s when literally half the village would turn out to watch the local Soughton United Football Team which in those days played on the park field in Soughton Hall Estate — the entrance to which was down a muddy lane, near to where Mr Edge and Mr Marriott lived in the semi-detached cottages — who were both employed on the Wynne- Bankes Estate. I believe Mr Joe Edge was employed there for many years as head gardener. The pitch would be about a good two-thirds of a mile from the changing rooms, which were situated in the anteroom of the Ebenezer Chapel, and later in the Old Stables / Band Room of the Cross Keys Public House. This journey was undertaken usually by foot (not many cars in those days), so in the days of the old leather boots and studs, I often wonder how much stud-wear was evident by the time the match began ? The teams in those days were generally made up of all local lads, as featured in the image below, when each and everyone of those players lived in the village. No superstars in those days, but genuine lads who gave their all for the village team. Happy memories ! The league they played in was always known as the Halkyn Mountain League.
Bonfire night 1953 springs to mind – when the whole village congregated on Mr Baker’s field (off Blackbrook Road) to light the communal bonfire and to enjoy the firework display. The fire was duly lit and fully ablaze, but alas, so were the fireworks when a stray spark ignited them, where they were stored in a nearby barrow. Therefore a wonderful display for one minute, but at least the bonfire kept everyone warm and amused. Don’t know what happened about red tape / Health & Safety in those days !
The two chapels – were prominent in the 1950s with the Bryn Seion (top of London Road) and the Ebenezer Chapel (opposite the Cross Keys) being fully supported — both being Welsh language institutions. I particularly remember the Ebenezer Chapel graveyard being always beautifully kept and looked after by Mr Ted Jones.
Some of the old place names I recall, e.g. ‘Mitchell’s Turning’ — often referred to as Alltami Turning, the T junction being 300 yards in the Northop direction on the main road. I believe the Mitchell family resided at the Soughton Hall Lodge for many years and the name Mitchell was synonymous with the family name. In my time, the local gamekeeper on the Wynne-Bankes Estate was always Mr Walter Brooks.
The sand-hole, which is on the back road to Alltami, was in the 1950s — early 1960s used as a refuse tip for the local Council. It was later landscaped and used as agricultural land. My memories of the sand-hole area was the arrival of gypsy caravans along the nearby road – beautifully ornate and immaculately kept. Why didn’t I take my little Brownie and get a picture ?
There were two areas known as ‘The Tap’. One at the junction of London Road & Penybryn Road, where years ago a standpipe used to exist, but the name ‘The Tap’ survives. Also, near the school at the junction of Vownog Road and New Brighton Road, that junction was known as the ‘Blue Tap’ why blue I have never been able to ascertain? Adjacent to ‘The Tap’ — the area was always known as The Vownog , with fawnog < being a softened form of an old Welsh name mawnog ‘peaty bog, turbary.’ and where the first Soughton School was situated, now long demolished
The White Hill — the track between the main road and Blackbrook Road was always known by this name. I assume the name was taken from the nearby White Farm Cottage which, in my day, was inhabited by the Powell family.
The Gate House — at the junction of Main Road and Penybryn Road. Always known by this name as presumably there could have been a toll gate / cottage at the location? Slightly bemused by this one, because from the old Victorian maps of the area that stretch of main road did not exist ?
Northern Lights – Another vivid memory from the 50s and 60s was the viewing of the Northern Lights Aurora Borealis and also the ‘Milky Way’ from my bedroom window on the main road, looking in a north westerly direction. The street lighting was almost non-existent, so the night sky was a lot more prominent. I still remember the amazing sight which sadly I don’t seem to experience as much these days. The opening every night of the John Summers’ blast-furnace was also a sight to behold, when a truly remarkable red glow was evident, especially on a clear night.
The 7.00 pm Monday night Mold fire siren exercise I still vividly recall. You could set your watch by it and, especially if the wind was in the right direction, it sounded as though it was in the village itself.
Village name — the name over the years can cause some confusion, because in the 50s it was often spelt Sychtyn, which is featured on the Co-op Society photograph (above). But, the Hall and now currently a Hotel is always known as Soughton Hall, as is Mr Michael Owen’s property further down known as Lower Soughton Hall. I believe the present correct postal address is now Sychdyn. You rarely hear anyone say Soughton these days. They certainly tried to confuse us over the years !
I hope these few memories of mine will be of interest to past and present Soughton / Sychdyn residents, but I can only reiterate what wonderful days and memories they were, in a typical Flintshire rural surrounding. The village then was a fraction of the size it is today and everybody knew everybody and had the time of day to stop and chat.
A Sychdyn Resident 1953-1970.
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