Thanks are due this month to George Sumner for providing a copy of a 1930s photograph of Hawarden Road, Abermorrdu and also to Mrs Eleanor Williams for her own childhood reminisces of the road in the first part of the twentieth century.
Old photographs of Abermorddu are not nearly as plentiful as those of Hope and Caergwrle and one from the 1930s is particular welcome because few people had cameras in those days.
The photograph is actually two photographs which have been joined together to show the row of council houses which still stand in Hawarden Road. They will have been amongst the first to have been built in Britain in as a result of Lloyd George’s government’s Housing Act of 1919, the first piece of legislation to provide government subsidies for the building of council houses. It was deemed necessary so that the government could meet a target of 500,000 new homes over a three-year period. They were to be ‘Homes Fit for Heroes’ who had returned from the various battle fronts of the First World War.
Local people have confirmed that members of their own families moved into the houses around 1924 when they were considered to be new. There was a further Act in 1924 that gave a new lease of life to council house building but these ones were already built by that date and we must therefore conclude that they were amongst the first to be built.
Abermorddu was a prime site for building because of its strategic position on the North Wales coalfield and the employment opportunities which it provided. One only needs to glance at the 1911 census to sense that the coalmining industry was the single most important source of employment in the locality. Household after household has some connection with the coal industry. Wages may have been low but the work was there. For those moving in search of work there was an urgent need for homes and the private sector was not meeting the demand.
The photograph shows two forms of transport: the horse and cart and an early model of a Ford motor car. This is a picture of Britain on the verge of a transport revolution that will usher in dramatic changes. We now know of the huge benefits of the motor car but also of the many issues of concern that have emerged since the photograph was taken.
Mrs Eleanor Williams has childhood memories of horses and carts along Hawarden Road in the first half of the twentieth century. The milk was delivered by horse and cart. In an era when nobody bothered about health and safety the driver used to let young children sit on the seat and drive the horse down the road.
The photograph also shows an early model of a Ford car, possible a model T. This would have been a rare sight and it is almost certainly the reason why the photograph was taken. Few people would have been able to own one of these in the 1930s and a small sign at the front of the vehicle suggests that it may actually have been a delivery vehicle for a local business.
One other tell-tale sign in the photograph is the rather dilapidated state of the front garden walls. Could it be that the houses themselves were in need of repair after a decade of having been built?
The minute book of the Hope Parish and District Ratepayers’ Association is particularly illuminating on this issue. The minutes of the meeting of 9th December, 1929 states:
“The Secretary brought to the attention of the meeting the condition of the council houses stating that water was penetrating through the doors and windows of some of the houses in large quantities and the tenants were suffering great discomfort through lack of repairs. A member who is a tenant of the council houses added to this stating that he had written complaining about the state of his house but had received no reply to his letter from the Hawarden Rural District Council.”
The Ratepayers took up the case and it was reported to the next meeting, of 13th January 1930, that repairs to the council houses of Abermorddu were being undertaken. There were no further complaints about the condition of the houses in the minutes that immediately followed with the exception of a comment that it was necessary for fences to be provided for the gardens.
Funding actually ran out for completion of the initial house building scheme and it is unlikely that the government will have provided for repairs and maintenance. The rents received from tenants will not have been sufficient to cover the cost of repairs in the early years, giving rise to a backlog of repairs and maintenance issues. We know from elsewhere in the minutes that there was a lack of funding for road repairs because of the loss of government grants. Britain was in the throes of the years of Depression.
The council houses represented the beginning of a ribbon development which ultimately connected Abermorddu to Caergwrle. As new homes were built so too were the shops which served them. There were no supermarkets and everyone did their shopping locally. It was important that the needs of local people were met. Mrs Williams remembered collecting milk in a jug from the Abermorddu Farm in Cymau Lane at a time when Wyndham Drive was itself farmland. Across the road was the Toll Bar Store where she collected the bread and next door was the café which was housed in an old wooden building. This provided afternoon teas for day trippers and also accommodation for those who chose to stay longer.
The traffic lights and the garage by the lights were a sign of the times as cars became more frequent down Hawarden Road, although Mrs Williams remembered children collecting car registration numbers as a hobby whilst they were still something of a novelty. Beyond Abermorddu School was the Cooperative Store, which later became Castle Motors, and is now a newly built house. Further along was Theo Hopwood’s Store and then a small sweet shop by Coronation Terrace, where the Tin Chapel also stood.
Across the road was Pugh’s Yard where local builder Alan Edwards had his business. Then there was Castle Farm and also another general store on the same side further along. Mrs Williams remembered several shops opposite the station itself: hairdressers, a fish shop, sweet shop and a shop which sold supplies for decorating. Her childhood memories were pleasant; it was a time when everyone knew everyone else.
The residents in the houses shown in the photograph can be proud that they now live in houses which a played a significant part of the social history of the locality. Thanks again to those who have contributed information that enables us to preserve these aspects of the Abermorddu story.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.