I’m very pleased to feature the second post by Matthew Evans which brings the story of Llandudno’s council housing up to date. Matthew, the principal author, works in communications within local government and has been assisted in research and writing by his father, Philip Evans, who has been a councillor on Aberconwy Borough and subsequently Conwy County Borough councils since 1976 and was twice Mayor of Llandudno, in 1983/4 and 2006/7. Many of the details of council minutes, personal details and recollections in this piece come from him. Most photographs (unless otherwise credited) have been kindly taken by the author’s sister, Kimberley Evans.
We left the story of Llandudno’s council housing in the last post on the eve of the Second World War, when the town had built substantial numbers of properties in several different parts of the town. But despite this activity, the pressures of the war and its aftermath would spur the building of large numbers of new houses as the town entered the post-war era.
The post-war era
The immediate years following World War Two, like elsewhere in the country, saw a housing shortage in Llandudno. Unlike many other areas this was not linked to bombing, as only a single recorded bomb fell on Llandudno during the war, on the side of one of the hills overlooking the town. But it was the safety of its location on the west coast of Britain that caused the town to become overcrowded. Unlike many similar seaside resorts on the south coast, whose populations declined to escape the bombing, numbers of people living in Llandudno increased significantly.
The town was chosen as the site of the Coast Artillery School, which was evacuated from Shoeburyness to Llandudno during the war. It was also the home of the Inland Revenue throughout the war (Colwyn Bay next door was home to the Ministry of Food), which meant an influx of 4000 civil servants into the town, alongside refugees from the war in Europe. James Callaghan, future prime minister, was the entertainments officer for this new contingent.
The diversity of people working or finding refuge in Llandudno is shown by the fact that Jewish services at the synagogue in the town attracted, on occasion, 400 attendees during the war. (1) At the end of the conflict, this increased population did not reduce immediately. The Inland Revenue only moved slowly back to London and a number of the demobbed soldiers had married into local families.
In today’s world, where the Government is keen to be seen to ‘level-up’ and move civil service posts out of London, such as to Treasury North in Darlington, it is interesting to consider how having well paid professional jobs remain in resort towns like Colwyn Bay and Llandudno might have helped diversify the local economies in a more sustainable way in the decades when many declined after the war.
An example of the housing situation in the immediate post-war was related by an old friend of the family called Betty Mylett, who grew up in Llandudno and had obtained work with the Inland Revenue during the war. Her job was relocated to London after the war and she lodged for a time in Harrow, but couldn’t settle and returned home in the late 1940s. She married and she and her husband firstly lived in what had been a large private family home in Upper Craig y Don – in what is still today a very comfortable and quiet area of Llandudno. However, in an illustration of living conditions at the time, their accommodation consisted of one room in a house occupied by over 20 other adults – a situation that could be multiplied throughout the town. Furthermore, at least ten families squatted in various abandoned buildings on the western slopes of the Great Orme’s Head at the site of the Coast Artillery School, which had relocated back to Essex. A further five families occupied Nissen huts used formerly by the RAF Police on the summit of the Great Orme.
The ‘squatters’ were mainly ex-servicemen who had been unable to find accommodation for their families on returning from active duty. Two of the men who lived at the Coast Artillery School site, George Williams and Eric Quiney, subsequently served as members of Llandudno Urban District Council (UDC) and were prominent on the Housing Committee.
Conditions were very spartan, with no real utilities or services and the buildings were in wind-swept locations. The families were eventually re-housed or temporarily placed in Arcon MkV pre-fabs erected at Maesdu in 1945, which lasted until around 1964. But the UDC, in much the same way as had been seen in 1919, got to work straightaway on building new housing. As a stopgap, aside from the prefabs, the authorities also adapted ex-army buildings. In 1949, there was an attempt to bring some regularity to the squatting at the Coast Artillery School site – known even today locally as The Gunsites. Four dwellings there were adapted on a temporary basis for £227.10.
In April 1949, the Welsh Board of Health were asked for approval for the UDC to adapt ‘hutments’ at Waterloo Camp, Conway Road to house families occupying hutments at the rear of the Nevill Hydro Hotel so that the hotel could be de-requisitioned from use by the Inland Revenue.
But more permanent housing was badly needed. In 1946, four houses were built on Cwm Road and in 1947 in the West Shore area of Llandudno, the UDC constructed the Dolydd and Denness Place developments. In 1949, outside the main urban area of the town, in its large rural hinterland, Cae Rhos, Llanrhos (then part of Llandudno, now part of Conwy), four agricultural workers’ dwellings were built by Peter T Griffiths, a local contractor for £6271.7.7. Also in 1949, eight houses were erected for agricultural workers in Waun Road, Glanwydden.
These were small estates of less than 50 houses each and a larger number of families in need of new housing eventually found accommodation on the Tre Creuddyn Estate. This was the first large scale post-war housing estate, built between 1948 and 1952 – with further flats and bungalows built at Canol Creuddyn in 1955. The houses are a mix of two storey terraced family homes, with four-storey single houses and flats facing Conway Road on the main approach into the town. They were far higher density than the pre-war houses and very well situated for tenants working in the town’s main industries, being only a five minutes’ walk to the seafront, shops and railway station and areas of light industry.
The names of the roads were all in Welsh, marking a move towards recognising the local culture and national language more overtly in the area, in roads like Ffordd Las, Ffordd Gwynedd and Ffordd Dwyfor (where ‘Ffordd’ means Road). Incidentally, the use of these names and the subsequent connotation with council estates caused local controversies, and when names beginning ‘Ffordd’ were proposed for private developments nearby there were objections from purchasers and the suffix ‘Road’ was used instead. For example, it later took several months to name the nearby – and private – Powys Road, Elan Road and Harlech Road because the matter was batted around the Council and a petition was received not to use the fully Welsh form.
The homes on the Tre Creuddyn estate were built by a number of local builders, to a common design. For example, records show one block of four houses was built by a consortium of Wm Jones & Son, Griffith Roberts, David Davies & Son, and John Owen for £5,117.3.5. The same group built one block of four flats for £3,371.12.11. Likely each builder specialised in one aspect of the building. One block of six houses was built for £7,227.8.10 by Thomas Idwal Jones of Llandudno and one further block of four flats for £3,371.12.11 by McNeill & Co of Llandudno.
Some of the builders were prominent locally – Griffith Roberts was a former chairman of UDC; David Davies was the longest serving member of the UDC; and Thomas Jones’ firm is still going and the oldest building firm in Llandudno.
The groundworks for the development – roads, pavements and sewers – were done by local builder Frank Tyldesley. The UDC itself put in street lighting and water mains. During the post-war years, because of the housing developments, the UDC employed an in-house architect – a Mr C N Bancroft ARIBA. He was born 1912 at Stockport and died in 1990 in Penmaenmawr.
A personal example of the impact of these new estates after the war is my own mother’s family. My mother was born in 1947 in an old miner’s cottage near the summit of the Great Orme; part of a row called Pant-y-Ffridd. The houses were extremely isolated and situated high above the town. I doubt if anyone who lived there owned a car, so all people either walked up or hitched a ride on the Great Orme Tram which still takes tourists to the top of the Orme. The provision of utilities would have been as sparse as the options for transport. My grandmother, Nanna Breeze mentioned in the previous post, had moved to Llandudno, alone, at 14 in 1928 from Horsehay, Dawley in Shropshire where her father was an Iron Founder at the Horsehay Ironworks (now part of the new town of Telford) to work as a Chambermaid.
But by the time my mother was born she was working in Llandudno General Hospital, down the mountain and on the other side of the town, as a cook. She had to make the journey to the hospital twice a day for her shifts and then back to look after the children, of whom there were five by that point (her husband was still serving in Germany after the war). The family was moved firstly down to King’s Road – the estate first developed after the First World War mentioned above – and then to Cwm Place, and then in 1957 onto the Tre Creuddyn Estate, living there in two different houses until around 1970. I know my grandmother was very grateful for a modern house, nearer work and on far more forgiving terrain. It made a huge difference to her and her family’s standard of living.
As an aside – at the same time my mum’s family were living on the Tre Creuddyn estate, the Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall and his family were living in Cwm Place and the Liverpool and Chelsea footballer Joey Jones was growing up in Ffordd Las, just around the corner.
As Llandudno moved into the 1960s, flats became more popular as opposed to the single-family homes that had been built up until that point. In 1964, the UDC built Ffordd yr Orsedd (named after the Gorsedd Bardic Circle of the National Eisteddfod of Wales which took place the previous year in Llandudno) and Ffordd Elisabeth – named after the Queen, but with spelling changed to conform to Welsh. This was a development of terraces of family homes and four of blocks with three radiating wings of flats on each floor.
Much of the council’s housing activity during this time was overseen by Glyn Roberts (known locally, as is common in Wales, by his job – thus he was always known to all as ‘Glyn Sanitary’). Glyn was a long-serving council employee and a locally born man, who joined the UDC just before WW2. He trained as a Health Inspector with the UDC by day release attendance course at Warrington. He also took a keen interest in meteorology and looked after Llandudno’s weather station, reporting readings daily to the Met Office. For his endeavours, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society.
By reorganisation in 1974 he was Deputy Chief Public Health Inspector and Housing Manager. He transferred to Aberconwy Borough Council in 1974 as Principal Housing Officer, in which role he reported to the Director of Environmental Health & Housing, Idris Griffiths, who had also been his Chief at Llandudno UDC. The author’s father remembers Glyn as a well-known local character who brought to his work a common-sense approach and practical attitude. He also recalls Glyn had an excellent working relationship with the Councillors and was highly regarded for his legendry, encyclopaedic knowledge of the Llandudno tenants, their history and family connections. He worked as Principal Housing Officer until he was 65 in 1986 – although he could have retired at 60. To celebrate his long service to Llandudno’s housing management, the Mayor presented him with a plaque of the town’s armorial bearings on his retirement.
In 1965/67 further building took place. Lon Cymru, Lon Gwalia, and Llys Gwylan were constructed alongside the main road into town and showed a move in architectural style influenced by the Radburn movement, with orange brick and slate-hung houses and maisonettes overlooking pathways and off-road green spaces. These homes were designed by S Powell Bowen ARIBA of Colwyn Bay, who in 1970 established the Bowen Dann Davies Partnership (BDD) with Frank Dann and Bill Davies and the practice designed many developments for local authorities across North Wales. The practice established a strong reputation for its housing work, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, and many of its developments were award winners. (2)
This is the estate I knew best as a child. In 1986, we moved from Jubilee Street, a classic street of terraced two-up-two-downs next to the railway station in Llandudno, to a larger three-bedroom house that had previously been part of a small row of police houses. These were built in 1950 in a similar style to the local council housing by the Police Authority to house police constables and their families. Many of these were being sold off countrywide at the same period in time as the Right to Buy took hold in council housing. Our new house backed directly onto one of the Lon Cymru estate playgrounds, which led in turn directly onto another green patch and then yet another, all overlooked by houses. This meant that we could play safely with all the children on the estate without crossing any roads, which exemplifies one of the original perceived benefits of the Radburn style. These attractive houses are still highly sought-after by people today, one former resident being the photographer of all images on this post – my sister, whose first house after leaving the family home was five minutes’ walk away on the estate.
Moving into 1970, 38 flats in five blocks were built for aged persons at St Andrew’s Avenue in the centre of the town. The architect of these was H. Vincent Morris, C.Eng, ARICS, ARIBA, MIMunE, Surveyor and Architect to Llandudno UDC. A few years later came Parc Bodnant, Llandudno’s 1970s social housing showcase. This large estate of several hundred flats and houses was designed in-house under Leslie Miller, who had joined the successor to Llandudno UDC, Aberconwy Borough Council, from Cheshire County Council at reorganisation in 1974. Parc Bodnant continued the Radburn influence of housing from the late 60s, but in a different style. The housing was brown brick with white and black render and comprised both four storey blocks and terraces facing each other on narrow paths and walkways. It was higher density than the Lon Cymru estate of a few years previously and where the earlier one was sited on mainly flat and gently sloping land, Parc Bodnant was built on a steep slope emphasising the height of the block and terracing of the houses. It was an innovative design and was initially popular with residents and experts, even winning a Welsh regional housing award.
But despite having been highly regarded when first built, the Parc Bodnant estate had become unpopular by the late 1980s and 1990s, acquiring a reputation for anti-social behaviour among some residents though – as is often the case – this was only a minority of tenants. The initial residents of the estate when built were carefully selected families or mature couples, who had been living in flats and who had been on the transfer list for some years because of the slow turn-over in houses.
Over a period of about 15 years, the demographic make-up of the estate gradually changed and several of the original features, such as soft landscaping, became subject to vandalism. This, in turn, led to many of the original tenants wanting transfers out of the estate. The design and layout, with many secluded paths, much concrete surfacing and the stark black and while painted detailing, also eventually proved unpopular. This was compounded by the location of the estate, far from the town centre and on an exposed site backing onto open land leading up to Cwm Mountain. It also directly overlooked the town gasworks and gasometer, an abandoned brickworks, the site of the old town dump, and a scrapyard. The steeply sloping site meaning many residents had a clear view of all of this industry. All but the scrapyard are now completely redeveloped, with a post office sorting office, light industrial units and the town’s redeveloped secondary school now covering the other sites.
In recent years, the estate itself has seen much investment, with soft landscaping and re-rendering and repainting giving the estate a more welcoming, positive and popular image than previously. (3)
The Present Day
As with council properties across the UK, many homes in Llandudno were sold under the Right to Buy, which was eventually abolished in Wales in January 2019. The sales of large numbers of homes, especially on what had been the more popular estates, has severely depleted the stock of socially rented properties. The housing in the Tudno ward of Llandudno – the electoral division containing the bulk of the former council estates in the town south of the railway line – is now only 35 percent socially rented as opposed to 51 percent owner occupied. Until the Right to Buy and increasing private development from the early 80s, the housing in this area was overwhelmingly socially rented, bar one relatively small section. The employment base in the area has remained fundamentally the same as ever, with 21 percent working in wholesale and retail, 17 percent in health and social work, and 16 percent in accommodation and food services according to the last census. (4)
The building of social housing did not totally stop, however. North Wales Housing Association built Cwrt W M Hughes on the main approach into town in 1989, named after one time Llandudno resident William Morris Hughes, Labor Prime Minister of Australia 1916-23. In 1993, McInroy Close was built at Parc Bodnant as an infill development.
The first large scale social housing development after the 1970s was the building in 1996/7 of Lloyd George Close, Attlee Close, and Churchill Close. These were Housing Association developments built largely on the site of 1960s blocks of three-storey flats, which had declined in the intervening years and whose residents preferred to be housed in single-family houses, rather than flats.
The current local authority, Conwy County Borough, transferred its remaining 3,800 homes to an independent not-for-profit Registered Social Landlord in 2008. This new body is called Cartrefi Conwy (Welsh for ‘Conwy Homes’) and it has plans to develop 1,000 homes in the coming years. (5)
Recent developments on brownfield sites include Llwyn Rhianedd, completed in 2015 on the Tre Cwm estate, consisting of four two-bedroom properties and five three-bedroom properties; 16 two-bed flats in the centre of the town in Gloddaeth Street completed last year; and the building of new sheltered housing for the elderly in Abbey Road and redevelopment of outdated elderly people’s flats in Trinity Avenue.
These developments, aimed at a range of single people, families and retired persons continue a proud tradition of building quality homes for people in Llandudno that dates back more than a hundred years, to the very earliest decades of modern social housing provision in the UK. This history of progressive action demonstrates that the delivery of good standards of housing for working people was as much of a consideration in what many might consider a conservative seaside resort as it was in the larger cities, and Llandudno can be rightly proud of its record.
You can find Matthew Evans on Twitter @MattEvans170
(1) Nathan Abrams, ‘Chlandidneh’: The Jewish History of the Queen of Welsh Resorts‘
(2) CADW listing details for 5, 7, 9, 11 & 15 Pen y Bryn Road
(3) You can see examples of the work undertaken on the consulting engineer’s website
(4) Conwy County Borough Council’s ward profiles 2020: Tudno (pdf)
(5) For further information, see the website of Cartrefi Conwy