But for Flintshire it was a year of so much more. Here the Leader brings together a series of articles in part one of two, by the local historian, the late Elvet Pierce…
IT WAS the year rationing ended (candies in February, sugar in September). The North Sea coast suffered the worst devastation ever recorded from high water and stormy weather; the country got a new monarch and the queen was crowned on 2 June.
One of the famous coronation mugs given to every child of school age.
Internationally, the most significant event was the death of the Russian dictator Stalin, and back home in Flintshire, 1953 was a positive time, with an atmosphere of optimism and hope for the future.
According to a folder of notes and photos that were probably intended for a county booklet, the area appeared vibrant and future-oriented. As we slowly emerged from the dark austerity days of the late 1940s, the New Elizabethan Era was just what was needed.
Celebrations were held throughout the county to celebrate the coronation, and in Rhesycae the chapel organized the presentation of coronation cups to all school children.
Nor was this the only ‘nice’ aspect of the county, as Rhyl and Prestatyn enjoyed a boom in visitors, the Eisteddfod took place outside Rhyl, and our new Queen came to visit.
King George had visited Rhyl in 1902 as Prince of Wales and spoke of the “fine, wholesome and invigorating climate”, while Sir Charles Cameron said “the bracing air of Rhyl made you long to live there always”.
A tourist advertisement for Prestatyn.
Elsewhere in Flintshire, new projects were about to come to fruition, notably the start of construction on what would become Kelsterton Technical College (later Deeside College, then part of Coleg Cambria), the opening of the new modern secondary school at Buckley , built at a cost of £190,000, the Secondary Modern School at Holywell cost £200,000 and several others.
Most surprising, however, was the stated intention to develop the port of Connah’s Quay to allow access to ships of up to 2,000 tons, rather than the 500-ton vessels that could use the port at the time.
Linked to this letter of intent were details of sailings to Ireland, IOM, France, the Channel Islands, Belgium and the Netherlands.
It also emphasized the rail links that existed at the time, which, had they been preserved, would have had major consequences for current traffic.
A young Elvet Pierce with his faithful dog, Floss, and Hercules bicycle.
Personally, however, 1953 was not such a happy time, as this was the year we had to leave Nannerch after my grandfather’s death. The picture of myself, Floss the dog and my old Hercules is the last one taken before I move to Rhesycae.
In particular, the folder contained details about agriculture and small businesses, especially municipal property, intended as a low-cost way to keep young people in farming, and a wealth of details about industry.
IT should be remembered that in 1953 Flintshire was about twice as large as it is today, although of course the additional areas were mainly agricultural.
John Summer’s steel plane.
This was also the era of heavy industry, mainly iron and steel, with Mostyn producing ferro-manganese alloys from two furnaces, and John Summers being the UK’s largest and most up-to-date sheet metal supplier.
This year, the new investment in Hawarden Bridge would be enough to boost steel production to one million tonnes a year.
Publicity material for the Holywell Textile Mills.
Second only to Summers in terms of employment were Courtaulds’ four rayon mills in Flint and Greenfield, making the area the largest producer of this fiber in the world.
The increasing demand for steel cord rayon as private car ownership grew, as well as its continued use in clothing, provided stability in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1952-53 more than 7,000 jobs were directly within Courtaulds.
However, these were not the only textiles produced, as the Holywell Textile Mills were then producing at the fastest rate in the company’s history, using a third of all Welsh wool.
Coal mining in the county had all but ended, only Point of Ayr surviving, and lead mining around Halkyn was under pressure from cheap imports, but chemicals were showing signs of their ultimate importance with Graessers in Sandycroft and Synthite in Mold leading the way.
Publicity material for the de Havilland aircraft factory
Quarries and brick/tile/pipe fabrication all started to pick up as a new wave of construction began, led by impressive spending by the county on schools and colleges – the Celyn and Kelsterton all started in 1953. This was added by the start of the construction of the Connah’s Quay power station.
Meanwhile, in 1951 the DeHavilland Aircraft firm of Broughton had produced its 1,000th aircraft since the company’s formation (in its then current form) in 1948, with a Vampire handed over to the RAF, and counted on a five-year order backlog.
However, the company had problems recruiting suitable workers (which seems strange given the production during the war years) and set up its own technical training course with apprenticeships to remedy this.
All told, prosperity grew in the county and required a large number of smaller entrepreneurs to meet growing expectations.
• Don’t miss part two of Flintshire in 1953 next week.