Site of Rhos-on-Sea pier
The pier stretched 430 metres (1,400ft) out to sea at Rhos Point, beyond the location of the low buildings you see today. In 1892 a group of local businessmen obtained an Act of Parliament to build a pier here to tap into the burgeoning holiday steamer trade, but the pier had no landing stage for steamers when it opened to the public in 1895.
The company went bust in 1896 and the pier was taken over by local magistrate William Horton, who wanted Rhos to become a high-class holiday resort. The pier’s landing stage was ready in 1897 and the paddle steamers started to arrive.
Mr Horton set up the Colwyn Bay & Liverpool Steamship Company and bought three vessels. It was then pointed out to him that the pier was illegal because it had been built, apart from the shore end, well outside the line specified in the Act! This meant that he could not levy tolls on users. In July 1908 one of his vessels, PS Rhosneigr, was wrecked near the pier.
Undaunted, he obtained an Act in 1911 to legalise the pier and build a pavilion to accommodate 3,000 people, a seawater bath 76 metres (250ft) long, and Turkish Baths. He couldn’t raise enough money for the additional attractions.
Most of the steamers went away for war work in 1914, although some carried on till 1916. In May 1915 the piermaster, William Jones, spotted Private Gwilym Thomas, 40, of the Welsh Regiment, partly undressed on the landing stage. He warned the soldier not to try swimming to the shore. Private Thomas, from Tylorstown, Rhondda, replied: “I’m an old sailor and I’m not born to be drowned” then dived into the water, got into trouble and drowned.
In 1917 a storm took away the landing stage, and the pier became a loss-maker. Mr Horton died in 1944. After changing hands several times, the pier came into council ownership in 1952 and was demolished the following year.
It had never been in competition with Colwyn Bay’s Victoria Pier, built in 1900, which was not intended to service the steamer trade as the owners declared they might bring “that objectionable tripper element … injurious to the tone of a select seaside resort”.
With thanks to John Lawson-Reay, of the Llandudno & Colwyn Bay History Society
Postcode: LL28 4NL