The Happy Valley
The Happy Valley, Great Orme, Llandudno
The stone circle here may look prehistoric but was erected in 1963, when the National Eisteddfod was in Llandudno. The Eisteddfod, Wales’ main cultural festival, is held in a different place every August. A stone circle near each festival location is used for ceremonies by the Eisteddfod’s Gorsedd of Bards. Portable “stones” made from plastic have been used since 2005 to cut costs.
As Llandudno developed as a resort from 1850, the Happy Valley was a farm field with substantial quarrying nearby. In 1887, to mark Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, Lord Mostyn (the principal local landowner) closed the quarries and gave the land to the town as a permanent park. Trees were planted and rock gardens and pools laid out by the council. The work was completed in1890 with the unveiling of the drinking fountain, in the centre of which was a bust of the queen.
The site is shaped like a natural amphitheatre, and in 1872 Mr Round’s Promenade Band gave alfresco performances here. In 1873 a show called “Nigger Minstrels” began here, with no formal stage and just a small bell tent for the artists to change in. Later, permanent stages were built. The tradition was carried on till 1987 when changing tastes – and the constant interruptions of cable cars clattering into the lower station – finished it off. A café now occupies the site of the “minstrel plot” (pictured right).
In 1999 the gardens were upgraded with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund. Sculptures were created in wood of various characters from the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland stories. The town’s link with Alice is explained here.
With thanks to John Lawson-Reay, of the Llandudno & Colwyn Bay History Society
FOOTNOTES – Performers on the minstrel plot