Craig-y-Dderwen Riverside Hotel, Betws-y-coed

button-theme-evacCraig-y-Dderwen Riverside Hotel, Betws-y-coed

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This building, in peaceful grounds beside the river Conwy, was built in 1890 as a second home for Staffordshire solicitor Edward Sholto Challinor. It replaced an earlier property of the same name. His wife Annette gave birth to their son at Craig-y-Dderwen in 1909. Edward died in 1920 and the building became a hotel. Composer Sir Edward Elgar was among the early guests.

Following the Dunkirk evacuations in 1940, the south coast of England was regarded as vulnerable to Nazi attack and possible invasion. Edenthorpe Girls’ School was evacuated from Eastbourne to Craig-y-Dderwen, after a difficult search for new accommodation. The joint-headteacher died at around the same time, so colleague Mary Burton carried on alone. She was fined £5 in May 1941 for breaking blackout regulations. The photo of the entire school at Craig-y-Dderwen in July 1941 was provided by Monnica Stevens (see her recollections below).

Pupils took part in community activities. They performed a nativity play in December 1940, with proceeds going to local churches. They laid on another entertainment, including dancing and a play, the following summer, raising almost £7 for the Women’s Voluntary Service. See the Footnotes for one evacuee's recollections.

The school was soon told to move out of Craig-y-Dderwen because the Ministry of Defence took over the hotel. It’s thought that the building was an army convalescent home for a time.

It was also a communications centre during the war. Many former army personnel who worked here during the war returned in later decades and recalled that several high ranking military officers resided here. Messages received at the telegraph office in the hotel were checked by the officers and then sent out through dispatch riders, who were stationed in one of the outbuildings. Some of the communications were said to relate to the D-Day landings.

The photos below show some of the dispatch riders with motorcycles (left) and personnel outside the “general office”.

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With thanks to Adrian Hughes, of the Home Front Museum, Llandudno, and to Monnica Stevens and Karen Harney for evacuee information

Postcode: LL24 0AS    View Location Map

Website of Craig-y-Dderwen Riverside Hotel

 

Photo of wartime evacuees Monnica & Rosalind StevensFootnotes: Recollections of an evacuee

Monnica Stevens, from London, was a boarding pupil at Edenthorpe school when it moved to Betws-y-coed from Sussex. She is pictured, aged 12, around that time, with her sister and fellow evacuee Rosalind, 5. In the school photo above, Monnica is first on the left, second row from top, standing; Rosalind is third from the left, front row.

She recalled decades later: “After the Dunkirk evacuation in June 1940, all the pupils were sent home for two weeks and then we were evacuated to Wales, Betws-y-coed, where the two headmistresses had found an empty hotel, Craig y Dderwen. 

“Once in the new building we settled down to classes. My class was held in the bar. Our dormitories each held only four girls, which we appreciated.

“There was going to be no home visit for Christmas and my parents came up to Wales and took us to Llandudno for five days. We travelled in an Austin 7.

“The bombing was considered to be slackening off and my sister and I were allowed home for the Easter holidays.

“Back to school in early May, but the army had their ideas about the hotel and it was to be requisitioned, they said for a convalescent home, but it was hardly suitable and looking back I have often wondered what they could have done in a building with no lifts, set out on three floors. We were in an isolated part of the village close to the hills and no one to see what was happening. I have often wondered if it were used for training purposes. Anyway the school closed and my sister and I returned to London; for me it was for the remainder of my schooling.”

Monnica’s full wartime story can be found on the BBC website. Part One is here.