Wartime Ministry of Works offices, Westminster Hotel, Rhyl

button-theme-evacThe Westminster Hotel was opened in June 1878 by “enterprising townsman” William Wynne. It had 65 bedrooms, a commodious drawing room, six sitting rooms, a billiards room and smoking rooms. The hotel is on the right in the postcard picture from c.1919.

Photo of the Westminster Hotel, Rhyl, c.1919Laurel and Hardy are reputed to have stayed at the hotel in July 1952 while performing at the Queen’s Theatre.

During the Second World War government departments were evacuated from London, which was expected to be bombarded by the Luftwaffe. The Ministry of Works & Buildings was relocated to Rhyl, and the Westminster Hotel was used for office accommodation. The ministry was responsible for requisitioning and adapting property for wartime use, and for reconstructing buildings damaged or destroyed in air raids.

Its many architects included Sheikh Abdul-Hamid, born in northern India. He was a draftsman for the Prince of Wales's Own Regiment in Jodhpur before working on buildings in southern India and Delhi. In the 1930s, he moved to London and worked on numerous projects, including designing mosques for the city.

Photo of Sheikh Abdul-Hamid in 1942In 1940 he moved to Rhyl, where he became involved with the Red Cross and the St John Prisoner of War Fund. He also organised Eid prayers for members of North Wales’ Muslim community. The guest of honour was the dethroned monarch Prince Mohammed Hasan Mirza of Persia, heir of the Qajar Dynasty which had once ruled Iran.

The 1942 photo shows Abdul-Hamid on the right at the opening of a Home for Indian Seamen in Liverpool. He was joined the High Commissioner of India, Sir Azizul Haque, for a reception at Liverpool Town Hall. Other dignitaries included Lord Leverhulme and Admiral Sir Percy Noble, Commander-in-Chief of Western Approaches.

Abdul-Hamid was founder of the Society of Friends of the Islamic World, but 10 days after its formation he died in an air raid in southern England on 23 June 1944.

The Ministry of Works & Buildings remained at Rhyl until the end of the war.

With thanks to Adrian Hughes of the Home Front Museum, Ruth Pritchard of Rhyl History Club and Abdul-Azim Ahmed

Postcode: LL18 3AH    View Location Map

Dictionary of Welsh Biography – More information from Abdul-Azim Ahmed on Sheikh Abdul-Hamid

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