Tank traps on the beach

I’ve just been speaking with my dad’s neighbour Brian Haynes. As someone who grew up in Pensarn and Abergele, he’s a mine of info on Abergele’s local history. He just let me scan an old photo of his. It shows Pensarn Beach just after World War II. He says there were tank traps in the sand and pill boxes along the coast and, in this photo, just behind the car, you can make out where the tank trap had recently been filled in.
Pensarn Beach just after WWII. Copyright Brian Hayes.

22 thoughts on “Tank traps on the beach

  1. David Hughes:

    Interesting photo especially for the cars. The two tone one to the right is either a Ford Zephyr or a Zodiac which were manufactured between 1951and 1956. The car in front of the public loo is, I think, a mini which started manufacture in 1959. If I’m right I guess we can date this photo to the early 60’s. The traps and pill boxes were along the coast. In the sixties there was a few pill boxes still in existance between Towyn and Kinmel Bay. What has really raised my interest is the object beyond the public loo and looks like it is on beach side of the car park line, or where the sea wall is today. I seem to recollect an old boat sitting on the beach in those days. I’m not sure of the dates but at one time a large bouy broke it’s moorings in Liverpool Bay and finished up on Pensran Beach. Perhaps you could ask Brian if he remembers what it is.

    1. melyn:

      Thanks for your detective work with the dating David. Great that the cars reveal the true date. I’ll ask Brian about the boat and the buoy and get back to you here.

  2. Brian Haynes:

    The concrete promenade apron was not complete in the picture, though the jetty approach had disapeared under the first part of the apron. The car that looks like a mini due to some forshorthening is far too big, possibly a Ford Thames 100e (1953) The picture was taken before my Granfathers death as one in a series and this puts it at about1954-5 which the very new looking Ford Consul MkI EOTA Model would fit in. The tank trap in front of the bridge approach was filled in and dragons teeth broken up in 1950 to 1952, the apron construction starting about the same time, the pill box at the top of the approach remained for a couple of years after. The boat’s rudder is still on the beach, occasionally a scouring tide will reveals it just beyond the Sea Road outfall.
    The object beyond the loo was a short lived amusement building facing the cottage next to Mr. Gubay’s amusment arcade on the site of “Lizzies” Ice cream kiosk.

    1. melyn:

      Many thanks indeed Brian. I’ve really enjoyed learning more of the history of Abergele from you this week. Your stories of ‘swimming’ horses and cows onto land from boats from Ireland were fantastic. I hope you find time to write a book about the town soon.

    2. David Hughes:

      Thanks Brian, your probably right about the “mini” it could be a standard or a husky. Do you remember how long the boat was there ?, I think the bouy that got washed ashore was later, probably mid sixties ? and was at the Sea road end of the beach. I think. My memories of the beach start about 1959 when we used to go down at the weekends. remember the beach huts ?, we had one but moved it to our back garden when they were being removed. do you remember when they were removed ?. Also, and sorry for all the questions, just trying to fill in gaps, do you remeber when Peel Street was pulled down to make way for the houses currently there ?

  3. David Hughes:

    Hi Brian, was thinking that you were probably in school with my brother Terry. When I was thinking about it I remembered Terry working in a shop in Gwrych Castle. I can’t figure out how to send a photo to this site so I’ve sent a picture of the model train that used to run in the castle about that time. ?wonder how many people remember the time when Salts owned the place and it was a hive of activity in the summer months. I can remember going there on a school trip !!!! a long way from Abergele junior controlled school to see the entertainers in the big tent they used to have. Happy memories of the magicioan and the band playing the Happy Wanderer. Maybe Melyn could lift the picture off the facebook page and post it here.

    1. melyn:

      David, To enable you to add photos directly to this site whenever you like, I’ll create an Author account for you and one for Brian too. The pas$s\/\/ords will be sent in the (email) post. I’d be pleased if do you decided to share photos or create posts on this site as then it would truly be a collaborative local site.

  4. David Hughes:

    Melyn, many thanks for that. I would truly like to see this site being an active local site. Seems like there is a shed load of history in peoples heads but have had no way of sharing it. On the BBC local site there are a lot of contribution from Nigel Hilton, he was in school with me, I will try and get him here too. Wishing you every success with the site. Very best regards,


  5. Brian Haynes:

    Hi, David, not sure about the date of the bouy as I left Abergele in 1960 returning quite frequently, there were a number of beach huts at the end of the forties, but these gradually vanished, the last ones had gone well before the time the camping coached were burnt in1972, perhaps around 1963?
    I cannot locate the date of the boat being stranded but I think it was ther until pulled off on a spring tide about four months after it grounded.
    After coming to Abergele in 1946 I went to the National School, then the County School from1949 to 1956, I cannot recall Terry, thpugh the name does ring a distant bell.

  6. David Hughes:

    Hi Brian, I think it would have been around 64 ish. Remeber climbing on this big red boat thingy with a light and a bell on top of it. I was about 13 then. It sounds like Terry would have been a year below you in school. He was born in 39. funny your comment as to your memory of him as his surname would have been Bell at that time. He was a peer of Ted Robshaw and Brian hughes. I have been talking to a mate who thinks he has a picture of Kinmel bay/Towyn showing the remains of pill boxes that were there till the late 60’s. Think we took them as kids with us playing “dead” around them. I’ll post them here if i can get them. The dates for the beach huts are about right, if my memory serves me well I think they went about 63/4. We brought one home in pieces to be our garden shed. Funny how talking about them brings back vivid memories of the beach, getting a flask from the cafe at the Sea road end of the prom, used to hire you a tray with cups etc, sand in egg butties or squishy tomato ones. I posted a pic of the train at Gwrych on the facebook site but I will post it here to see if we can get any more memories going. I just brought a copy of Ellis Wyns book and so looking forward to it arriving. Funny, now we’re older how the past memoris are so important. Where in Abergele did you live ?

  7. Delyth A MacRae:

    I noted last week that someone was looking for a picture of Lloyd Hughes with his bike outside Woolworths. I have the picture if the person would like to make contact.

  8. Alan Jones:

    The buoy that David remembers was actually a lightship which had broken free from its moorings in the Mersey Bar and I would put the date at 1959 or 1960. It ended up on the beach somewhere near Ty Crwn.

  9. David Hughes:

    Hi Alan, many thanks for your comments. I agree on the year, it must have been about that time. I can remember a boat type of vessel with a light on it but don’t think it was a full blown lightship. Ever since I posted my memory of it I have checked with Trinity house and the Mersey Harbour board to find out what it was. There is no record of the Bar Lightship breaking moorings and been washed up in North Wales. The Bar lightship at that time was the “Alarm”, and was one of four in Liverpool Bay. This was replaced in the early sixties by the “Planet”. This was then replaced by a Lanby Automatic Buoy in the early seventies and the “Planet” is currently in Liverpool, at the maritme museum. I believe what was washed up in 1960 was a sea lane navigational buoy, complete with light. I will add a new post with a picture to see if you agree with me.

  10. Eric Davies:

    The car in front of the loo is too big to be a mini, probably a Hillman. The vessel on the beach must be after 1958, I can vaguely remember seeing it when I came home on leave whilst in the Army. I lived in Peel Street went to the National School until 1950, then the Grammar School until 1955.

    1. melyn:

      Thanks for your comment Eric and welcome to the site. Hope you enjoy it.

  11. Mick Gilsenan:

    I have a copy of a sales brochure of various properties in Pensarn to be sold by Public Auction at the BEE Hotel May 23rd 1906.

    The Railway Hotel, LLoyds Cottage, Morton Cottage, Ty Coch, Cambrian House, Cambrian Hotel, Rhiannedd (No 6 Cambrian Terrace), Prince Arthur Cottage, (No 7). Inkerman Cottage. Are some.

    Also No 7 & 8 Station Street, Hope Cottage, Crown Cottage, Glossop Cottage, Newton Cottage.

    There is reference to Dwelling-House, Yard and Premises known as “Old White Lion”. Was this a pub in the area?

    I know this was a long time ago.

    Mick Gilsenan, Crewe.

    1. melyn:

      Thanks Mick. Does anyone know anything about Old White Lion, Pensarn?
      By the way, you can keep up to date with Abergele and Pensarn memories by Like-ing AbergelePost on Facebook.

  12. Nigel Hilton:

    Reading David’s & Brian’s postings above brought back a lot of childhood memories for me. I too recall the tank traps, especially those running parallel to the beach from the Sea Road bridge end towards Ty Crwn. Also the ‘dragon’s teeth’ as mentioned by Brian. I seem to recall there were the remains of a pill box on the bridge embankment at Sea Road with another one behind Beach House (where the footbridge now crosses the A55 near Hen Wrych), guarded by a pair of ‘dragon’s teeth’, one either side of the path on the beach side.
    I also recall the ‘lightship’ being washed up onto the beach, pretty much opposite to where the entrance to the small caravan site is nowadays (the site on the Pensarn side of Beach House). Like David, I too checked the records and came to the same conclusion as he did, that it was probably a navigational buoy or channel marker of some sort.
    I can also remember the beach huts which seemed to have their wheels buried in the sand & shingle for the most part. Before many years had passed, the huts were all gone though I can’t recall which year.
    Mention of the Salts at Gwrych Castle took me back to seeing all the motorcycles arrive at the castle, probably for one of the very early ‘Dragon Rallies’. My parents used to have a photo of me, sat on the boxer Randy Turpin’s knee, dating to the time when he trained there for his re-match against Sugar Ray Robinson in 1951. In later years, I used to help a friend feed & care for some of the animals in the small zoo at Gwrych. They were housed at night in a tower room, below where the Chamber of Horrors used to be. To get there, you descended a winding staircase past several gruesome exhibits – not for those of a nervous disposition, especially in the low-light conditions.
    Happy days.

  13. Noel Hughes:

    I am old enough to remember the tank traps very clearly and clearlt recall the two huge cranes arriving and making the trap which was at least 12 feet deep and probably 15 feet wide. It extended originally from Llanddulas all the way along our beach at Abergele and on towards Sandy Cove. For the whole length they brought in sufficient concrete blocks about 6 feet at the base and they app[eared quite large with space between them of one foot. Thern the barbed wire coiled and placed all along the beech. At that time as kids we had been making regular visits to swim but it now became almost impossible to gain access. We had a small jetty or pier at Abergele at this time which was blown up by a German mine which had been unleashed by a German submarine somewhere off our coast. I clearly remember seeing the steel lengths pointing crazily into the air after the explosion – unfortunately it was never repaired. This was at a time in our young lives that we developed a seige mentality – there were so many things going on like the tanks which were driven noisely through the town each morning followed some months later with dozens of bren carriers. I could go on in detail about lots of other things but I think I will stop there. If anyone wants to know more about wartime Abergele, please get in touch at noel430@btinternet.com

  14. David Hughes:

    Thank you Noel, what brilliant memories. I am very interested in what Abergele was like during the war. I was born a few years after it but as a child we were only too aware of what had happened.If you have any photo’s that would be great. Please, if you want you can carry on putting your memories on here. If you want me to publish anything for you please send to cdlhughes@hotmail.com

    Very best regards,


  15. Gareth Morlais:

    Great comment Noel. As David says, we welcome input to the site. Anyone who wants to take part can either do as David suggests, or I’ll happily set,up a contributors’ login to the site for you.

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