The Boating Lake at the centre of Eirias Park was officially opened on June 6th, 1935 having been built at a cost of £7,000, and covering an area of about one and a quarter acres. It was designed by W. J. Dunning who was Engineer and Surveyor to Colwyn Bay Borough Council. Earlier on the same day Penmaenhead Viaduct had been officially opened.
Before an estimated audience of 300 people, the Mayor planted two oak trees in the park and officially opened the new boating lake. The trees, on the eastern and western sides of the boathouse, to commemorate the King’s Jubilee and the service given to the town by Alderman D. P. Evans, mainly as chairman of the Park Committee (westerly side of the boathouse).
The Mayor was shown around the lake by Alderman Evans and Park Supervisor J. E. Neal before tea was enjoyed in the park cafe.
The thatched wooden boathouse and the bandstand, of artificial stone to match local limestone, were also built in 1934, at the same time as the lake was constructed.
In Juy 1934 the Council’s Finance, Rating and Valuation Committee had borrowed £9, 203 for the construction of the boating lake, bandstand and terrace. The cost of the lake and buildings was £8,353 and the boats £850.
In April 1935 a tender of £171 and 17 shillings and 6 pence from Daniel Allen & Sons, Station Road, to provide 500 chairs for band concerts and other entertainment had been accepted.
The 50 year old thatched-roofed boathouse, and 40 boats, was destroyed by fire in August, 1984. The remains were demolished and replaced by the building seen today.
Between 1951 and 1956 the Eric Bramall Marionettes were a very popular attraction in the bandstand every summer season. The Eric Bramall Marionettes began in 1946, touring the variety theatres of Britain and Ireland. Having enjoyed successful summer seasons in his home town of Wallasey, performing in Vale Park and on New Brighton Pier, Eric Bramall brought his marionettes to Colwyn Bay.
The park shows were run by Eric and his Mother, Clara. There were two shows each day, an afternoon show and one in the evening at 7.30p.m., which were both usually very well attended. The puppet shows enjoyed during the 1950s can still be enjoyed at the Harlequin Puppet Theatre today. There were also some shows held at the Pier Pavilion Theatre. The Council employed local man Bob Haynes to sell tickets and act as front of house manager.
Eric Bramall’s touring stage was on the actual stage of the bandstand, while the dressing rooms behind became a puppet museum. After watching the show people could pay a little extra and have a backstage tour. Eric used to show them how the puppets were worked and then tell them a little about the history of puppetry, and the different kinds of puppets around the world.
For the 1957 season the Council changed the location available for the Marionette Show to Rhos Point, Rhos-on-Sea. This was not as popular a venue and the decision was eventually made to build a Puppet Theatre from scratch and the Harlequin Puppet Theatre opened on July 7th, 1958 on the grounds of Aberhod and is still entertaining children nd adults to this day.
More of the history of the Marionette Theatre in Eirias Park and the building of the Harlequin Puppet Theatre can be read here.
Before the puppets came to the Park Gypsy Petulengro had been at the bandstand.
During each summer season from the late 1950s into the early 1960s, the old bandstand was used as an Aquarium and Mini-Zoo run by Robert Jackson, the founder of the Welsh Mountain Zoo. In 1960 Robert Jackson was approached by Colwyn Bay Council with a suggestion that the Flagstaff Estate could be a site for a large permanent zoo. The Welsh Mountain Zoo opened in 1963 and the Eirias Park attraction remained open for a few years but eventually closed. The old bandstand could be considered the birthplace of the Welsh Mountain Zoo. The bandstand was later demolished.
“The bandstand by the lake was a miniature zoo run by Mr. Jackson. The main attraction was Cheetah, the chimpanzee”.
This trail is part of the Age Friendly Communities Project which is part funded by the European Regional Development fund through the Ireland and Wales Interregional Programme 2007 – 2013.