Little Venice Rhyl

Little Venice Rhyl

Now this will come as a surprise to many of you as it did to me, but if you spent any time in the welsh holiday town of Rhyl you may well remember the fun fair, sea front arcades and the beach. But did you know about the underground canal system known as Little Venice. No? Nor did I until someone mentioned it to me and I thought no way – I’ve been going there for forty years and have not heard about it.

So after a little research it turns out that Little Venice Rhyl really did and may still exist. It was a small system of canals under the Queens Palace hotel and ballroom built in 1902. Little Venice was one of its attractions along with the ballroom and a theatre and for a fee you could be taken by gondola around the subterranean river system. Little Venice Rhyl was an ornate affair of Victorian grandeur with sculpted archways, decorated ceilings and over 100 electric lights (in 1902 this was an attraction in its self).

Now there are many rumour’s surrounding Little Venice and I cannot confirm or deny them as the evidence has been lost by time. Many reports say that the system of canals were vast, extending far out from the grounds of the Queens Palace; but the plans for the canals do not hold this out to be true. There is also a rumour that a branch line of the system extended all the way out to Prestatyn a few miles along the coast. This apparently was for wealthy Victorian gentlemen to travel to the Queens Palace unseen accompanied by someone other than their wife – but again no evidence of this has come to light.

The main reason that the existence of Little Venice Rhyl had been forgotten is that it closed in 1907 after a fire and was never reopened. Reports from the time suggest that the fire started in the canal system and spread upwards. When the Queens Palace reopened Little Venice did not, we do not know the extent the fire damaged but it appears that the entrance was sealed over and forgotten about.

Today the Queens market stands on the site, the structure is still partially that of the old Queens Palace in fact my father remembers seeing part of the old ballroom only a few years ago. Apparently the stairs leading down to the cellars still exist but there are unsubstantiated reports that Little Venice was filled with concrete many years ago, there are also reports from people working at the Queens Market that it is still down there.

More than a few people have tried to have a look (asking for permission from the owners or just trying to sneak in) but to no avail so for the moment we don’t know if Little Venice Rhyl is still there but I for one would like to see it.