Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
The majority of artefacts found during demolition work at Rhyl’s historic Queen’s Buildings are beyond saving.
Denbighshire County Council’s leader, Cllr Hugh Evans, made the revelation as demolition experts take most of the building down ready for development.
Items being saved include sections of the old theatre and Queen’s Market ceilings, a complete section of the balustrade from the mezzanine, as well as a section from the former ballroom sprung floor.
Cllr Evans said: “We are working with contractors to save the few historical items that remain in the buildings, however since taking ownership it has become clear that most items are beyond repair.
“We respect the history of the Queen’s Buildings and we will continue to retain as much as we can throughout the development of this key catalyst project within the wider Rhyl regeneration programme.
“The buildings play a vital part in benefiting the economy throughout Denbighshire and I am glad the works allow it to continue as part of Rhyl’s future.”
Local historian Colin Jones said rumours of a “Little Venice” mythical underground waterway running under the site were unfounded – but there was a water-themed exhibition at the turn of the 20th-Century in the Queen’s Palace.
He said: “From my studies, I can confirm Little Venice was an exhibition in the basement of Queen’s Palace, which was based on a bigger exhibition in London, but there was nothing at a lower level such as an underground river.
“The Little Venice exhibition remained in the basement for two or three seasons and was then taken out and replaced by a miniature version of Constantinople (Istanbul) which was long gone before the fire in 1907.”
The initial three phase project to redevelop the Queen’s Buildings into a mixed residential, retail and night-time economy scheme was projected to cost £30 million.
By September last year the first phase alone was said to be 57 per cent over budget with costs spiralling to £11,734,571 – but they are now nearer £15m.
Denbighshire’s cabinet voted to plunge another £1.5m of public cash into the three-phased scheme last year – just to get the site demolished and asbestos removed.
The authority has asked Welsh Government for another £2.8m but even this looks like it won’t be enough to complete phase one now.
In a report sent to the authority’s corporate governance and audit committee, its own internal auditors gave the project a “low assurance” rating because of “procurement concerns” and what it called “the significant funding issue” surrounding the scheme.