The Rhyl Winter Gardens and Aquarium were built by architect Owen Edwards on a 35 acre site which ran from the sea front to Wellington Road. The Gardens opened in 1876 and there were summer and winter gardens, concert hall, art gallery, bowling green, croquet lawn, indoor roller skating rink, amusements and seven acres of gardens. The large main building was 150 feet long and 120 feet wide cost £35,000. Indoor and outdoor exhibitions took place on the site, also cricket, football, hockey and tennis. There was a switchback railway, a seal pond and a monkey house.
The first bicycle racing at Rhyl was on August 15th 1881, there were races on The Parade (LL18 3AL) at sea front, and both the 1,000 and 2,000 yard races were won by RE Owen of Carnarvon.
The Winter Gardens were taken over by Mr Berrington in 1881, who was an advocate of cycling and started to organise bicycle races on a grass track at the Gardens. A bicycle club, called Rhyl XL Bicycle Club* was formed in 1879 and they promoted racing in the town.
The first race at Rhyl Winter Gardens was on September 1st 1881 when Mr Berrington ran a one scratch race won by T Campling of Denbigh and a 1,000 yards handicap won easily by RE Owen. The entertainment after the racing was by a mesmerist, a ballad singer and a comic vocalist, followed by a grand firework display. Rhyl Autumn Athletic Sports were first held at the Gardens on 11th September 1882 and these included bicycle races.
The Rhyl Autumn Athletic Sports became the main cycling attraction at the Gardens, generally featuring one and two miles open handicap races and a mile tricycle race, there was usually a good crowd of spectators. Bicycle racing at the Gardens continued through the 1880s.
Rhyl Cycling Club hosted a bicycle meet at the Gardens on May 21st 1888 when cyclists rode in procession from the Royal Hotel to the Winter Gardens. Rhyl CC had 14 members riding and there were cyclist from Wrexham, Bangor, Egremont, Wolverhampton, Liverpool and Wallasey. This was followed by an inter-club race meeting with a one mile handicap race, won by WH Pingeon, the Rhyl CC club captain, a half mile open tricycle race. The fixture was repeated the following year and it was reported that the grass track had been enlarged. There were several other races organised by Rhyl Cycling Club through to the early 1890s.
A Jubilee sports meeting was held in the town on June 22nd 1897 at East Parade (LL18 3AL), there were barricades on either side of the Parade and thousands watched the sports. The bicycle races were a half mile ladies handicap and a two miles open handicap novice boys race.
A May Day carnival 2nd May 1898 organised by London and NW Railway held at the Gardens, which included bicycle handicap races over half a mile for ladies and one mile for gentlemen. This was probably the last bicycle racing at Rhyl Winter Gardens.
There was a one mile cycle race at Rhyl Football Club's first annual sports, which were held at the Belle Vue Athletic Ground (LL18 4BY) on May 19th 1902. There does not seem to have been any further track race meetings at the football ground after this, or anywhere in Rhyl.
The Gardens were never financially successful and the Winter Gardens changed its name to Rhyl Palace and Summer Gardens and then the Old Gardens. Eventually the site was sold around 1890 and the Palace Hotel was built on the site, together with a residential development. The hotel declined over the decades until it was bought by a developer around 2006 who built luxury apartments.
* There was an XL cycle store in Rhyl, next to the station, around this time, who hired tricycle and bicycles and were an agent for Kangaroo bicycles.