Bench 3 isn’t far from Bench 2. You cross Berwyn Street, scoot up the little cut-through between the m’Eating Point cafe and Stan’s shop/petrol station, and there you’ll find Hall Street. Turn left, and the bench is about fifty yards away on the left hand side. It’s opposite the small car park and a chapel, and is on the pavement, butted up to a cottage.
I like this bench. It feels unofficial. Maybe part of an assertion of private space onto the public land of the footpath. See how it’s padlocked to the wall? Note the base plate for a bit of shade? The planters on the far side of the door? This is a garden as much as a bit of public seating. operating in a strange hinterland between the collective and the individual.
It makes you wonder what this signifies. Is it an act of generosity on the part of the flat-dwellers? Somewhere for the weary, the lazy and/or the curious to park up for a moment, provided out of charity? Or is this a little bit of robber baron activity, an attempt to annex the commonwealth by private claim-jumpers?
It’s an odd little bench, that’s for sure. Spacious enough for two; three would be a push. Perhaps made of MDF. I don’t know much about these things. Maybe someone moved into the flat with a bench that was surplus to needs – a remnant from an old garden – and this was the best that they could come up with. It was this or the skip.
Anyway. I’m glad that it’s here, not least because it gives a new perspective on the town. I like it because it’s tucked away; there’s no obvious public utility being served here. And I like it because the view’s not great; no-one looked out and thought that this was a spot that needed commemoration. That one day, the coach parties would come, and that they would assemble at this place and behold the majesty of the vista.
To the right, a car park. Space for a couple of dozen cars. Sometimes you’ll find a camper van parked up overnight. To the right, an old chapel. The Rehoboth chapel; an imposing building, silent since the early 1980s, when its congregation merged – with others – to the Seion chapel mentioned at the Bench 2 location. A whizz around the internet indicates that the chapel’s been a couple of things since, most notably a furniture store (a common-enough use for these sorts of buildings once the faithful have moved on) but that today it remains shut. There’s evidence of post still being delivered.
If you continue on past the bench, Hall Street opens up into what was called Victoria Square. An awkward open space that’s now a junction shaped like a capital K lying on its back.
Looking up the meaning of “Rehoboth” offers a few hints. The term pops up three times in the Old Testament, each in different usages:
- a well dug by Isaac, the name meaning “open space”
- the city from which Saul came from
- a town perhaps near Ninevah; the word “Rehoboth” is linked etymologically to a Hebrew phrase meaning “public place” or “public square”.
It’s maybe not such a huge jump to get from Victoria Square to Rehoboth if we take the latter definition into consideration.
Here’s a thing. The chapel was first built in 1838, then enlarged in 1872; a school opened up in 1846 linked to the chapel – though not on-site; we’ll get to that another day, I’d have thought – that offered non-Church of England British School education. The story goes that one of the pupils, a Mary Hughes, had a pet lamb that would follow her everywhere, including here. The nursery rhyme “Mary Had A Little Lamb” is claimed to have originated here.
The building that the bench is padlocked to has an interesting history. It – like the chapel and some other surrounding buildings – is Grade II listed, in part because of the conjunction of these different constructions together. It was at one point the Town Hall, Llangollen’s prison, the police station, town’s armoury, and some other stuff too. There’s signage indicating that recently this has been open as a museum called The Old Lock-Up, but that seems to have gone the way of all things too. There might be an office inside; there’s some indication that there’s a canal-based charity operating out of here. I like the uncertainty of it. The not knowing. Anyway, there’s a plaque summarising some of the history.
This was once the centre of the town, in other words. Not so much anymore.
The chapel’s dark. The armoury building is quiet. What was a bank – on the right, by the pillar box – is now now separate small business units. A former pub – The Grapes – now flats. There’s an Indian restaurant, a vegan-friendly eatery (on the left – just), a B&B that might be on the pricey side for some. Perhaps best of all, though out of shot, there’s Watkin & Williams, an ironmongery/DIY shop of the old school. Even so, you’d never know that there was somewhere for a sit down tucked around the corner. It pays to have a look.