Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School

School History

Old School

from The Western Mail, 11th August 1893







The column on the left contains a transcript of the newspaper article about the Foundation Stone laying ceremony carried out by Lord Aberdare.

There was a long delay (see below) between the time the building was completed and its opening. During this period Lord Aberdare died. The opening ceremony (1896) was performed by Mr D.A. Thomas, MP and his wife, who officiated at the boys and girls departments respectively.

  The ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the new intermediate school at Aberdare was performed on Thursday afternoon by Lord Aberdare. The building, which is being constructed of stone, with Forest of Dean stone dressings, occupies a most advantageous position on land formerly belonging to the parish near the south gate of the public park. Accommodation is to be provided for 180 children—100 boys and 80 girls. The boys have four class-rooms, and there are three for the gentler sex, with a room to be devoted to the instruction in practical cookery. In the centre of the building there will be an assembly-room to accommodate all the pupils of the

The ‘foundation stone’ was set high on the central buttress of the school hall, facing Aberdare Park.
sketch of school  

A close up of the inscription on the stone.
The construction of the school building was well underway when the stone was officially laid on
Thursday, August 10th, 1893.

two departments, for lectures and other purposes, and it will be provided with a movable screen, so that it may be equally partitioned off at any time. There are rooms for the teaching staffs and detached from the main structure there is to be a laboratory, and workshop, space being retained for a gymnasium, to be furnished at some future period. The foundation stone is placed in the centre buttress of the assembly room, and it bears the following inscription: —“Laid by the Right Hon. Lord Aberdare, G.C.B., August 10, 1893.” The cost, of the building, including site and various incidentals is estimated to amount to upwards of £5,000 the greater part of which is to be contributed by the county council. The architect is Mr. J. H. Phillips, Cardiff, and Mr. David Jenkins, Swansea, is the contractor. Lord Aberdare, who was accompanied by Lady Aberdare, the Hon. E. F. Bruce, the Hon. Pamela Bruce, the Hon. Alice Bruce, and the Hon. Mrs. Russell, drove up from Duffryn in an open carriage, and when they reached Commercial-place they were met by the members of the committee and the subscribers, who escorted them to the site, the route to which was gaily decorated, the Gadlys district in particular being brilliant with bunting. His lordship and the other members of his party were enthusiastically received upon arrival upon the ground by an immense concourse of people who had gathered to witness the proceedings.—Mr. D. P. Davies, J.P., chairman of the committee, detailed the steps which had been locally taken in connection with the establishment of the school, and he referred at some length to the educational services rendered to the country by Lord Aberdare, than whom, he said, they could have found no one better to discharge the duty of laying the foundation stone.—The Rev. B. Evans, the secretary of the committee, read a list of newspapers, documents, and coins contained in a jar to be placed in a receptacle under the stone, and the jar was afterwards deposited in the cavity by Mr. B. Williams, the high-constable.—The Chairman of the Committee afterwards presented Lord Aberdare with a silver trowel and an ivory-handled mallet, the trowel bearing the following inscription: —“Presented to the Right Hon. Lord Aberdare, GCB, on laying the foundation-stone of the Aberdare Intermediate School, August 10. 1893.”—His lordship then laid the stone with all the skill of an expert operative amid hearty applause, and, his task well and truly accomplished, he addressed the crowd.


Henry Austin Bruce, (1815-1895), was created 1st Baron Aberdare of Duffryn in 1873. He enjoyed a long and distinguished career, and reached the position of Home Secretary, 1868 to 1873. Like many others of his family, he is buried in Aberffrwd Cemetery in Mountain Ash.

There is a short article on the architect J.H. Phillips in the History Section of this website.

The three Bruce women were all unmarried daughters of Lord Aberdare by his second wife Norah Creina Blanche Napier (c1827-1897). E.F. Bruce was Elizabeth Fox Bruce (1861-1935). Pamela Bruce was Pamela Georgiana Bruce born (1862-1931).
Alice Moore Bruce (1867-1951) was the youngest of all the children. She became an Honorary Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford; Vice-President of the GPDST; Member of Council of University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, and President of Council of Aberdare Hall, U.C.Cardiff. Hon. Mrs. Russell was probably Mrs. Isabel Ellen Russell (1860-1934), a married daughter, and sister of the above girls.

Commercial Place is known today as Victoria Square.



Mr D.P. Davies was a most influential person in the town at this time. He lived in Ynyslwyd House. many of the streets in Foundry Town are named after his children.



Well known in Aberdare and throughout Wales, the Revd. Benjamin Evans, (Telynfab), became the first Clerk to the Governors. He lived at 46, Gadlys Rd and was the Preacher at Gadlys Welsh Baptist Chapel, Railway St (just behind the school). He was secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society, and financial secretary of both the Welsh Baptist Union and the Sunday School Union. He died in August 1900.

We are not currently aware of what happened to the ‘time capsule’ jar when the school was demolished.

   The Noble Lord said that this was one of the most interesting occasions which had ever occurred since Aberdare bad been moulded into a parish. In congratulating them on the commencement of that very fine building he should like to avail himself of the opportunity of referring to the condition of education in Wales at this present moment. He would not trouble them by going over the well-beaten ground of what had been done for education since the passing of the Education Act of 1870, in which he was proud to have had a part. Their schools they knew, were excellent, well appointed, well provided in every respect. They also knew that of late years, for the benefit of those who were ambitious to learn and who had the means of continuing their education—a blessing, he was sorry to say, not granted to all children—they had the advanced elementary schools, which were doing much. They came now to the intermediate schools. The intermediate schools of this country up to this time had generally been of two sorts—one the old endowed schools, such as Swansea, where he had the honour of receiving his own education, and the other, such as Cowbridge, at which his father and his uncle received a portion of their education. (Hear, hear.) These had been about the only two schools at which a liberal education could be got. There had been, no doubt, scattered over the country a considerable number of private adventure schools, some of them, doubtless, good, but, generally speaking, there was— no guarantee given to the public that these schools were well managed and well conducted, and that their children were receiving the education they hoped for. Reference had been made to the inquiry instituted into the state of intermediate and higher education in Wales. Now, intermediate education could not be established without passing an Act of Parliament. Education was a subject upon which a great many men had their opinions, and years passed before an intermediate education scheme could be carried out. What the Government were able to do was to adopt the recommendation of the departmental committee which conducted that inquiry, and to found two colleges in addition to that of Aberystwith, which had existed before. Now let him call their attention to what had taken place in the last two years. When he and his other friends inquired into the state of higher education—not intermediate, but higher education—they found that the only college on a popular basis was the College of Aberystwith. At Aberystwith College, to which they owed so much on account of the zeal of those who were its first founders, and on account of the stimulus it gave to education throughout the country, there were at that moment only 57 scholars. Since then two other colleges had been founded —those at Cardiff and Bangor— and they bad now nearer 700 than 600 scholars at those institutions. (Hear, hear.) It was not to be expected that the working classes—and he doubted whether in the whole Empire there was a population in which the proportion of working men to the whole was so great as at Merthyr and Aberdare—it was not to be expected that they would at first he able to avail themselves of the advantages of those colleges. At that time they had no advanced elementary schools, and, as he had said just now, the number of intermediate schools was very small. He had taken out of an authentic report some figures which would interest them all, and be specially interesting to the labouring classes, who had received or were receiving education at these three colleges. Cardiff, with which they were most interested, was founded in October, 1883. The number of students who had been there had been 940, and out of those the number of the labouring classes had been 285. (Applause.) He thought they would agree with him that, considering the great disadvantages under which the labouring classes of those times prosecuted their studies, this was a moat satisfactory result—(hear, hear)—very nearly a third of the whole number belonging to the labouring classes. And some of the very, ablest men—some of the men most prominent now in the public eye, both at Oxford and in Wales —were men whose fathers were labouring men, and who, with an immense amount of energy and self-sacrifice, were enabled to obtain the best education that, first of all, Wales, and afterwards England, was able to give them. (Applause.) Next to Cardiff he would quote Bangor, Bangor was founded in 1884—the population of that part of Wales included men who were most eager for information—he meant the quarrymen of the slate quarries, who had always been prominent in everything connected with education and connected with good works of all sorts, and there the numbers had been 564, of which 142, or exactly one-fourth, belonged to the labouring classes, (Applause.) Now he came to the oldest of the institutions, which he believed, on account of its having been the first—on account of the sacrifice made by the people to found it—attracted the greatest amount of national interest in Wales, that was Aberystwith. Aberystwith had been at work twice the time of Cardiff and Bangor, which had done admirable work and turned oat some of the ablest students that Wales had produced, but the situation of Aberystwith was very peculiar, though nobody could say that they had not a most hearty desire to promote education among the working classes. It would a scandal if any such thing were said. He had not been able to obtain the proportion of the numbers of working men who had received their education at Aberystwith since its foundation twenty years ago, but the numbers were only twelve. Why was that? It was very interesting to see the cause. Cardiff had not only a very large population, containing a vast number of working men who were earning high wages, but it was surrounded by districts where the wages on the whole had been far higher than the average, and the result was that Cardiff led the way. The actual number of students at Aberystwith for the year 1892-93 was 232, and there were only twelve belonging to the labouring classes. Why was that? It was simply this, that they lived in a rural district. Aberystwith had no population except that of a bathing town, and the wages among the agricultural population was low, and the result was as they know, that the number of working class students was out of all proportion to those in the other colleges. With regard to this school at Aberdare the committee had £600 more than was absolutely required for the building, and that £600, and as much more as they could gather together, would be used in founding scholarships to help those who availed themselves of the benefits of the school. Nothing could be more remarkable than the sudden outburst of educational enthusiasm in Wales when they saw the prospect of having intermediate schools founded. In all Wales there would be no less than 90 of such schools, of which sixteen would be provided for Glamorganshire, including those already existing. Some of them might feel some doubt whether they had not gone too fast in this matter, but we had great faith in the desire of the Welsh people for better education where they were sure they were getting it and where they wore paying for a good thing. Intermediate schools wore so called because they stood half-way between the intermediate schools and the colleges. They were the schools in which people must be prepared for the colleges, and, not only that, but they were the schools in which people must be prepared to fill all the professions, to supply the intellectual leading of which every great country had need. Great as would be the advantages for the coming generation, he ventured to predict that infinitely greater would be the advantages for the future. He believed the work they were doing that day would have a blessed effect, not limited to their own time, but extending into the remotest future. He hoped that the fund for founding scholarships would receive the sympathy and support of the richer men among them. There was one matter which he had forgotten which was of the greatest interest. He had received that morning from Mr. Acland, who had taken so deep an interest in the educational progress of Wales, a paper containing the appointment of a large central educational committee and providing for its support, the object of which was to appoint from all Wales some 66 men, men representing all classes, who were to meet, either themselves or by their executive, four times a year to consider everything of interest in the intermediate schools, to provide for their examination, and to provide for their inspection. This would be of the greatest possible advantage. (Applause.)

  Upon the motion of Mr. R. H. Rhys, JP, seconded by the Rev. Aaron Davies, a cordial vote of thanks was passed to Lord Aberdare, and his lordship having replied the proceedings closed.


In 1880, Lord Aberdare was made chairman of a government appointed six-man committee charged with the task of inquiring into the state of intermediate and higher education in Wales, (intermediate being the term for what is now known as secondary education). In 1881, the ‘Aberdare Committee’ recommended that there should be two university colleges in Wales, one in the north and the other in the south, overlooking Aberystwyth that had already been established in 1872! They also recommended that Intermediate Schools should be set up throughout Wales, that is, a network of secondary schools. It took a further eight years of political negotiating before the Welsh Intermediate Education Act of 1889 passed successfully through Parliament. By 1893, the first Intermediate Schools were opened.



This carving of this date was to be found in the centre of the frieze and directly above the ‘foundation stone’. The frieze was of Forest Grey Sandstone and carried the original name of the school: “ABERDARE TECHNICAL AND INTERMEDIATE SCHOOLS”—the date was placed between the third and fourth words.

There is a long story to tell about why the building, which was commenced in 1893, and completed by July 1894, did not open until September 1896—almost three years later than the Caernarvonshire schools which opened in 1893.

To explain briefly: the Glamorgan Scheme for Intermediate Education was held up throughout the whole county due to a dispute between the Managers of the proposed Intermediate School in Gelligaer and the Joint Education Committee of the County Council. A school already existed in Gelligaer and it was planned that it would join the scheme. However, the legislation required that the existing school, (The Lewis’s Endowed School, Gelligaer), should forfeit its endowment, made by Edward Lewis in 1715, to Glamorgan for use in its county-wide scheme. Naturally, the Gelligaer Managers did not want to lose their own source of funding, nor did others want it to be included in a scheme of nonsectarian schools, so the introduction of Glamorgan’s Intermediate Schools was held up until the matter was concluded (1896) - ultimately in Glamorgan’s favour, after much time being spent on these matters in the Westminster Parliament. About seventeen of these existing Welsh endowed schools, such as the one at Cowbridge, elected to stay outside the scheme. By the turn of the century almost one hundred schools had opened; then some years later, others were added such as the one at Mountain Ash, and in 1913 four of the dual/mixed schools in Glamorgan split into separate schools for girls and boys, as occurred in Aberdare.


Sir Arthur Herbert Dyke Acland (1847 - 1926), MP for Rotherham and Vice President of the Council of Education in Gladstone’s Liberal government. He was one of the principal sponsors of the 1889 Welsh Intermediate Education Act.


Rees Hopkin Rhys, (‘blind Rees’), 1819-1899, of Plasnewydd, Llwydcoed, was one of the most influential men in the development of local government in Aberdare. He held many public positions in the town, including Chairman of the Local Board of Education, and later, the first Chairman of Aberdare Urban District Council when it was set up in 1895.

The Rev. Aaron Davies is almost certainly the Rev Henry Aeron Davies, minister of Moreia-Aman Congregationalist Chapel, Cwmaman, between 1875-1910. Mr. Davies was a native of a small village named Dihewyd on the slopes of the Aeron Valley in the neighbourhood of Neuadd-lwyd, Cardiganshire. He retired and moved to live at 10, Tudor Terrace and joined the church at Ebenezer, Trecynon. His funeral service was held at Bethel, Trecynon. (From the Obituary in The Aberdare Leader, 30 September 1922). Many thanks to D.L. Davies for communicating the information about HAD.