Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School

Early Governors’ Minute Book

school building

Brief Extracts From The Governors’ Minute Book
1896 - 1913

Tuesday, 23rd June 1896

First meeting of the school governors held at the Town Hall.

Mr. D. P. Davies elected as chairman.

D. P. Davies Left, Ald. David Price Davies, J.P., Ynyslwyd. (d. 3/6/1921, aged 78). A relatively wealthy and most influential man in the town. Chairman of the Aberdare & Aberaman Consumers’ Gas Company. Member of Siloa. Streets in Foundry Town are named after his family.
Rev. Benjamin Evans
Clerk to the Governors
Benjamin Evans Rev. Benjamin Evans, (1844-1900), Baptist minister, known as “Bishop y Gadlys”, was the first Clerk to the Governors. Minister at Gadlys Baptist Chapel, Railway Street. (Pictured, left, in 1894.)
July 8th, 1896
Tender of John Morgan for £679 accepted for building of School House
July 21st, 1896
Resolved to advertise for post of headmaster at a salary of £150 with a capitation fee of £1 per pupil per annum up to 100 scholars plus School House free of taxes and rates from January 1897. Conditions very similar to other Intermediate School Heads.
August 12th, 1896
Four applications for the post of Headmaster received. Mr. T.L. Williams, B.A.,
Mr. Henry Price, BA, Mr. W. Jenkyn Thomas, M.A., Mr. J.R. Morgan, BA.
August 18th, 1896
W. Jenkyn Thomas appointed as headmaster with 9 votes.
Mr. T.L. Williams: 2 votes.
Tuition fees established at £4-10-0d per annum or £1-10-0d per term.

Books for school use to be free; for home use ¼ of the cost.
W Jenkyn Thomas W. Jenkyn Thomas pictured here in 1897. By present day standards, he was appointed at a young age. He was just 26 years old when he took up the post. There are further details of Mr Thomas in the Headmasters Section of the site.
August 27th, 1896
Resolved to advertise for the following posts with the salaries shown: Senior Mistress £130; Assistant Mistress £80; Senior Assistant Master £140; Second Master £120. Resolved that visiting teachers needed for mining, steam, Art, Cookery and Shorthand.
September, 10th, 1896
125 applications were received for the above posts: 19, 47, 31 and 28 respectively. Shortlists drawn up of 4,2,4 and 4 respectively. Miss Florence White, Miss Jennie Griffiths, Mr. J. Wallis Dodgson and Mr. E. Williams appointed.1
February 4th, 1897
Resolved that a workshop be built in the boys’ playground near the lavatories.2
February 12th, 1897
Fees set at 1 guinea per term of 13 weeks for pianoforte tuition.
November 30th, 1897
Motto ‘Goreu Llyw Dysg’ adopted.3
March 29th, 1898
£1546-4-3d collected by voluntary subscription for building of the school.4
June 22nd, 1898
Plans for the Physical Laboratory and gymnasium examined by governors.
August 29th, 1898
Tender for above from Morgan and Sons accepted: £589-2-5d
October 5th, 1898
Tariffs set as follows:
Dinner 6d
Cup of tea/coffee, milk, cocoa, lemonade - all 1d
Boiled egg 1d
Buns/cake 1d
Stewed fruit 1½d
November 1st, 1898
Clerk to apply for the sum of £700 to the Technical Education Committee for building the Physical Laboratory and gymnasium.5
March 7th, 1899 Lodging:
- pupils to inform school where they will lodge
- governors to examine proposed lodgings
- housekeeper shall report any infectious diseases
- curfews will be set at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. according to term.
May 10th, 1899 Headmaster authorised the purchase of a typewriter for tuition.
April 11th, 1900 Clerk to write to the Technical and Instruction Committee re. raising of tower in the new building a few feet and fixing clock in same.
June 9th, 1900 Design of tower and clock approved.
November 12th, 1900 Mr. D.A. Thomas thanked for generous gift of clock.6 D A Thomas David Alfred Thomas, (1856 – 1918), M.A. (Cantab.), (Lord Rhondda, from 1916), M.P. for Merthyr and Aberdare 1888 - 1910. The fifteenth child of 17 that his father had by his second wife, at Ysguborwen House, Aberdare. From 1887, he lived at Llanwern House, Newport.
November 26th, 1900 John Howell proposed that a striking clock be obtained for the school tower, seconded by Mr. L.N. Williams.7 L N Williams Lewis Noah Williams (Caecoed, Graig Street). Son of William Williams, (Carw Coch), who in 1837 opened the Stag Inn, Harriet Street. Lewis entered into partnership with Evan Thomas of the Cambrian Lampworks. Mr Williams served as chairman of governors 1913-1915. He died in February 1919.
December 3rd, 1900 £104 for clock and fixing of same.
December 9th, 1900 Messrs. Smith & Sons estimate be accepted at £104. The clock be fitted in the tower to the satisfaction of Mr. W.J.H. Phillips architect8, Cardiff and that same was to be ready in 6 weeks from date.

5 gross of school caps ordered.
May 13th, 1901 Messrs. John Smith & Son’s bill for the clock was referred to Mr. Kenshole9 with a view of asking him to forward same to Mr. D.A. Thomas, M.P. Charles Kenshole This is a photograph of Charles Kenshole.
There were five Kenshole brothers; the school governor was Charles Kenshole.
June 10th, 1901 Subcommittee set up "to see laying out and marking of croquet lawn".
It was resolved that a tablet be placed under the clock recording the fact that
D.A. Thomas, Esq., M.P. had presented the clock to the school.
(This tablet is still in place and can be seen from the lower gates - September 2006)
July 1st, 1901 Following a previous discussion about the inadequacy of fires, it was resolved that architect complete specification and estimate after the suggestion that radiators be provided.
August 22nd, 1901 Architect attends to explain plans for proposed Engineering Shop and Chemical Laboratory.
October 14th, 1901 £12 paid to Gadlys Baptist Chapel10 for use of school room for dining.
March 10th, 1902 Tender accepted at 6d per sq. yd. for laying out of croquet lawn.
December 19th, 1902 Mr. Phillips asked to prepare complete plans for Engineering Shop
May 10th, 1903 Headmaster mentions the question of holding School Sports.11
Lawn is ready for playing of tennis. Roller and Mowing machine to be purchased.
1/= fee for tennis club, Form 4 upwards.
September 10th, 1903 Lloyds Bank asked to explain their charge of £4-8-0d for engraving and supplying the school’s cheque book.
Consideration of letter from Mr Smith of Derby saying price of cleaning clock every alternate summer was £3. Clerk to write for their yearly charge.
February 1st, 1904 Writing to John Smith for abatement of their sum of £4-14-0d for attendance and cleaning of clock.
March 7th, 1904 Rev. J. Jones will obtain maintenance and cleaning estimate from Messrs. Spridon of Barry.
July 18th, 1905 Headmaster resignation pending. New headmaster, salary to be £150, £1 capitation and School House but be responsible for rates and taxes.
Advertisement for new headmaster to be placed in:
Journal of Education
Western Mail and South Wales Daily News
3 adverts in each of the local papers.
August 17th, 1905 Shortlist of 4 drawn up from 49 applications: W.C. Cox12, and 4 other candidates from North Wales. W Charlton Cox Walter Charlton Cox, M.A. (London). Appointed initially to the school in 1897. Was Head Master from September 1905 until the last day of December, 1936.
He died on 17th December 1937, aged 64.
August 22nd, 1905 Voting on new headmaster post:1st ballot - Cox 9 votes, J. Botting 4 votes, J.P. Dodd 3 votes, H.N. Neylor 2 votes.
2nd ballot - Mr Cox 8 votes, Mr Botting 3 votes, 2 governors abstained. (The Aberdare Leader reported that this was a very heated meeting and the two governors mentioned above actually walked out of the meeting).
May 23rd, 1906 County Council inform school that it had applied for amendment so that separate Boys and Girls County Schools be set up13. The Governors strongly object to the proposed division of the school into two departments.
October 1st, 1906 Resolve to hire Bethel or Carmel Vestry14 for the instruction of Pupil Teachers.15
December 8th, 1906 Mr. Owen Owen, Chief Inspector, C.W.B.,16 notifies governors that the Board of Education was unable to recognise the school under Secondary Schools Regulations for the current year owing to overcrowding.
February 4th, 1907 Governors proceed to obtain a suitable site for the erection of the Girls’ School.
October 10th, 1907 County Council Education Committee approved provision of a Girls’ School for 175 girls.
February 10th, 1908 Governors view possible site for Girls’ School:
1) Abernant Park
2) Dr. Jones Field
3) Capt. Roberts Field
March 20th, 1908 Sir W.T. Lewis17 recommends to the Marquis of Bute to sell for £1000 two acres of land on East side of Cwmbach Road (3 acres by April 1908). Lord Merthyr Later became Lord Merthyr, very powerful figure in South Wales Industrial Circles.
February 7th, 1908 Fencing of a playing field at Robertstown discussed.
February 15th, 1909 Rent for Robertstown Field to be £18/annum
May 3rd, 1909 Field should be leased
February 7th, 1910 Rent for Robertstown field raised to £25/annum
March 10th, 1913 Governors meet to determine salary of Headmistress as £230.
May 5th, 1913 8 candidates are shortlisted for the post of headmistress.
Miss Margaret S. Cook, M.A.,18 appointed.
Miss Margaret Cook Miss Margaret Cook

The editors acknowledge the help of the Glamorgan Record Office, and the papers of Mr. O.J. Timothy, in compiling this extract.
Photographs reproduced with permission of Rhondda Cynon Tâf Library Service

  1. All these staff are pictured in the 1897 official school photograph of the Girls’ Department on this site.
  2. It is not clear that the lavatories referred to here are those which were in use when the school closed in 1964. The main building at the top of the yard opened as the Mining Laboratory, not workshop, and is dated 1914. Photographs taken in the twenties show a tall chimney stack in light coloured brick constructed in this area. We understand that this chimney was needed for procedures that were carried out in the mining lab. After the closure of this lab and the demolition of the stack, it eventually became the biology laboratory. The workshop referred to in the minutes may have been the woodwork room of the later period.
  3. But the motto, with this early spelling, had already appeared on the front cover of the First Annual Report, delivered at the school on Nov. 3rd, 1897.
  4. See the "Statement of Accounts" and "Balance Sheet" in the history section of this site.
  5. The Physics laboratory and Gymnasium were adjacent buildings although the latter had a lower floor level compared to the laboratory. The committee referred to was probably a subcommittee of the County Council.
  6. David Alfred Thomas, (1856-1918), first viscount Rhondda, was the son of Samuel Thomas (1800-1879), a shopkeeper at Merthyr Tydfil. He afterwards (c. 1842) turned to prospecting for coal. Samuel married his second wife, Rachel, daughter of Morgan Joseph, a mining engineer of Merthyr Tydfil, and by her had seventeen children, of whom D. A. Thomas was the fifteenth, b. 26 March 1856 at Ysgubor Wen, Aberdare, where Samuel Thomas and his brother-in-law, Thomas Joseph, had in 1849 opened a colliery. D.A. Thomas was educated in Bristol and then Cambridge. He returned to Wales to study mining engineering but soon became heavily involved in politics at local and national levels. However, he was not offered a ministerial post and consequently, after 1906, put all his energies into the Cambrian Collieries where he became very powerful and successful. Outside the coalfield, he will be chiefly remembered for his very effective administration of Great Britain’s food supply in the First World War under David Lloyd George.
  7. Lewis Noah Williams was an industrialist who is best known for his partnership with Evan Thomas, in the manufacturing company E. Thomas & Williams - Cambrian Lampworks which for 101 years had its premises in Graig Street, off Monk Street. L.N. Williams was an active local politician who lived at Caecoed, Graig Street. He contributed much to Highland Place Unitarian Church.
  8. Some of the Intermediate Schools opened in temporary pre-existing accommodation, but many of them benefited from a new building.
    As well as being the architect for the Aberdare School, Mr. J.H. Phillips was also commissioned for several others, including Bangor Girls and, later in 1913, Aberdare Girls. The appointment of the architect for the Aberdare Intermediate School resulted from a competition. There were hundreds of such competitions in the Victorian period, and in Aberdare the architects for The Market Hall and The Constitutional Club were appointed in this way. These latter competitions were advertised in 1852 and 1891 respectively with the architects, Lewis (Aberdare), and James Crombie (London) being the winners.
    The following list* gives the date of the announcement of several school building competitions, the name of the school, the volume of The Builder** magazine in which the competition was advertised, and the winning architect:

    1891 Port Talbot Intermediate Schools, The Builder Vol. LXI p.273, p.354, T.P. Martin
    1891 Ystalyfera Intermediate School, The Builder Vol. LX1 p.79, Buckley Wilson & Glendenning Mexham (Swansea)
    1892 Aberdare Intermediate and Technical School, The Builder Vol. LXIII p.39, J.H. Phillips (Cardiff)
    1894 Llandovery Intermediate and Technical School, The Builder Vol. LXVI p.33, J.H. Phillips (Cardiff)
    1895 County School for Girls, Bangor,The Builder Vol. LXIX p.360, J.H. Phillips (Cardiff)
    1895 Llanelly Intermediate and Technical School, The Builder Vol. LXIX p.282, W.H. Dashwood Caple (Cardiff)
    1895 Pembroke Intermediate School, The Builder Vol. LXIX p.139, p. 315, D. Jenkins
    1895-6 Welshpool Intermediate School, The Builder Vol. LXIX p.461, Vol. LXX p. 141, F.H. Shayler (Welshpool)
    1896 Aberayron Intermediate School, The Builder Vol. LXXI p.491, Ll. Bankes Price (Lampeter)
    1896 Board School, Penarth, The Builder Vol. LX p.278, J.H. Phillips (Cardiff)
    1896 Llandrindod Wells Intermediate School, The Builder Vol. LXX p.426, H. Teather (Cardiff)
    1896 Llanidloes Intermediate School, The Builder Vol. LXX p.361, H. Teather (Cardiff)
    1896 Llandyssul Intermediate School, The Builder Vol. LXX p.515, J.H. Phillips (Cardiff)
    1897 Technical Institute, Tonbridge, The Builder Vol. LXXIII p.71, J.H. Phillips (Cardiff)
    1898 Wrexham County School, The Builder Vol. LXXV p.508, J.H. Phillips (Cardiff)
    1899 Wrexham Intermediate School, The Builder Vol. LXXVI p.16, J.H. Phillips (Cardiff)

    *from Victorian Architectural Competitions: 1843-1900, R.H. Harper, Mansell Publishing Ltd, ISBN 0 7201 1685 6.
    ** Larger Public Libraries hold copies of this well-known publication. They are bound into two large volumes for each year.

    The Gadlys School, Aberdare, now the Girls Comprehensive School, was built as The Higher Standard Schools, 1905-07, by the local architect Thomas Roderick.
  9. This was Charles Kenshole (13 April 1854 - 30 October 1926) a local solicitor. One of nine children whose family lived at 1 Park Villas, Trecynon. Charles Kenshole is best remembered for his purchase and presentation to the Aberdare Hospital of the whole of Abernant Park to the south of the land that it already owned in Abernant. A ward at the hospital was named in his memory and currently, 2008, there is The Kenshole Children’s Centre which is named after him.
  10. See also note 14. We have a recent picture of the chapel, click here. Also see Alan Vernon Jones’ tour-de-force, Capeli Cwm Cynon, for full details of this chapel and the other 179 in the valley! (Chapels of the Cynon Valley - Capeli Cwm Cynon, by Alan Vernon Jones, Cynon Valley History Society, 2004. ISBN: 0 9531076 1 2).
  11. There is a picture of an early sports day in 1911 here.
  12. Walter Charlton Cox, M.A., was Head Master from 1905 until 1937 but was appointed to a lesser position on the staff from January 11th, 1897. He was a Londoner, schooled in London and Liverpool, obtaining his degrees from the University of London. The 1901 census lists him as one of two boarders at 3, Tanybryn Street. No doubt, he moved to School House in 1905.
  13. W. Jenkyn Thomas may have heard of this a year earlier, and prompted his decision to resign. However, another frustration that may have caused his resignation was the constant battle for extra accommodation at the overcrowded school. Also, his wife was a Londoner who may have wished to return home.
  14. Bethel (Welsh Cong., demolished 2003) was at the top of Tudor Terrace, it was in use by the school certainly up to the 1960s. There were two Carmel chapels in Trecynon. The nearest to the school was Carmel in Hirwaun Road (Calvinistic Methodist, demolished 1989); it was behind the school, over the road from the Gym; it was certainly used when the school’s numbers were increased by the arrival of evacuees from Ilford during the second World War. It was also for Carol Services during the 1970s.
  15. In 1846 the Pupil Teacher System was introduced. Pupil teachers were appointed for a five year period at the age of 13. They were paid small annual salaries if their performance was satisfactory. If they completed their term successfully they could go on to college to qualify as certificated teachers.
  16. The Central Welsh Board, (C.W.B.), was set up in 1896 and consisted of 80 members, it had the responsibility of overseeing the Welsh Intermediate Schools by means of an annual examination and inspection. Owen Owen, headmaster of Oswestry High School became the first Chief Inspector of the Board. (Owen M. Edwards was some ten years later appointed Chief Inspector of Education for Wales, but this was at the newly created Welsh Department of the Board of Education not at the C.W.B. His first visit to the school was in 1908.) Up until 1950, pupils in Wales sat their C.W.B. School Certificate at around the age of 16, and if they continued for a further two years, their Higher School Certificate at around 18 years of age. In the early days the C.W.B. also set a Junior School Certificate examination, and for pupils one year on from their School Certificate, a Supplementary examination in specific single subjects.
  17. Sir William Thomas Lewis, (1837-1914), first Baron Merthyr of Senghenydd, coal magnate; born 5 Aug. 1837. He was assistant-engineer in the service of the Bute estate, and in 1864 mineral agent to that estate. He married Anne Rees whose father owned the Llety-Shenkin colliery in Cwmbach. Lewis managed the Bute pits in Treherbert and later took over a pit in the lower Rhondda that became known as the Lewis Merthyr. He was instrumental in the development of Cardiff Docks and helped set up the South Wales and Monmouthshire Coalowners Association originally from a grouping of coal-owners in Aberdare. He was knighted in 1885, made a baronet in 1896, and raised to the peerage in 1911. He lived at The Mardy, currently the site of The Beeches Care Home Bethuel Street, and his statue stands in Aberdare Park opposite the school clocktower. He had two sons and six daughters, one of whom married C.A.H. Green, D.D. (1864-1944), who served as curate and subsequently (1893-1914) vicar of Aberdare, and who in 1934 was elected Archbishop of Wales.
    Herbert Clark Lewis (1866-1932), son of W.T., the second Baron Merthyr, donated funds to the school to support scholarships. H.C.L. lived in Hean Castle, Saundersfoot; in 1916, he purchased The Hill, Abergavenny for his three unmarried sisters, Anne, Lillian (d. 1964), and Gwendoline (d. 1947). The 4th Baron Merthyr, Trevor Oswin Lewis, (b. 1935) disclaimed the peerage for life on April 26, 1977.
  18. Miss Cook was the first headmistress of the Girls Intermediate School. She was appointed at the age of 35 and stayed at the school until April 28th, 1942; a period of almost 30 years. She was educated at Wallace Hall Academy, and Edinburgh University, M.A. (1899). She also had the L.L.A. qualification, (Ladies Literate in Arts) from St. Andrews (1898).

Significant dates prior to the formation of the Governing Body
December 12th, 1889: The Joint Education Committee receives request that an Intermediate School be set up in Aberdare.
April 12th, 1890: 1500 colliers meet in the Market Hall and resolve the necessity of establishing an Intermediate School in the town.
November 22nd, 1890: Sir H. Hussey Vivian, M.P. President of the Joint Committee of the County Council states that Aberdare had been selected as a district to which one of the Intermediate Schools is to be allotted.
December 29th, 1890: The District Committee meets at Saron Hall, Aberaman and approves a site near Aberdare Park.
June 11th, 1892: The locations of the 13 Intermediate Schools to be built in Glamorgan are published in The Aberdare Times.
August 18th, 1893: Foundation Stone laid. Mr Phillips of Cardiff is the architect and Mr David Jenkins of Swansea is the builder.