W. Charlton Cox, m.a.

Teacher 1897 – 1905
Head Master 1905 – 1937

WCC in 1906

W. Charlton Cox in 1906

W. Charlton Cox (1873–1937)

W. Charlton Cox was the longest serving headmaster of the school by a wide margin; he was at the school for forty years, thirty-two of them as headmaster, twice as long as the next longest serving incumbent. Consequently it was probably Mr. Cox who was most influential in forming the character of the school, guiding it from well before the First World War up to the period just before the Second. Indeed, he was appointed as a teacher at the school in 1897, just one term after it was established. By 1905, he was the senior assistant master to W. Jenkyn Thomas and succeeded him in 1905 at the age of 32. After serving the school for what transpired to be one half of its 82-year existence, Mr. Cox resigned at the age of 64 in January 1937, but by December of the same year, he had died.

Walter Charlton Cox was born in 1878 in Hackney, the son of Josiah and Caroline Cox whose home was in Ravensdale Road - now London N16. His father was a stockbroker, and a member of the London Stock Exchange. In 1887, the family moved to Great Crosby in Lancashire an area just to the north of Liverpool.

He was educated privately; firstly in Hackney and then at the Merchant Taylors’ School, Liverpool. He was also privately tutored in his teen-age years. By 1893, he had gained a B.A. in English and Classics and in July 1904, after he had started teaching, he had gained an external M.A. degree of the University of London.

Mr. Cox had three teaching posts before arriving at Aberdare in 1897: firstly at the Liverpool Institute, then in Bristol, and at Formby Grammar School, near Liverpool.

In 1901, he is listed as one of two boarders at the house of Mrs Catherine Williams at 3 Tanybryn Street, Foundry Town. Later, in the summer of 1902, he married May Daniel of Llwydcoed House. May was the daughter of David and Margaret Daniel, from Ystradgynlais and Aberdare respectively; her father is listed as an accountant and farmer in the 1901 census returns, and according to the Aberdare Leader, he was the Cashier at Abernant Colliery. May was 19 when she married the 29 year old county school master. Three years previously Mr. Cox would have been May’s teacher, as she attended the school from 1896 to 1899. The Cox’s had three boys who all attended the school: David Walter Charlton, born in 1905, Arthur Charlton born 1906 and Alfred George Charlton born in 1912. There was also a daughter Margaret, born in 1908, who would have been too old to attend her father’s school, since it became a single-sex boys’ school after 1913. Mrs Cox was a member of the Past Students Association and served on its committee for several years.

Mr Cox not only taught his main subjects of English and Classics but also lent his hand to both History and Mathematics. Indeed, as Mansel Davies comments in his contribution to the 75th Anniversary Brochure, "Mr Cox was prepared and capable of teaching Mathematics, Greek, Latin and several other subjects". Probably like many school Heads of his day, pupils regarded him as a rather intimidating person. Former pupil David Phelps (1931-1937), who later taught French and English at the school (1956-1979), commented: "..he put the fear of God into us. He towered over me, had piercing eyes and thick arched eyebrows".

  WCC when appointed

[Mr. W. Charlton Cox, M.A.]

The appointment of WCC as Headmaster was reported by The Aberdare Leader of Saturday, August 26th, 1905. Set out below is a transcript of the article and the photo on the right was used by the newspaper in the account.

You can see an image of the article in its original form by clicking here.


Aberdare County School.

The Headmastership
Forty-nine applications had been sent in for the post of headmaster of Aberdare County School, rendered vacant by the appointment of Mr Jenkyn Thomas, M.A., to the headmastership of the Grocers Company’s School in London. The names were submitted a few days ago to a meeting of the Governors, who appointed a small committee to reduce the number of applicants to four. The committee met last Thursday. Mr. D.P. Davies, J.P., in the chair. The other members present were Messrs David Hughes, C.C., John Howell, J.P., C.C., F.W. Mander, Griffith George, JP, R. Llewelyn, C.C., Mrs Walter Lloyd and Rev Thos. Jones, with Mr F.J. Caldicott, deputy clerk to the Governors. The four selected to appear before the Governors were Mr W.C. Cox, M.A., (Lond), the present senior assistant at the school; Mr T. Botting, BA, B.Sc., tutor at Bangor Training College; Mr F.P. Dodd, M.A., headmaster of Festiniog County School; and Mr H.H. Meylor, M.A. (Oxford), headmaster of Machynlleth County School.



The governors of the County School met on Tuesday afternoon to appoint a headmaster in place of Mr Jenkyn Thomas, M.A. The members present were Messrs D.P. Davies (chairman), John Howell, Rev Thomas Jones, L.N. Williams, E.T. Williams, Penrhiwceiber, Ald William Jones, Mountain Ash, Ald J.W. Evans, David Hughes, G. George, Rees Llewellyn, F.W. Mander, and T. Walter Williams, Mrs W. Lloyd, with Mr F.J. Caldicott (deputy clerk).

The Press were excluded from the meeting, but it has transpired that a very heated discussion took place, and that personalities were indulged in.

The candidates having been interviewed, the first round of voting was taken. Mr Cox and Mr Botting came out highest. In the final, Mr Cox obtained 8 votes, Mr Botting 3, two members remaining neutral.
The new head master has been a member of the Aberdare County School staff for nine years, having been appointed English master in December, 1896, very soon after the opening of the school. He is 31 years of age; a Londoner, and received his education at the Merchant Taylors Schools, Great Crosby, Liverpool, where he won a “Harrison” scholarship. While at this school he passed both the senior and the junior Oxford local examination. In the former he was placed 1st in Second Class Honours, and was excused responsions in both French and German; in the latter he was placed 11th in all England in First Class Honours.

His career as a teacher in Aberdare has been a most brilliant one. For the first four years he has been responsible for the work of the Honours form in English language and English literature, and during that period 18 pupils have obtained the Honours certificate in these subjects, and not a single failure has occurred, while six county exhibitions of £40 a year for three years have been won.
Recognising the importance of Welsh, Mr Cox has deemed it his duty to study that language, of which he now knows enough to read with comparative ease and to carry on conversation. . He is now engaged in writing a history for schools, the aim of which is to give especial prominence to Welsh history.

Some years ago, Mr Cox married a daughter of Mr Daniel, of Llwydcoed House, cashier at the Abernant Colliery. He was a nephew of the late Rev Samuel Cox, M.A., author of “Salvator Mundi,” and at one time editor of the “ Expositor ”. In religion he is a Presbyterian. The appointment is hailed with the greatest delight by the staff and students at the school.

wcc in 1922

In 1922, from the staff photograph









wcc in 1936

From the 1936 staff photograph,
not long before retirement

Click here to see Mr Cox’s application submission for the headship

Click here to see an account of Mr Cox’s marriage ceremony to May Daniel,
and here to see the list of their wedding presents

Click here for a transcript of The Aberdare Leader obituary of Mr. Cox
or here for an image of the article.

Main photograph from The Aberdarian; 1922 &1936 photographs reproduced with permission of Rhondda Cynon Tâf Library Service