Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School

Certificate Ceremonies

school building

Newspaper Report of 1922 Joint-School Certificate Ceremony

This is a report from The Aberdare Leader of April 8th, 1922, of the joint Certificate Ceremony of The Boys County School and The Girls County School. The headmaster was Walter Charlton Cox, at this time 18 years into his long reign of 32 years as head. The headmistress was Miss Margaret Cook, in the tenth year of her 29 years as head. The Girls’ School opened in 1913 after a split from the Trecynon school, where the girls and boys had been together since 1896 when state secondary education began in Aberdare. In the years leading up to 1913, the Governors had wished to increase the size of the Trecynon buildings so that the rapidly rising number of girls and boys could be accommodated in a single school. Consequently, plans were drawn up by the original school architect to almost double the size of the buildings by adding a second storey. However, the policy of the County Council at that time was to require single-sex secondary schools in towns where the pupil numbers were sufficient for two separate schools to be viable. It was clear from about 1910 that the population of Aberdare would require more secondary places than the 400 available in the Trecynon buildings.

The principal guest at the ceremony was Sir Thomas Mansel Franklen who was Clerk of the Glamorgan County Council. Born at Swansea in 1840, he was educated at Harrow and Oxford, called to the Bar in 1865, and practised on the South Wales circuit. He became Clerk of the GCC in 1889, and was knighted in 1921. Sir Thomas was descended on his father’s side from an eighteenth century landowning family from the Vale of Glamorgan; his mother was Isabella Catherine Talbot, of Penrice Castle and Margam. Sir Thomas was a keen photographer — his photographs of historic buildings are kept at the National Museum of Wales. He died in 1928 whilst still in office.



On Thursday afternoon at the Empire Theatre1, Aberdare, the annual distribution of prizes and certificates took place. Councillor E. Stonelake2 presided over a crowded audience, and was supported on the platform by Sir Thomas and Lady Mansel Franklen, Mr. W. Charlton Cox, M.A. (headmaster), Miss Margaret S. Cook, M.A. (headmistress), Mr. Illtyd Williams3 (High Constable) and Mrs. Williams, Mr. and Mrs. T. Botting4, Mrs. Evan Williams, Mrs. Cox, Mrs. John Griffiths, Councillor W.M. Llewellyn5, M.E., Councillor Mrs. Rose Davies6, J.P., and Councillor Tom Lewis. The proceedings commenced with the singing of “Hen wlad fy nhadau” by the audience, accompanied on the piano by Miss Alice S. Williams, L.R.A.M. The Chairman expressed much pleasure at seeing such a large gathering. He would not attempt any address on education, surrounded as he was by such a formidable body of educational experts. He was sure that he was speaking to people who were not only interested in education, but who were making sacrifices for their children.

In the course of her remarks Miss Cook said:—“Our examination results were very good. A specially gratifying feature of the success of the school was the satisfactory nature of the certificates obtained, the certificate marking the merest stage above failure being conspicuous by its absence. Three pupils were presented for the higher examination in science. All passed, two with distinction in zoology, and one with supplementary physics. To Catherine Mary Griffiths who obtained the highest aggregate of marks in the subjects taken, was awarded the Mrs. D.R. Llewellyn Scholarship. Another of the three, Blodwen Fox, obtained an open scholarship at Aberystwyth. All four of these pupils are now students at the Universities, two at Cardiff, one at Aberystwyth, and one in London. Three intend to take honours in science, and one is studying medicine. This is the largest number we have so far sent on to the University in any one year. Two forms were presented for Senior Certificate. One of these forms had less prospect of success than the other. One pupil, Enid Williams, 16 years of age, passed the Senior C.W.B.7 with distinction in English, French, mathematics and botany, and also obtained her London matriculation certificate. A past student, Miss Huldah Bassett8, graduated at Cardiff with honours in Welsh.

After referring to Sports Day and the performance of “As you like it,” Miss Cook proceeded:—“That is the report of the work of the school for the year 1920–21, but I should like to say one word about the present and one about the future. My first deals with the question of pocket money for school girls. I find, in spite of the great distress that has existed and still exists to a certain extent in Aberdare, that girls spend money very freely on sweets. Many have ridiculously large sums weekly as pocket money, and this is a great temptation to those who have either none or very little. The desire to spend as much as one’s neighbour is not unknown amongst grown-ups, so it need not cause wonder that it is strong amongst children. I desire earnestly to ask parents to allow only a very modest weekly amount of pocket money (I suggest 6d. as a maximum). If any large sum is allowed, it should be accompanied by conditions such as that hair ribbons, gloves, etc., should be provided out of it. My word about the future is this. Very probably for some years to come, public expenditure on education will be greatly limited. This will affect the schools and the parents. In Aberdare there are few openings for girls. Practically all our pupils pass into the elementary schools, and after two years college training, return here permanently. This ideal state of affairs (from the point of view of parents) may not last. But I should like parents to realise that even if their daughters may have to go further afield to find posts, nevertheless I can think of no other employment for their girls that will so well re-pay the outlay on their education and at the same time enable them to take their place in the world as good citizens, doing a good work for the State. I hope that the enthusiasm for education that Aberdare parents have shown in the past will outlast the difficult years that I fear are ahead of us.”

Mr. W. Charlton Cox said he would cover all the essential points in his report. He thought that girls grew faster than boys, so it was in the schools, but they were catching them up very quickly. The Central Welsh Board’s standard for chemistry and physics was too high and too severe last year. J.W. Morgan9 had won a Welsh scholarship at Jesus College, Oxford, in January last year, and in July he was awarded a further examination scholarship of £60 a year. He was the first boy to go direct to one of the older universities. (Applause). He Mr Cox hoped that Welsh boys would not stick to Welsh Colleges, but go further afield to acquire more experience. T.O. Phillips won the Rees Llewellyn10 scholarship, and an entrance scholarship to Hereford Cathedral School had been awarded to Arthur Cox11. One of their old boys, Austin Lewis, gained his M.A. degree this year. Idris Jones, Penderyn, had also graduated with double honours. John Victor Evans12, late of Cwmdare, was an old student of the Aberdare School, and was at the present time president of the Oxford Union. (Applause). Mr Cox urged upon those boys likely to leave school this summer, to join the Past Students’ Society. He was glad to say that the engineering laboratory was completed last summer, and he hoped to get a course of study with engineering combined. On behalf of the staff and himself, he thanked the Governors for their continued kindness during the past year. (Applause).

Following Mr. Cox’s report, the distribution of certificates & prizes was gracefully performed by Lady Mansel Franklen13, and Sir T.M. Franklen delivered an address.

In moving a hearty vote of thanks to Sir Thomas and Lady Mansel Franklen, Mrs Rose Davies said they all knew what a busy life Sir Thomas led and what devotion he put in his work. She wished them both many more years of happiness.

The High Constable said he regarded it as a privilege to second the vote. The students and their parents, continued the High Constable, appreciated Sir Thomas’ presence and also Lady Franklen for her kindness in distributing the prizes (Cheers).

Mrs J. Griffiths moved a vote of thanks to the chairman, who had been most faithful in any work he had been asked to do by the Governing Body. Councillor Tom Lewis seconded the proposition. He had been on the Governing Body for 18 years and had a great interest in the School. It was a distinct honour to have Sir Thomas and Lady Franklen on the platform. For sincerity and devotion to duty Sir Thomas was second to none. (Cheers).

The meeting was interspersed with a musical programme. Miss Alice S. Williams, L.R.A.M., conducted the girls, and Mr. Ogwen Williams14 the boys. The accompanists were Muriel Richards, Merfyn Davies and T.M. Isaac.

  1. The Empire Theatre was almost certainly the New Empire Theatre situated within the Constitutional Club, Aberdare – on the corner of Canon St and High St. It was a gem of a bijou Victorian Music Hall. It had a red plush balcony, a stage and some rich decoration. It was also a cine variety theatre. After the theatre closed, the hall was used for dancing and concerts. In the 1960s, the space was occupied by the ‘Go-Go Bar’. There was an earlier wooden structure also called the Empire Theatre next to the Rock Brewery, with its entrance in High Street. For details of the many early Aberdare places of entertainment, see The Amusement of the People – Popular Entertainment in Aberdare before Moving Pictures, by G.O. Evans in Old Aberdare Volume 7, CVHS, 1993.
  2. Edmund William Stonelake (1873–1960) was a local politician who played an important role in establishing the Labour Party in the Merthyr Boroughs constituency, which included Aberdare, and went on to hold several positions on local political and public service bodies in Aberdare. As far as the school was concerned, he was Chairman of Governors 1919–1922 and 1946–1948. The family lived 36 Herbert Street in Foundry Town. There were two girls and six boys raised almost single-handedly by Stonelake’s wife, Rebecca, on account of the all-consuming political life of her husband, as well as his work in the mines. Of the boys, Leonard and Cliff were pupils at the School, in the years 1917–23, and 1925–30 respectively, both having received their elementary education at Park Schools. For concise notes on Edmund Stonelake’s career, see D.L. Davies’s entry in the WBO; as well as Stonelake’s autobiography The autobiography of Edmund Stonelake, edited and introduced by Anthony Mor-O’Brien, Published in 1981 by Mid Glamorgan County Council.
  3. Illtyd Williams was the proprietor of Compton House, 5 Victoria Square. He ran a drapery business that was founded by his father David Williams (1846–96) when Victoria Square was called Commercial Place. David Williams’ grandson Mansel Williams continued the business well into the 1980s; another grandson Sir Gwilym Ff. Williams sang as an adult ‘helper’ in all of the school choral concerts from 1941 onwards; whilst a third grandson David Illtyd Williams attended the school from 1922 to 1926.
    The office of High Constable of Miskin Higher was an ancient office, dating back to 1542 in Glamorgan. In the twentieth century, until 1922, the High Constable had functions in relation to juries. Those were removed in 1922; the only remaining responsibility was in connection with rates, for which purpose he was appointed at the annual meeting of the justices at petty sessions when hearing rating appeals. In 1925 their jurisdiction to hear rating appeals was taken away from them. Nevertheless, the office continued until 1969 when Parliament declared the office of High Constable to be obsolete. For more information about The High Constables of the Hundred of Miskin, see G.O. Evans’ detailed article in Old Aberdare, Volume 4, CVHS 1985.
  4. Aberdare born, Thomas Botting, JP, BA, BSc, (1871–1949), was Director of Education in Aberdare in the days when the control of elementary education was in the hands of Aberdare Urban District Council. Before entering the administrative side of the education service, he competed for the headship of the School in August 1905, coming second to W. Charlton Cox.
  5. William Morgan Llewellyn was the brother of the coal magnate Sir David Richard Llewellyn, and son of Rees Llewellyn. All three were mining engineers and lived originally at Bwllfa House, Cwmdare. WM’s last home was Tŷ Newydd, outside Penderyn, and DR’s was at The Court, St Fagan’s.
  6. Mrs Rose Davies (1882–1958) had a most remarkable career in local, county and Welsh politics. She was chairman of the School governors 1928–31 and 1949–58, but more importantly, she became the first woman chairman of the old Glamorgan County Council. She was twice honoured: in the 1934 birthday honours she was awarded an MBE, which was upgraded to a CBE 20 years later. Her maternal grandfather was the well-known late-Victorian Aberdare photographer Joseph Lendon Berry.
  7. C.W.B. was the Central Welsh Board. It originally had two functions: inspecting the County Schools of Wales, and the setting of examinations, notably the School Certificate taken by pupils at 16 years, and Higher Certificate taken at 18 years. The WJEC now sets examinations for schools but has no inspecting role.
  8. Miss Huldah Bassett, (1901–1982) was appointed as the first Headmistress of the Girls’ County School at Cecil Road Gowerton in 1937. She retired from that post in 1966.
  9. John William Thomas lived in Trevor Street, Foundry Town. He had transferred from Brynmill in Swansea to the Town Council Elementary School and subsequently entered the County School aged 11 years in 1915, where he achieved a brilliant academic record. The Manchester Guardian reported his Welsh Scholarship in Modern History at Jesus College Oxford, in the issue dated Jan 17, 1921.
  10. The Rees Llewellyn Award has been presented to pupils of the Aberdare Boys Comprehensive School, now High School, in recent years. However, there was an intervening period when the award/scholarship lay dormant.
  11. Arthur Charlton Cox (1906–85) was one of the headmaster’s four children: there were three boys and a girl. All four qualified as doctors, they were, with qualifying dates: David Walter Charlton Cox (1930); Arthur Charlton Cox (1932); Margaret Charlton Cox (1934); and Alfred George Charlton Cox (1940, and MD 1949). Arthur was at School from 1916 to 1922 — he gained his Senior CWB Certificate in 1921. The scholarship to Hereford Cathedral School would have covered his sixth form studies leading to the Higher School Certificate. His mother was May Daniel of Llwydcoed House, also pupil of the school, 1896–99.
  12. John Victor Evans, (1895–1957), the son of Henry Howard Evans, general manager of the Cambrian Collieries in Mid-Rhondda, lived at Park Isaf, Cwmdare, where he attended the village elementary school. He was a pupil of the Aberdare County School for just two years, 1908–1910, being withdrawn after Form 3 to enrol at Christ College, Brecon. Walter T. Morgan, himself a pupil of the County School (1923–30), has an entry in the Welsh Bibliography Online for J. Victor Evans that gives a full account of his career.
    Evans served in the army during World War 1; entered St. John's College, Oxford and graduated in 1922 with a degree in history; whilst at Oxford he became President of the Union. He became a barrister, lecturer at UCW Aberystwyth, but returned to Aberdare in 1936 to become the first warden of Coleg Gwerin Cynon (Aberdare Educational Settlement), at Fairfield House, leaving that post in 1939 after the death of his son. He died at home in Dulwich Village, 15 May 1957.
  13. Lady Mansel Franklen (1850–1938) married Thomas Franklen in 1872. Before marriage she was Mary Caroline Florence Allen of Boulston, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. Sir Thomas and Lady Franklen maintained a large house in St Hilary with seven servants. There were no children.
  14. Edward Ogwen Williams, (1871–1937), came from Bangor, and was appointed to the school staff in 1898. He taught several subjects including geography (hence Oggy’s Geogy). He was a local councillor and deacon at Bethania, Wind Street. He lived with his family at 2 Broniestyn Terrace.

Document image reproduced with permission of Rhondda Cynon Tâf Library Service