Remembering Abermorddu County Primary School
There have been a few nostalgic muses about the old school of Abermorddu on social media recently and this seems like a good opportunity for an article which reflects upon the story of that building. The location of the building has been preserved by the name ‘Old School Court’ and the original date stone of 1882 is now encased in the wall of the more modern building in Cymau Lane. Unfortunately much of Abermorddu’s history is becoming a distant memory. The school provides a good starting point in rectifying this problem.
Thanks must go to a previous Head, Mr Ian Swain, for preserving the story in the centenary publication of the school in 1983/4. This, in turn, owed something to an earlier Head, Mr R. W. Edwards. A copy of the centenary publication is to be found in the Local Heritage Archive in Hope Community Library. The booklet explains how the school came to be built. The Education Act of 1870 represented a landmark commitment to education in Britain but it did mean that more schools would have to be built in order to ensure provision on a national scale. In 1880 a further Act was passed which made school attendance compulsory for children up to the age of 13. This increased the urgency for schools to be built. Locally the newly established Local School Board found that there were 1,029 children between 3 and 13, of whom 92 were aged from 5 to 13 in the area covered by the Board. This area must have been quite large as the three schools which existed at the time were at Llanfyndydd, Bridge End (Hope) and Bwlchgwyn. The figures suggested the need for a new school with the Cefn-y-Bedd area being favoured. Eventually the site at Abermorddu was put forward as being the closest feasible option.
The land was purchased in 1882 for the price of £365 and the tender went to local builder, Mr Probert, to build the school for £1380, although the total cost of building eventually reached £2,000. It was to accommodate 230 children.
The first Head of the school was Mr H. D. Davies and he kept a log book from 20th August, 1883, the first day of opening. By the end of the day he and two assistants had enrolled 85 children. The number had risen to 134 by 12th September, with some coming from across the boundary with Denbighshire. Until 1891 these children will have paid school fees of about 2d a day and large families found this difficult. The centenary history records the future Heads as follows: Mr J. O. Smallwood 1910-1919, Mr J. E. Rogers 1920-39, Mr Howell Jones 1939-1958, and Mr R. W. Edwards 1958-1978. Mr Edwards saw the evacuation of the old building to a permanent building for Infants and Juniors mobiles in Cymau Lane. Mr Bryn James 1978-1983 was Head when the new building was started. The James took up an appointment at Cartrefle College and Mr Ian Swain was Acting Head until his appointment in 1983.
Early comments in the press said that it was a ‘fine building and surroundings’ but one letter writer commented on the provision of one large room and a small classroom. The writer felt that the voices of the teacher and children would echo in a room with a high ceiling and suggested a folding partition, based on examples seen in America. The example consisted of wooden sections with panes of glass, although a cheaper one could be made with hessian on the frames. The partition was later fitted in 1896 and was remembered by Albert Prydderch who first attended the school from Ffrwd in 1946. “The main part of the school contained three classrooms, by way of two large wooden and glass partitions that could be pulled back to make one large hall.” The arrangement allowed for versatile use of the space in a number of early schools and readers may well recall this being the case in their own primary, or secondary school.
The centenary history also captured the memory of one resident who was obviously a pupil at the school when it was still an unimproved Victorian building. This anonymous writer was at the school from 1926-28, and had moved from a more modern school building in Llay:
“First reactions on entering Abermorddu School were somewhat disappointing. It was very old-fashioned, very Victorian and lacked the amenities of our previous new elementary school in Llay which had opened in the Autumn term of 1926. Hot and cold water in the toilets, electric light, a bell system controlled from the Headmaster’s Room. All these were sheer luxury compared with the outside yard toilets, paraffin lamps, a heating arrangement of open fires protected by fire-guards in Abermorddu. Most of the heat generated either went up the chimneys to warm the Abermorddu atmosphere or dissipated itself into the lofty ceilings.”
The school did not actually have flush toilets until 1926 when they were fitted outside. They continued to present problems, especially in winter and it was not actually until 1965 that toilets were fitted indoors.
It is clear from reading the centenary publication that the School Log Books are a rich source of information and future articles may explore these more fully. Some of the great events of the Victorian times and the first half of the twentieth century impacted upon the life of the school. The Relief of Ladysmith during the Second Boer War (1899) was a public holiday; there is reference to the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, the start of the Great War and also the arrival of evacuees from Merseyside during the Second World War.
As was often the case in rural communities, attendance at school fluctuated with the harvests and weather, although epidemics also had an impact. As the population grew, with further industrialisation, accommodation became a problem. There is reference to one class being taught in a local chapel. This may have been the ‘Tin Tot Chapel’, which formerly stood by Coronation Terrace and was also used for Sunday School.
Little has been recorded about the history of Abermorddu although there are local people who can still remember where some of the shops were along Hawarden Road and other features of note. I welcome any local reminiscences for future articles which might help to preserve this part of our heritage.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.