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Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School

School History

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Laying of the Foundation Stone

ABERDARE INTERMEDIATE SCHOOLS.

FOUNDATION-STONE LAYING BY
LORD ABERDARE.
THE SPREAD OF WELSH EDUCATION

Gloriously bright weather favoured the day which signalled the inauguration of a new era of educational enthusiasm in Aberdare. On Thursday the foundation-stone of the intermediate school which is to be erected in the town was laid by Lord Aberdare amid evidences of great felicitation.

Rev Ben Evans

As soon as the joint education committee of the county council, appointed pursuant to the Intermediate Education (Wales) Act of 1889, selected Aberdare to be the locale of one of the new intermediate schools, Mr John Morgan, builder, Monk-street, the then high constable, in February, 1890, convened a town’s meeting for the purpose of considering the best steps for the purpose of obtaining the necessary subscriptions and a site for the school. At that meeting, which was held at Carmel Hall, a committee of 60 was selected, of which Mr D.P. Davies, J.P., Ynyslwyd, was appointed president, and the Rev. H. R. Johnson, M.A., and the Rev. B. Evans (Telynfab) joint secretaries. The former rev. gentleman, however, being soon after appointed warden of St. Michael’s College, resigned the secretaryship, and the whole of tile secretarial duties devolved upon the Rev. B. Evans, who has worked indefatigably on behalf of the object, and to him and to Alderman D. P. Davies, J.P., the president, is largely due the fact that the memorial stone is laid in Aberdare before it is laid in any other school in the county. An initial difficulty arose owing to the inability of the committee to secure two acres of land for a site, but it was ultimately decided to forego certain privileges, and build the school on one acre of ground at a point opposite the lower entrance to the public park, known as Commin Bach. The situation is very convenient for residents in all parts of the town, and consent having been given to its acquisition, plans were prepared by Mr J. H. Phillips, of Cardiff. The structure will be of rough stone, with dressings of Forest of Dean stone, and will provide class-room accommodation for 80 girls and 100 boys. In addition, there will be a large assembly-hall, capable of seating the whole number, a cookery class-room for the girls, and a workshop and laboratory. Space is also provided for a gymnasium to be erected at a future date. On the question being first brought before public notice, a partial canvass of the district was made for subscriptions, with the result that a sum considerably above the amount required was promised. Prominent amongst the subscribers are :—Lord Aberdare, £250; Mr D. A. Thomas, M.P., £ 100; Mr D. P. Davies, Ynyslwyd; Mr D. Williams, Compton House; Mr J. Howard Thomas, Ysguborwen; and Mr W. Pritchard Morgan, M.P., £50 each; Mr G. Roderick, £30; Mr Lemuel Hiley, Mr F. W. Mander, Mr James Davies, and Mr D. Davies, £25 each; Mr John Morgan, £21; Rev. R. B. Jenkins, Rev. H. R. Johnson, Rev. W. James, Mr John Llewellyn, Mr T. Lloyd, Mr G. George, Mr J. W. McEwen, and Mrs Sarah James, Merthyr, £20 each; Mr David Richards, Mr Chas. Kenshole, Mr Rees Williams, Mr Daniel Davies (Abernantygroes), Mr David Hughes, Mr D. E. Davies (Dewi Mabon), Mr Richard Pardoe, Mr David Davies, Mr W. Hodges, Mr J. H. James, Mr Edward Arnott (Danygraig), Mr James L. Thomas, M.E., Brynawel, £10 each; and the following collieries :—Bwllfa, per Mr R. Llewelyn, £63 16s 3d; Mr G. W. H. Brogden, £21; Nantmelyn Colliery, £17; Nantmelyn Graig Level, £5 12s; Cwmaman Colliery, £40; ’Scuborwen Workmen, £2ó 14s; Cash, per Mr Morgan John, £33 5s 6d; Fforchaman Colliery, £10 15s 6d; Victoria Pit, Gadlys, £16 14s; Graig Pit, Gadlys, £3 17s 6d; Abernant Collieries, £15 2s 6d; Lower Dyffryn, £11 11s 6d; George Pit, £7 1s 6d; Co-operative Stores, Aberdare, £5.

Lord Aberdare

Lord Aberdare, accompanied by Lady Aberdare, the Hon. Mrs Russell, Miss Lily Bruce, Miss Pamela Bruce, and Miss Alice Bruce, was met at the station by the chairman and members of the local committee, and conducted to the site, where a platform had been erected. Bunting was displayed on all hands, and a large crowd of townspeople assembled around the spot. Amongst those present were Alderman D. P. Davies, J.P., Ynyslwyd, chairman of the committee; Messrs R. H. Rhys, J.P.; D. Williams, High Constable; J. Jenkins (Messrs W. Jenkins and Sons, builders, Swansea; J. Phillips, Cardiff, architect; G. George, D. Davies, J.P., R. Bedlington, W. Charles, C. Kenshole, J. W. Morgan, J. W. Jones, Mountain Ash; Owen Williams, surveyor; J. Harrison, Rees Llewellyn, J. Davies, Brynhyfrid; J. Morris, clerk of the Aberdare School Board; W. Hodges, L. N. Williams, B. Jones, M. R. David, D. W. Jones, T. Thomas, Pontypridd; D. Davies, Canton; J. W. McEwen, W. J. Heppel, Cwmaman; J. H. James, W. J. Thomas, Mill-street; Rees Rees, Aberaman; D. Hughes, Park-lane: J. A. Lloyd; J. D. Thomas, solicitor; E. Buckle, O. Thomas, and Dl. Griffiths. Revs. W. C. A. H. Green, M.A., vicar of Aberdare; H. R. Johnson, M.A., principal of St. Michael’s College; B. Evans, secretary of the committee; W. James, R. E. Williams, Tinfab; B. Walton, T. Jones, W. Harries, Trecynon; Alderman Aaron Davies, Rhymney, member of the intermediate school committee; J. Davies, Zoar; J. Howell, Mountain Ash; J. J. George, W. A. Davies, Llwydcoed; D. Silyn Evans, W. Thomas, Cwmdare; J. Griffiths, Calvaria, and others.

D.P. Davies

Mr D. P. Davies, the chairman of the committee, in formally introducing his lordship, said it was exactly 3½ years since the first meeting was held in Aberdare to consider whether they should secure one of the intermediate schools in the town. Since that time, they had held 12 public and 54 committee meetings, and there had been four deputations to Cardiff. By this it would be seen they had not been idle. They had had a good many difficulties to contend with, prominent amongst which was the securing of the necessary funds. Subscriptions, amounting to £1,640, had been promised, and they had some £1,470 in the bank, while the site secured was the most, favourable one in the county. He then detailed the course of proceedings which had been gone through with the object of getting a school established at Aberdare, and commented on the happy circumstances of having Lord Aberdare to lay the foundation stone. Had they searched the whole of England and Wales, they could not have found a better man, or one more thoroughly adapted to perform such a ceremony, by reason of his lordship’s lifelong devotion to the cause of education. (Applause.)

Lord Aberdare was then presented with a charter, silver trowel, and mallet, the former of which bore the inscription “Presented to the Right Honourable Lord Aberdare, G.C.B., on laying the memorial stone of Aberdare Intermediate Education School, August 10th, 1893.” The High Constable then placed in the cavity underneath the memorial stone a jar containing current coins of the realm, a copy of the South Wales Daily News, and other newspapers and documents.

The ceremony of laying the stone having been formally gone through,

Lord ABERDARE (who was enthusiastically received) said he was very glad to see gathered round him on that interesting occasion those whom he might call the fathers of Aberdare education—the generation who had long ago given up their schooling, but who were doing to their best to provide schooling for the generation to come. (Hear, hear.) He had no doubt that the whole of the parish of Aberdare was represented there that day; and the surrounding districts had each sent contingents to that the most interesting occasion which had occurred since Aberdare had been formed into a parish. In congratulating them on the commencement of these fine buildings which were to be erected on that spot, he would like to refer to the condition of education in Wales. (Hear, hear.) He would not trouble them with all that had passed since the adoption of the Education Act in 1870. Their schools, which were the outcome of that Act, were excellent, well-appointed, and admirably provided in every respect. They also knew that for the benefit of those who were desirous of learning and had the means of continuing their education—a blessing which, he was sorry to say, was not accorded to all children—there were the advanced elementary schools; while the technical schools were next in order. He was pleased to observe that they had in their technical school some 400 to 500 scholars, who were following some 21 branches of scientific learning, and that no less than 375 of these presented themselves for examination, and that the county council—another admirable institution of modern times—had granted them the sum of £218 towards that object. (Cheers.) But now they had come to the intermediate schools. These were generally considered to be of two sorts. One of these were the endowed schools such as those at Swansea and Cowbridge. These were for some time the only establishments where a liberal education could be got. There was no doubt scattered over the country a considerable number of private adventure schools, some of them doubtless good, but of which there was no guarantee given that they were well managed. It was the fact that parents could not be assured their children were receiving the education they hoped for that led to inquiries being instituted and the Board of Education being formed. Education was a thing upon which a great many people have their opinions: some wise and some foolish; and intermediate education could not be established without passing an Act of Parliament; consequently, it had been years before anything could be done to forward the matter. Up to ten years ago the only establishment on a popular basis where higher education could be obtained in Wales was at the college at Aberystwyth. Here there were at that time only 57 scholars. Since then, however, great advancement had been made in the matter of higher education, and there were now two other colleges, those of Cardiff and Bangor, with between 600 and 700 scholars on the books. (Hear, hear.) It was not to be expected that the working classes, of which Aberdare was so largely composed, would at first be able to avail themselves of the advantages provided by these colleges, for at that time they had no intermediate elementary schools, and the number of endowed schools was very small. Yet they had made rapid strides of late, and he could show them that a very large proportion of the scholars in the Welsh University Colleges were children of the working classes. At Cardiff University College, which was founded in 1883, there had been 940 students, of which number 285 had been of the labouring classes. (Hear, hear.) This was very gratifying, considering the disadvantages under which working people prosecuted their studies. At Bangor, which was founded in 1884, there had been 554 scholars, of which 142, or about a fourth, had belonged to the labouring classes; while Aberystwyth was also prominent in this respect, although unfavourably situated for the convenience of working people. All this has been done since intermediate education had been established, and they might, therefore, look with a certain degree of confidence to an immense increase in higher education. The cost of the school at Aberdare, he understood, would be £5,550, towards which the county council had contributed £4,500, and some £1,640 had been promised in subscriptions. This would leave about £600 more than what was absolutely required for the buildings, and it had been resolved to set aside the surplus, and as much more as the committee could gather, to use in founding scholarships and exhibitions. (Cheers.) Nothing could be more remarkable than the sudden outburst of educational enthusiasm in Wales. (Hear, hear.) The actual number of intermediate schools which would be required in Wales would be no less than 90, of which 16 would be in Glamorganshire. Some people might think that they had gone a little too fast in the matter; but he had the greatest possible faith in the desire of the Welsh people for better education. (Hear, hear.) The use of an intermediate school was to prepare scholars for the higher branches of education, and to supply the intellectual training of which every great country had a need. John Milton, in a tractlet on education, said:— “I call therefore a complete and generous education that which fits a man to perform justly, skilfully, and magnanimously all the offices, both public and private, of peace and war.” That was really the object of higher education. It was to lay the foundation particularly of all that knowledge which, whether a man became a minister, a doctor, a politician, or whatever rank among all the valuable professions, would eminently qualify him for life. (Hear, hear.) A just and liberal education always developed advancement in thought, in wisdom, in confidence to perform the duties of a citizen; and inevitably resulted in the happiness, prosperity, and progress of a nation. (Cheers.) He hoped that the committee of the Aberdare schools would secure wise and well-trained masters, and not risk the success and prosperity of the establishment by underpaying those who had the real practical control of its useful work. (Cheers.)

Mr Rees Hopkin Rees, [sic] chairman of the school board, proposed a hearty vote of thanks to Lord and Lady Aberdare for their presence.

The Rev. Aaron Davies seconded the proposition, which was carried with acclamation, and the proceedings terminated.