Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School

Official School Photographs

old school

An early photograph of Girls’ Department of the School

This is one of the earliest photographs that we have of the school staff and children.
It has been kindly donated to us by Mrs Margaret Garrett who lives in the Gadlys.

It is possible to date the photograph reasonably accurately as early 1897 because, only then, were there six members of staff, including the Head Master, as is indicated in this photograph. Additionally, there were 67 girls enrolled in the spring term of 1897 of which 62 appear in the photograph. By the spring of 1899, the number of girls was 88, much larger than the number shown here.

The adults in the photograph are Mr. W. Jenkyn Thomas (Head Master, wearing the mortar board), Mr. W. Charlton Cox1, Mr. J. Wallis Dodgson2 (holding a straw boater, senior assistant master and senior science master) and Mr. Evan Williams3 (second master). The women are Miss Florence White (senior mistress) on the left and Miss Jennie Griffiths, on the right with the striped top (assistant mistress). Both of these women transferred to the Girls Intermediate School when it opened, and they can be seen in the 1914 photograph in the golden jubilee booklet of the Girls’ Intermediate School here. This photograph comes from the 50th anniversary publication of the Girls’ School. Other details about the Girls’ School can be found in the history section of that site.

These staff were very early appointments; the head master was appointed on 18th August, 1896 and four members of staff a few weeks later in September, the fifth in the following January. The initial four posts were keenly sought after, there being 125 applications.

The location of the photograph has puzzled us, but we think it was taken in the lower playground; the door, shown behind the group, opening on to the corridor leading to rooms 2 & 3. The building on the farthest left would be the Head Master’s house, later that of the caretaker. However, the space behind the pupils on the left of the photograph was probably later occupied by one of the several additions that were built in the first twenty years of the school’s existence. From about 1901, this particular additional building housed the staircase that led up to the staff room on the first floor, and the steps that led down to a lower floor that housed a shower room and dining hall.

Many thanks to Margaret Garrett for this photograph. Margaret’s aunt Gwen is in the photo. She is 7th in from the right side of the middle row behind the master with hood and gown.

1897 Girls Department
  1. Mr Cox was appointed in January 1897 and was later to become the longest serving Headmaster of the school.
  2. Mr J. Wallis Dodgson (1869-1950) left at Christmas 1903 to take up an appointment as a lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry at University College, Reading, a post which he held until his retirement in 1934, though he returned to lecturing there during the Second World War. He was also the Warden of St. David’s Hall when the Hall was set up in 1920. There is further information about Mr Dodgson on the Reading University website in the archive section.
  3. Mr Evan Williams’ first appointment was to Hirwaun School in 1884, after which in 1890 he transferred to Aberdare Higher Grade School, which was housed in the some of the buildings of the Town Council Elementary School. He was appointed to the County School in 1896.
    He left the County School in July 1904 to become Headmaster of the newly-built Aberdare Higher Standard School which was the successor to the Higher Grade School, and from which he had come to the County School eight years previously. The Higher Standard School was later to become the Gadlys Central School, and currently, 2013, the site of the Lower School of the Girls’ Comprehensive. Mr Williams and his wife Elizabeth were both from Llandovery, and initially they lived at 27 Clifton Street, moving later to Gadlys House, (Gadlys Isaf), situated next to the Gadlys School. The couple retired to their home town after the end of the summer term 1923. Mr Williams died at the age of 67.