THE NAME DYNEVOR
On re-reading the section on the history of Dynevor School contained in the 75th anniversary edition of the school magazine, 1958, and repeated in the Centenary brochure of 1983, it became clear that a number of questions remained to be answered about the school’s name and with regard to the history of the school’s buildings.
Although we describe our former school as “Dynevor” I can find little reference as to when this name was officially given to the school. The name obviously derives from Dynevor Place, the street which runs to the east of its buildings, although I suppose it could equally have been called Delabeche School from the street on the northern side! The 1852 board of health map of Swansea describes what we know as Dynevor Place as Mount Pleasant, and it is the row of terraced houses on the east of the street which is called Dynevor Place.
The 1852 Board of Health map for Swansea, showing the site of the school.
We know that the original school opened in Trinity Place in 1883, in premises later used by the Swansea Municipal Secondary Girls’ School, to use the description given on my mother’s report book when she attended that school from 1916-23. The boys’ school was then known as the Higher Grade School, and when it moved to new premises in 1894 in Dynevor Place its title changed to the Central Higher Grade Board School. After a successful inspection during 1907 the school earned the right to become a secondary school and was now called the Municipal Secondary School. The school’s name on the December 1930 school magazine’s cover is given as The Swansea Municipal Secondary School Magazine, with a sub-title, “Boys’ School, Dynevor Place.” This may have been to distinguish the boys’ school from the girls’ school then housed in the Delabeche side of the school buildings. The next issue, that of July 1931, is entitled Dynevor Secondary School Magazine. It may be a co-incidence but the Old Boys’ Association, later the Old Dy’vorians, was founded in December 1929 and held its first major event, a smoking concert, in February 1930. Such an organisation had been suggested in the School Notes for July 1927. One of its vice presidents was a former pupil of the school, T.J. Rees, then the director of education for Swansea Borough Council. The first report of this new association appeared in the December 1930 magazine. Might the old boys’ have suggested the change, accepted by the director of education, though whether it was an official renaming or simply a popular title that was generally accepted is not clear. Indeed, when work commenced on the new buildings in 1928 the school was nicknamed “Din-Ever” which might suggest that at that date it was the popular name for the school.
THE DYNEVOR SITE
In 1894 the school moved to new premises in Dynevor place, and it is said in the 75th anniversary edition of the magazine that it was built on the site of Russell House and its grounds. The first picture we have of this site comes from Thomas Rothwell’s 1791 engraving of Mount Pleasant. It shows the field on which the school and Mount Pleasant chapel was built, In the distance is Mount Pleasant House, while a coach and horses are seen on what became Dynevor Place, then known as Washing Lake lane, after the stream which flowed down from Mount Pleasant Hill. Delabeche Street had yet to be built. The 1852 map, mentioned above, shows two semi-detached villas adjacent to Mount Pleasant Chapel described as Russell Place. However, there is another building to their north, unnamed, which is probably Russell House. It has extensive grounds, and its northern edge probably formed the later Delabeche Street. The 1949 aerial view of the ruined town centre (below) suggests that the end wall of the first of these houses, adjacent to the lower school building, and demolished after it had been blitzed, still showed its end wall displaying the former fireplaces and room settings. Some of us will remember walking through a door in the lower playground onto this bomb site on the way to the back entrance of Mount Pleasant Chapel when we assembled there for assembly.
Thomas Rothwell’s 1791 engraving of Mount Pleasant, showing the site of the school
The school as depicted in the 1949 aerial view of the bombed city centre
THE OLD SCHOOL
The plans of the new school of 1928 also show the 1894 school, which was partly rebuilt at the same time. The older building still retained its three stories, although the ground floor was almost a semi-basement at the Delabeche end, and its western end was on the same level as the 1928 Delabeche basement. The July 1929 magazine includes an article entitled “Recollections”, while a photograph of the original building appeared in the 75th anniversary magazine. This particular article states that pupils of the new school no longer had to enter a gloomy archway, and which led to even more depressing scenes beyond it. Photographs of 1922 and 1925 on the Dynevor Revisited site illustrate this old school, as does a photograph showing the bomb damage of 1941 at the street front of the building. The building must have been crowded. However the hall was said to be spacious, and accommodated the whole school for a party to celebrate the 199 Coronation. The 1928 plan of this older building indicates there were five or six classrooms on the first floor, and others would have been contained on the other two floors. The number of forms given in the December 1925 magazine is fourteen, though a year later it is twelve.
The plans for the ground and first floor of the 1928 reconstruction and new building
(unfortunately, the plans for the basement and third storey are missing).
A photograph of the 1894 building taken from the 75th anniversary number of the magazine.
These classrooms had to accommodate a large number of pupils. The number of new pupils entering was considerable. Each year a number entered the more senior forms from Glanmor School, which then had both primary and secondary streams; for example 24 Glanmor boys were noted as entering in the July 1930 magazine. Though there were 101 “new” boys recorded in 1925, the normal intake, contained in three forms, was 90. One form was the classical form, which the scholarship boys attended, another was a modern or scientific form, and the third appears to have been a commercial form, as its pupils were entered for shorthand examinations and also learnt to use a typewriter. The fourth year normally had two classes and the fifth and sixth one each, with ever diminishing numbers. The magazine for July 1915 stated in the form notes that many of the boys in IVm had left for work, while the number of those in IIIr (Remove?) had diminished and many would not be returning after the summer holidays. In April 1916 it was noted that Form IVm had commenced the year with 22 pupils but was now down to six, and having to amalgamate with other classes for gym and metalwork. A picture of one of the third year classes in 1925 reveals only eight pupils, while in 1921 there were only nine boys in the sixth form. In reality many left at the ages of fourteen or fifteen for work and those who remained into the sixth form did so in order to obtain entry into the universities, teacher training colleges or the local technical college, while others obtained clerkships in local government offices. In November 1912 there were 304 boys in the school, said to be the highest number recorded, and one of the upper classes found its form room too small and so had to make use of any other available room. In November 1914 the number had increased to 329. When the school moved from its temporary lodgings in the girls’ school into their new building, the July 1929 magazine records that at Whitson 470 desks had to be “transported” back to the boys’ school.
The school was clearly overcrowded, so that when the first year form rooms were required for examination purposes in 1920 their pupils were given an excursion to Parkmill, when 80 boys crowded into one charabanc. In the 1920s the Manual Drawing Room had to serve not only as the gym changing room but also as a dining room, though the December 1923 magazine describes that a new dining room had been created from that particular room. A stray note in the July 1927 magazine indicates that the school was ventilated by a fan, housed in a fan house, whose failure often enabled the school to have a half holiday. A frequent complaint, typified by one example in the December 1916 magazine, was that two of the first year form rooms were often subjected to an occasional shower bath of cold water and dilute acid because of the defective pipework in “the chemical regions above.”
THE PROMISED NEW SCHOOL
Plans to extend the school premises were first mentioned in the October 1913 magazine. It was anticipated that the new girls’ school would be built. It had overgrown its premises in Trinity Place. More details were forthcoming by April 1914. The entry read:
At last the girls can confidently look forward to their new school. It will occupy the space now taken up by the houses between the Albert Hall and the Boys’ School [Delabeche Street], part of which will also be incorporated in it. The Boys’ School will consequently have to be extended to include the old Y.M.C.A. Buildings. The result will be an imposing structure. Further, the houses in the back of the Boys’ School [Pell Street?] will be taken down, so as to provide space for a Gymnasium and two Playgrounds. We cannot say exactly how long the alternations will take, but we can with certainty say that many of our present pupils will still be able to benefit by the proposed changes.
In July 1915 a pupil writing the IIa form notes suggested that the demolition of the Fives Court was the prelude to the new school buildings, but clearly the First World War prevented any building work. A more confident note was struck by the editor of the July 1919 magazine. He believed that the demolition and rebuilding necessary for the new girls’ school would commence that December. He added that when this building was completed the boys’ school would be housed on that side while “our school” was being remodelled and extended on the Dynevor Place side. His confidence was misplaced.
The July 1923 magazine once again noted the promised new buildings; by December 1924 the revised plan for the new school had been sent to London, and the magazine commented that by the next time the editors went to press they would have seen and heard the house-breakers at work. The next issue noted that tenders for the new building would soon be issued, but it was not until December 1925 that its editor wrote that demolition had commenced on the 3rd of that month, after many unfulfilled promises. Houses in Pell Street had been demolished, presumably for the site of the new gymnasiums, and railings and walls had been removed from the frontages of houses in Delabeche Street for the new girls’ school. Here a row of three storied houses were demolished, some of which were occupied during the war years by Belgian refugees. In the July 1926 magazine it was recorded that the new building programme had been disrupted by the coal strike, but it was thought that the new gymnasium would be ready by next Easter, when the manual room would “migrate” to the old gymnasium (on the 1928 plans it is shown on the ground floor of the 1894 building). Presumably the Y.M.C.A. building and possibly some houses were also demolished in Dynevor Place, for in December of that year the new secondary school had been built to its second storey.
The School Notes for July 1927 reveal that the houses in Delabeche Street had been demolished, and the building of the new girls’ school was “going on apace. This has increased to an almost unbearable degree the discomfiture of the boys of 4a and 3r, through dust, hammering and flooding. Yet the boys are willing to undergo all this discomfiture knowing that in the near future, while we are occupying the new Girls’ School, our own School will be entirely remodelled and new buildings added.” The boys of the lower school, having been deprived of the lower yard together with the fives-court, had invented a new game which could be played safely in the upper yard, consisting “of keeping a ball bouncing on one’s head and against the wall as long as possible.” The girls’ school was almost complete by December’s magazine, but the new gymnasium was not yet ready for occupation. The editor recorded:
We have indeed been ‘cabined, cribbed, confined’ by the contractors for the New School. First they took a slice of the lower playground, then the whole of it. Later they took the end of the archway and made a new entrance, down dark, dangerous steps. Later still they have taken a corner out of the upper playground, so there is no room for the Fifth to assemble there, and they must make their way straight to the class-room when the whistle goes. Lastly, when the barriers broke down and earth came pouring into the playground, the rule of no assembly had to be applied to the Fourth Years also.
The editor went onto describe the new playing fields on Town Hill, though the dressing rooms and showers had to be used at Townhill School for the Saturday games.
THE NEW SCHOOL
Finally, the December 1928 magazine recorded “the migration to the new school.” Masters and boys transported books and the contents of the laboratories to their new school from the Girls’ School which they had temporarily occupied. “In September we entered our new domains, unbelievable in their splendour and magnificence. Spotless walls, endless corridors, bright form-rooms, numberless steps , … Corridor-doors and wonder of wonders – windows that opened.” However, it was the lower school which moved to the new Dynevor Place building, the upper school still awaited its transfer to its new “paradise”, while the 1894 buildings, stripped of its fittings into “a scene of desolation” were renovated for its use. However, it was soon discovered the new building had some disadvantages, namely “the dreadful noise of the trams and motor traffic,” the sound of the Townhill buses using the Dynevor Place as their terminal, and the new gymnasium had no facilities for playing basketball. The work was still continuing according to the July 1929 magazine. The boys’ playground [the lower playground] still resembled the ruins of Pompeii, while they made use of what would become the girls’ playground, where two substantial trees had been preserved “to provide sylvan shade”. The same magazine seems to suggest that by the time of its publication the 1894 building had been renovated, with a new hall which now included seats and a grand piano, cloak room and lavatories, and science laboratories, with the fives court restored to use. The new school was opened on the 23rd September 1929, by Morgan Jones, MP, parliamentary secretary to the Board of Education, when the excellent design of the new school was noted. The July 1930 magazine recorded that the years of demolition and rebuilding were now over, and the new school was able to take an increased number of pupils. In September 1928 there were 126 new boys admitted.
The completed school complex comprised three separate new buildings in addition to the reconstruction of the 1894 building. One section contained the girls’ school in the new Delabeche building, which also included a section of the old 1894 building. In the 1950s this section was the only part which remained of the 1894 building, in my day forming two classrooms on the ground floor and the canteen above it. A second section was the new boys’ school, known in my day as the lower school, adjoining Dynevor Place and facing the east end of the lower playground, though the boys’ school continued to use most of the 1894 building. The third section were the two gymnasiums built at an angle to the Delabeche side. In addition the lavatories in the lower school yard with the accompanying electric sub-station seem to have been built at the same time. What is surprising is that in the late 1920s these buildings were erected in stone rather than brick, though this may have been in order replicate the style of the 1894 building. A photograph of this rebuilding shows scaffolding against the new Dynevor Place section and the playground as a builders’ yard.
Sandy Morgan’s drawing of the School building in the 1930s, as shown on the Centenary booklet
A photograph of this rebuilding shows scaffolding against the new Dynevor Place section and the playground as a builders’ yard
THE SCHOOL YARD
One ambiguity remains. In the April 1915 magazine it was recorded that school photographs had been taken in the lower yard, where the five courts were also situated according to the first number of the magazine in 1910. It was claimed they were in a state of disrepair. The November 1914 magazine also records an “outer yard”, which may have been the same place. An article in the November 1912 magazine suggests that the main entrance to the school was in Dynevor Place, rather than there being an entry from Pell Street into the lower playground. One assumes that the upper playground was in front of the 1894 building but the existence of the gardens of the Delabeche houses meant it could only have been about a third of its eventual size. The lower yard must have been self-contained, approachable only from the school itself. The Ordnance Survey of 1900 shows the 1894 building, and below it in Dynevor place a building that was presumably the Y.M.C.A. building, followed by Russell Place and Mount Pleasant Chapel. The area behind the Y.M.C.A. building is shown as an open space, and this was probably the lower playground, but there is no evidence there was an entrance into it from Pell Street. One wonders if the Y.M.C.A. building was used as an overflow for the school. The present Y.M.C.A. building on the Kingsway was built in the early 1920s.
THE GIRLS’ SCHOOL
The girls’ school, transferred from Grove Place, seem to have occupied their side of the building by December 1930, for a cartoon in that magazine concerns the view from 4A’s classroom of two girls in gym slips sitting on a bench by one of the trees in the upper playground. The girls’ school appear to have vacated the building in 1942, when the run of admission registers for that school at West Glamorgan Archives cease. Where the school went is uncertain, but the destruction of the school in the 1941 blitz, leaving the top storey of the 1928 buildings and most of the 1894 building roofless and inoperative, probably hastened this move, as did the closure of Glanmor School in 1941 when it was taken over by the War Department. A photograph of the school showing its condition in 1949 is contained in a wider view of the city centre in ruins (above).In 1941 or thereabouts around fifty boys from the school were evacuated to Gwendraeth (Carmarthenshire?), accompanied by three members of staff, including Mr Glan Powell, later headmaster. A letter from this school appeared in the April 1942 magazine, which also contains a list of servicemen who had been in Glanmor School, including one of its staff, Mr Clifford Evans, serving with the RAF, later deputy headmaster.
Dynevor School seen from Grove Place, 1920’s
By 1942 Dynevor was making use of the whole of the building which was salvageable, though corrugated iron panels closed off the damaged parts. It was not until 1955 or 1956 that the ruins of the top stories were taken down, while in 1959 new buildings were erected in this area, and soon after a new hall was built on the site of the 1894 building.
Sadly, a manuscript history of the early days of the school, written by a master, Mr Burns, and noted in the March 1913 magazine, did not survive the blitz. Some of the school photographs of the interior of the school and of its pupils mentioned in that same magazine might have survived, and two of them, of the former laboratory and the former workshop, appeared in the Centenary booklet. A note in the magazine of July 1912 states that the school crest, used until the 1970s, was first created in 1902, when the motto Nihil Sine Labore was also adopted.
In writing this account I am grateful to Mr Kim Collis, the archivist for West Glamorgan, for his assistance in finding material for me from the archives in his care, and for permitting me to use the Rothwell illustration [contained in Michael Gibbs and Bernard Morris’ publication, Thomas Rothwell, Views of Swansea (Glamorgan Archives Publication, 1991)], the 1852 town map, the plans of the 1928 building and the photograph of that rebuilding. Their copyright is reserved by the West Glamorgan Archive.
I would also be grateful for any further clarification or correction of this article.
Images by courtesy of West Glamorgan Archives and the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historical Buildings in Wales.
In addition a postcard survives of Grove Place which appears to show an empty space between the 1894 building and the Albert Hall, suggesting it was taken while the houses in Delabeche Street were being demolished. It is too faint for reproduction. I have also found it difficult to align Sandy Morgan’s drawing of the School building in the 1930s, as shown on the Centenary booklet, with the plans of the school.
ROGER L BROWN (1953-60)