VIP pupils say makeover at old school is class act
The last reception class at a historic former primary school were VIP guests of honour at a celebration of its £5.3 million transformation into showpiece homes.
Ysgol Maelgwn, in Broad Street, closed for the last time five years ago but the pupils, now at the new Ysgol Awel y Mynydd, joined residents and staff of leading housing association Cartrefi Conwy, Conwy County Council and developers Brenig Construction at the event.
The children have played their part in the flagship redevelopment by Cartrefi Conwy, with their names on the artwork for a mural depicting the herbs, fruit and flowers planted in the gardens and chosen for their scent and textures.
These include sage, strawberries, thyme, rocket and lavender, and they also gave a hand to Matt Stowe, Cartrefi Conwy Environmental Development Officer, to plant up the raised beds in the communal area.
Their former head teacher, Gisella Williams, who taught at Ysgol Maelgwn for over 20 years and is now deputy head at Awel y Mynydd, said: It’s amazing to see the transformation and to see it being used by the community.
“The way they have carried out the rebuild and maintained the building is fantastic and really brings back memories for me. My daughter went to school here.
“I’m blown away and it’s lovely to see so many of the old staff as well and so nice it’s being used to help the community.”
Brenig Construction have built 27 new homes for Cartrefi Conwy at the former school, a Grade II listed building which opened in 1907, with former classrooms in the main building converted into 10 apartments for people with disabilities.
The project, supported by Conwy Council and the Welsh Government, has retained many of the original features, including the tiling, feature fireplaces, parquet flooring and the spectacular vaulted wooden ceiling.
A separate classroom building, which also has Grade II listed status, has been transformed into a five-bedroom bungalow for a family, with a member who has a disability.
The rest of the properties are a mix of houses, bungalows and flats providing affordable housing, including accommodation for people with a variety of needs.
Cartrefi Conwy Chief Executive Andrew Bowden said: “This is a fantastic facility that has transformed the lives of the people who have moved in.
“The quality of the finish here by Brenig Construction is wonderful and the team have done a brilliant job in bringing this building back to life.
“It was important that Conwy Council’s Social Services were brought in right from the start at the design stage so they were in the room with the architect, helping design it for its new occupants.
“That meant it was specifically put together to provide the support needed for the residents and to improve their wellbeing.”
The walls inside the former school have pictures from the school’s 110-year history, provided by ex-pupil Pat Roberts, treasurer of the Memorial Hall Committee, who has kept them safely since the closure.
She said: “I remember it well and what a happy school it was and what a lovely warm atmosphere there was here – they’ve really done it justice.”
Another former pupil is Brenig Construction Joint-Managing Director Howard Vaughan who oversaw the work and admitted it was a labour of love being involved.
“To be here for me is more than just a business achievement – it’s personal,” he said: “To get to save and restore something that was such a big part of your own life and to bring it back to the community is amazing.
“The fact we’ve been able to provide homes for residents with different needs and give these communal areas back to people who can live here independently with support around them is brilliant.
“It’s turned out so well and it’s a development we’re very proud of because as a business what we’re about is to be able build better and to build homes that meet people’s needs.”
Elements of the school
Conwy County Councillor Mike Priestley, a former Chair of the Governors of Ysgol Maelgwn, added: “It’s an amazing development and I really appreciate the way they’ve retained so many of the features of the school which has seen so many local people pass through its doors and they will continue to pass through those doors.
“It still has many of the elements of the school it once was and that will mean so much to so many people and I just applaud the partnership working that has made this all possible.”
Resident Lisa Smith who lives on Cwrt Maelgwn with her family said: “It’s amazing, really lovely and everyone here gets together to enjoy the gardens and the seating area.
“My daughter is autistic and she loves coming up here to the communal area to see, smell and touch the flowers and herbs in the garden.”
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At first glance I thought “here we go another development of showpiece homes creating an isolated gated outpost for settlers from over there in the East”. But da iawn Brenig Construction. It seems from the story they have created something popular with the community.