One of Wales’ Victorian treasures is being demolished to build flats – please help us save it

Old Sixth Form, Aberthin Road, Cowbridge

Sara Pedersen

The former Intermediate School for Girls’ in Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan was built in 1895-6 and was the first throughout England and Wales to be built specifically for the secondary education of girls as a result of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act of 1889.

It stands as an attractive monument to a pivotal moment in Welsh history which paved the way for equality in women’s education. However, it is under imminent threat of demolition to make way for housing.

The school was listed on the Victorian Society’s Top 10 Endangered List in September 2019 and is a treasured part of the historic town of Cowbridge. The community, alongside heritage experts, have been campaigning hard for its sympathetic conversion rather entire demolition but time is running out with its future set to be determined next month.

 

Pioneering

Staircase

As well as being the first girls’ intermediate school to be built in Wales and England, Cowbridge school was also built amid notorious local acrimony, which resonated at a national scale. Cowbridge was one of nearly 100 schools built as a result of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act.

However, it was highly unusual in including accommodation for boarders at the outset and for being funded to a great part by a local benefactor. This private funding made it possible for girls from outside of the area to attend the school when they would have been unable to otherwise.

As well as being important from an historic aspect, the school also is a grand and attractive building. Despite being derelict for a number of years due to restrictions over its redevelopment, its original character survives intact to a very high degree, both externally and internally, including the original layout, staircase and roof beams of the main hall.

Far from conforming to the standard ‘county’ school image, it has many unusual features including its dormers, prominent corner chimneys and a ‘baronial’ style dormitory range with a pretty oriel window which was the matron’s room.

The architect of the 1895-6 part of the school was Robert Williams who originated in Wales but went on to work in London and later Cairo in Egypt where he designed many buildings for the Davies Bryan family (who were linked to Aberystwyth University).

A strong advocate for Welsh culture and language, he was also known as a radical, prominent and early advocate of building conservation and a national pioneer in terms of social housing.

A classroom with surviving ceilings, doors & fireplace

Asset

After years of standing empty and neglected due to an educational covenant preventing its redevelopment, the school is now subject to an application for complete demolition to make way for blocks of flats.

The group campaigning to save the school from demolition have tried to engage with the developers, Hafod Housing Association, to find a solution to ensure that housing can be provided whilst also protecting this important heritage asset. However, citing financial reasons, Hafod are continuing with their plans to completely demolish the building.

As a result, the community is now calling on the Welsh Assembly to intervene and urge the Welsh Government to protect this important heritage asset for generations to come. The petition will close next week with the Petitions Committee set to consider their requests later this month.

Please sign the petition here. And for information on the campaign visit here.

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Charles L. Gallagher
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Charles L. Gallagher

A Nation’s heritage should never be squandered to the ‘great god GREED’. Once destroyed there is no chance of it being recovered!!!

K. K
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K. K

The likelihood of the building being saved is minimal primarily because the CADW isn’t an independent body but one that primarily fulfils the demands of the Welsh Government. This is further complicated by the fact that local authorities can give listed building consent bypassing further scrutiny for the building to be demolished without undertaking an options appraisal which should be undertaken to not only negate future use but also the social, cultural and economic impact that may ensue from its retention. In the case of the aforementioned building it is a fine piece of architecture but typically ‘financial concerns’ are… Read more »

John Evans
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John Evans

I’d rather see Cowbridge benefit from perhaps a community centre type of thing where all could enjoy the beauty of this architecture rather than flats. Shame. Arts centre with workshops?

Stephen Bale
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Stephen Bale

This should be exposed in Private Eye’s Nooks and Corners column

Jonathan Gammond
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Jonathan Gammond

Another example to add to the long list of examples of unimaginative uses of our heritage. We have suffered a good number of demolitions in Wrexham and the question begs – are the Welsh more willing to accept any development opportunity, however low quality and short term, offered to them than the Scots, the English, the Irish (northern and southern) or many other nations in Europe, often self-imposed?

K. K
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K. K

In Wales, our heritage has always been erased from the landscape due to skewed ideology and complete ignorance. In Merthyr Tydfil and particularly in the post period one only has to look at the plethora of buildings lost including the Triangle housing estate, the old iron bridge, Ynysgau Chapel as well as the clearance of the historic Georgetown are just some examples whereas a town like Mountain Ash saw the demolition of Dyffryn House (1984), the arson job on the Nixons Workmans Hall (1995) and the local health board flogging off the General Hospital (paid for by the people) only… Read more »

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Anyone remember The Rape Of Britain? It detailed all/most of the buildings “lost” since WW2, and had a foreword by John Betchemin (lost my copy) “a devastating book” he wrote. I am a big fan of modern architecture but “patch and mend” is the best way to cope with our built environment. I’ve signed the petition, but I must have done so a hundred times since the sixties. So I agree with KK.
Bring on the new party asap!

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Googled it, published 1975, so not the sixties! By Amery/Cruicshank. Amazon has it, 31 quid.

John Mcfadzean
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John Mcfadzean

You all need to stop voting in a labour govt!! That would sort a lot of issues like this!!

Rhosddu
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Rhosddu

If, as KK says, CADW have been slow to step in to protect our architectural heritage, then that’s a disgrace (and Jonathan Gammond is right about the cultural vandalism perpetrated on Wrecsam over the years by the Council). Having a building listed will do much to prevent this, and no-one has to wait for CADW to do this — a Community Council has the authority to list any building in its jurisdiction. I’ve seen it done in one village in Wrexham Maelor, and all Welsh Community Councils should be made aware of their right to do this, if they’re not… Read more »

Padi Phillips
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Padi Phillips

Twas ever thus though. I can remember reading, as part of the basic research for my long essay as part of my course at Coleg Harlech in the mid 80s, an article in a very early edition of Archaeologia Cambrensis bemoaning the national approach to the preservation of our built heritage. It seems to be a thing. How many of us are aware of old houses and buildings being allowed to fall into disrepair and ruin by our compatriots who seemingly on the whole prefer to do this, and build in place the most banal of bungaloid monstrosities that in… Read more »

Saffron Waghorn
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Saffron Waghorn

The idea of demolishing Sarah Pedersen school is scandalous. I am a stonemason /sculptor, there are so many people skilled in the old trades that are looking for work like this. There are plenty of other places of less importance to demolish to build. Also in this environmental climate, it would be better to restore all our beautiful heritage. The council yet again want a quick fix. They are not investing in our future. It could be a brilliant community challenge to restore this fantastic building. Crowd funding should be involved.

Steve
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Steve

Would be well looked after in St Fagans if demolition was the only option

Jan
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Jan

Let’s be honest, if it’s not Cardiff….it’s nothing! Take a good look at the Welsh assembly, you’ll find what’s wrong!

K. K
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K. K

I don’t think that’s completely true sorry Jan as Cardiff has a horrendous record with regards to their track record on heritage conservation. What with the Rise in Pontcanna and Guildhall Crescent succumbing in last 18 months and with a botox job on Cardiff Central to come, Cardiff and in particular its beloved council have an abysmal track record. During the local council elections in 2017 I was asked by an unnamed party for input into what local issues would be relevant to the local electorate. Despite advising them that our local heritage is one of the the most important… Read more »