Former Ragged School, Swansea

button-theme-womenFormer Ragged School, Pleasant Street, Swansea

This building was originally a school for poor children. Its backers included the local feminist, writer and industrialist Amy Dillwyn.

Swansea’s Ragged School was founded in 1847 in nearby Orchard Street. Outside school hours, it was a venue for temperance meetings, a soup kitchen, evening classes for adults, Sunday School and other activities.

In 1910 the school site was acquired for an extension of the central police station (which still stands). The building we see here today was the replacement school building, large enough for 300 children. The school closed in 1956. In 1997 it became the home of Swansea Spirit, a centre for healing and psychic development.

Commemorative stones on each side of the entrance were laid on 24 August 1911 by Roger Beck (1841-1923) and Amy Dillwyn (1845-1935). Roger was a director of steelmaker Baldwin’s and chaired the Swansea Harbour Trust.

Amy, who smoked cigars, belonged to the wealthy Dillwyn family of Hendrefoilan. She had published several successful novels in the 1880s. Feminist messages and lesbian themes often featured in her writing.

In 1892 she took over her father’s spelter works in Llansamlet, which produced zinc but by then was nearly bankrupt. Despite inheriting his large debt, she protected hundreds of jobs by reviving the business, eventually selling it at a profit in 1905. This was pioneering work for a woman at the time, and she had to overcome negativity from male industrialists.

As well as campaigning for better education and votes for women, she also supported workplace improvements. In 1911 she called for a boycott of the Ben Evans department store in Swansea, where seamstresses were on strike in protest at their working conditions.

Postcode: SA1 5DS    View Location Map

With thanks to Gail Allen, of Women’s Archive Wales