Former British School, Caernarfon

Former British School, Caernarfon

Caernarfon’s British School was established in 1846 to help children from poor families receive a basic education. From 1856 it was housed in this building, by local architect John Lloyd (1795-1867).

The school was also used for public events, including election meetings and concerts. In January 1871 the composer Joseph Parry gave a farewell concert here before his departure for Virginia, USA, where he spent the next three years.

In the late 18th century – when there was no compulsory education for children – many schools were run by the Church of England or by chapels with charitable backing, so that children from poor families could learn to read. The development of these schools was slow, and in the early 19th century the crusade for literacy strengthened.

In 1808 the British and Foreign Schools Society – for children of every religion – was founded. It created “British Schools” and teacher training institutions which in many places were rivals to the “National Schools” of the established Church.

The Caernarfon School Board agreed to take over the British School in 1873. The board had recently been created under the 1870 Education Act – the first of a several Acts of Parliament which made education compulsory in England and Wales for children aged five to 13. School boards were public bodies which could establish or manage elementary schools; members were elected to the board and school funding came from local rates.

The building remained a primary school until 1973, when all the children – together with the girls’ and infants’ school located across the road – moved to new premises at Ysgol yr Hendre, on the outskirts of town. The building was adapted as a youth centre in 1979.

It is listed as an exceptionally well-preserved school from the mid-19th century. The schoolmaster’s house still stands, behind the school.

With thanks to Ann Lloyd Jones, of Caernarfon Civic Society

Postcode: LL55 1NS    View Location Map