Former grammar school, Caernarfon

Link to Welsh translationFormer grammar school, Caernarfon

This old building is known as “Ysgol Jones Bach”. Its official name was The Grammar and Collegiate School, founded in 1836 by Rev James Hews Bransby. He was an English clergyman of private means who held shares in a Meirionnydd copper mine.

Rev Bransby lived in Bron Hendre, the large house across the road. He came to live in Caernarfon in 1829 and had this little building erected, possibly for use as a chapel before turning it into a private school. The school’s Latin motto was Absque Labore Nihil (“Nothing without effort”), and it soon acquired an excellent reputation. Rev Bransby died suddenly in 1847 while taking lessons, and is buried in Llanbeblig cemetery.

1896 advertisement for Caernarfon grammar schoolA Mr C J Reeves then served as master until 1862, succeeded by Dr John Smith Kirk for the next 24 years. The school was then taken over in 1886 by John Lewis Jones, from whom came its popular name “Ysgol Jones Bach”. The school advertisement shown here dates from 1896.

A man of formidable intellect, John was born in Liverpool of Welsh parents. After gaining teaching qualifications in Edinburgh, he spent 17 years as master and organist at Lower Llandwrog School until 1877, when he went to Trinity College Dublin. There he graduated as a gold medallist in History, Jurisprudence and Economics.

Moving back to this area, he taught privately in Llanberis before opening a school in Castle Square in 1883, taking on the grammar school three years later. During the 30 years he taught here, he prepared hundreds of boys for university entrance and professional careers. Unusually for his time, he did not cane pupils for misbehaviour but school discipline was said to be good.

The grammar school closed on his retirement in 1917. The building was then used by Caernarfon’s Central School as an overflow classroom, after which it was empty and neglected for many years.

With thanks to Dr Averill Lukic, of Caernarfon Civic Society

Postcode: LL55 2HP    View Location Map