'Open-air' school, Y Ffor

The main building at Ysgol Bro Plenydd was designed in the early 20th century as an ‘open-air’ school to aid the children’s health.

It was one of the first two such schools built in what was then Caernarvonshire. The idea that school building designs could benefit tubercular children’s health originated in Germany c.1904 and soon spread to Britain, first to Derbyshire and Staffordshire and then North-west Wales.

Drawing of the new open-air school at Y FforThe Caernarvonshire Education Committee initially commissioned open-air schools here and at Brynaerau, near Clynnog Fawr. They were planned in 1911 and opened in 1912. Its architect was Rowland Lloyd Jones. Others followed, including at Chwilog and Pwllheli. The drawing shows the Fourcrosses (Y Ffor) school when new (copyright: Gwynedd Archive Service).

Emphasis was given to natural ventilation. There was a row of big sliding, folding windows that could fully open on the south side of the building. Smaller windows on the north side allowed good ventilation through the classrooms. A ‘marching corridor’ ran behind the folding windows.

An ingenious arrangement of sliding partitions – between classrooms and between classrooms and corridor – allowed flexibility in use, and also drill practice for the boys, pertinent in the war years.

The education committee was keen to log daily practice in the schools in connection with when the windows were fully opened; it clearly viewed these schools as an important experiment that might spread across Britain. Children might have been less healthy in the early 20th century than now but they were undoubtedly hardier – temperatures in the classrooms must have been far lower than would be acceptable today!

The school’s good ventilation came to the fore again during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, when the windows were open throughout the day.

With thanks to Adam Voelcker

Postcode: LL53 6UP    View Location Map

Website of Ysgol Bro Plenydd

Website of Gwynedd Archive Service