Site of baths and County School, Caernarfon

Site of baths and County School, Caernarfon

Caer Menai guesthouse and other buildings on the west side of Church Street occupy the site of a large Regency bath-house.

When King Edward I created the walled town in the late 13th century, the entire west side of Church Street, apart from the church itself, was walled off as private gardens. It was known for centuries as Queen Eleanor’s Gardens, after Edward I’s wife. She had had exclusive use of the gardens, which included freshwater wells.

In 1823 the Earl of Uxbridge, a major local landowner, built a large Public Baths building on the site at a cost of £10,000 – more than £1.2m in today’s money. Pumps in the medieval tower behind (part of the town walls) supplied water to the baths on the ground floor. In the floors above there were billiard tables and a concert hall and theatre. Lodgings in nearby Plas Bowman were advertised as ideal for “invalids” because of their proximity to the baths.

In the 1854 summer season, a cold bath cost 1 shilling, a warm bath 2s, a shower eightpence and a “swimming bath” sixpence. Proprietor Mrs Griffiths promised “civility, attention and the most scrupulous cleanliness”.

The building was later repurposed as the new home of the Carnarvon Training Institution. The college was founded by the Welsh Education Committee, which in 1846 declared its aim of creating teacher-training institutions in North and South Wales to improve the supply of teachers to “national schools” (church schools for children from poor families).

A fire in 1891 gutted the dining room and dormitory. Fortunately the students were away for Christmas. The fire brigade’s prompt action prevented the flames causing an explosion at the chemistry laboratory. The college reopened later in Bangor.

Caernarfon’s new County School opened in temporary premises here in September 1894. It provided intermediate education to children regardless of their parents’ means. There were separate departments for boys and girls. The school moved to purpose-built premises in 1900.

With thanks to KF Banholzer, author of the guidebook ‘Within Old Caernarfon’s Town Walls', and to Caernarfon Civic Society

Postcode: LL55 1SW    View Location Map