Many people will remember the “Gas School”, because, although it closed to pupils in 1966, it wasn’t demolished until 1986. It stood on Wellington Road and was correctly named St. John’s Church School (originally Wellington Road National School). It was affectionately called the “Gas School” and “Gas College” due to its proximity to the gas works.
In May 1872, Mrs Jones of “Olinda Villa ” (now Bradshaw Lodge, Chester Street), laid the foundation stone.
The following extract is from “St. John’s Church, Rhyl – A Centenary History” by John Gordon Sutherland B.A., a former Chairman of Rhyl History Club.
“Mrs Jones and her brother Robert Wynne came to live in Rhyl’s new fashionable quarter in 1860. Previously they had for many years lived in the town of Olinda, a suburb of the large port of Pernambuco, now Recife, on the coast of Brazil. Olinda is Portuguese for “O Beautiful”, and on returning to their native country, brother and sister named home “Olinda”, remembering the brilliant white palm studded tropical sands six thousand miles away in the new world country where Captain Robert Wynne once had much business.
The new Wellington Road School, which in the late 1880’s became St. John’s Church School, admitted its first unwilling pupils in October 1872. The building was from the outset, however, also used as a Church by a congregation comprising mainly fisherfolk and agricultural labourers and their families living in the vicinity of of the Foryd (Sea-Ford) near the mouth of the River Clwyd. In the early 1870’s the original settlement of Foryd still retained an entirely separate identity from the rapidly developing health resort of Rhyl, over a mile to the east.”
The school log book 1872-1905 is available to view at Flintshire Records Office and makes interesting, sometimes funny and often poignant reading. Attendance was remarked upon in almost every entry, often described as “poor” and “disappointing” but occasionally “improving” and once or twice “good”.
Here is an entry from Friday, October 8th, 1875: “Average for the week, 27. The Rev. Ll. Nicholas visited school on Wednesday and Friday, many of the children play truant but I find the parents are a great deal to blame.”
Monday June 19th, 1876: ” Poor attendance this morning. the children assembled in the afternoon but so many were away at a circus that the registers were not marked and the children were dismissed at three o’clock.”
Many reasons were given for the disappointing attendance, colds, measles, whooping cough, typhus fever, wet weather, stormy weather, bad weather, girls being required “at home”, boys working in the town as part of the summer season etc.
March 19th, 1878: ” Her Majesty’s Inspectors report received March 2nd. This school has improved very much indeed since the last examination in attainments and in numbers also. The sewing and knitting were good. Miss Horncastle is a good teacher.”
April 15-18th, 1878: “Good attendance. Major Penn visited the school and gave 10/- to be divided among those children who had attended most regularly since the commencement of the quarter.”
June 28th , 1886: “Attendance very fair, 3 children have left for the Vale Road British School because they give prizes.”
At the end of the book, in 1905, attendance was up to 87.
Rhyl History Club member, Mr Richard Evans has written his memories of his time at St. John’s from the late 1940’s:
“As a child just after Victory in Europe Day (May 1945) the School Building appeared massive and secure, the day to day maintenance being the responsibility of the caretaker, whose house was incorporated into the School Building. After prayers each morning the Hall was partitioned off into two rooms, the larger being Miss Tegwen Batten-Jones’s class. She had the unenviable task of introducing we printers to the art of real writing. In the Headmaster’s class I was prepared for the scholarship examination, which I subsequently passed. At the time Mr. Gwilym Thomas had succeeded Mr Frank Port as headmaster. (Both these Headmasters were organists at St. John’s Church). My recollections of Mr. Thomas are of a large, jolly man who set us reading from the Romany series of books and who extolled the incomparable beauties of the Vale of Clwyd.
Each classroom was heated by an open coal fire apart from one which boasted a cast iron coke burning stove around which were stacked the one third pint bottles of school milk to defreeze during the Winter of 1947-8. Since St. John’s did not have a canteen we were marched to Warren Road Chapel Vestry where we joined forces with the pupils of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic School to be fed. Being small schools it was necessary for us to combine our talents to take on the giants of Christ Church or Trellewelyn at football in the School league at the Coronation Gardens.
Despite its difficulties St. John’s School was for me a homely and happy place, staffed by truly committed teachers.”
St. John’s School closed in 1966 and its pupils were transferred to Christ Church School.