Ruth Evans and the “Christ Church British Schools”

This interesting piece has been contributed by Rhyl History Club member Maggi Blythin, and includes the following report from the Caernarfon and Denbigh Herald, August 20th 1881.


“The New British Schools – A Munificent Gift.”
“On Monday last a most interesting and at the time a most simple ceremony was gone through at the magnificent new building now known as the “Christ Church British Schools” when the schools were opened by the Revs. Fred. Payne, Aaron Francis and J.Ogwen Jones.  The fine convenient schools have been built at a cost of about £4,600 by Miss Ruth Evans, Preswylfa, Rhyl, sister of Mr Joseph Evans, Haydock, Lancashire and presented by her to the trustees for the use of the children of Rhyl.
There is no doubt the largest and handsomest establishment of the kind in Rhyl, and the true spirit of philanthropy which prompted Miss Evans to make this splendid gift is deserving of public notice and appreciation.
The buildings occupy a commanding site at the corner of Crescent Road and Vaughan Street, occupying altogether about 1200 yards of land.  The ground floor is intended for the use of girls and infants, with entrance from Vaughan Street; the upper floor for boys or mixed schools, there being a total accommodation for about 800 children in case the whole building be used for teaching purposes.
The infants’ school is 32 feet by 25 feet with a large bay window on one side and a handsome timbered roof.  A special room for babies has been provided, which is 18 feet by 15 feet with private access from the vestibule and glass door between it and the infants room, and with access from the same vestibule there is also a class room which can be used for senior infants or mixed infants and girls.
The girls’ schoolroom is 90 feet long and 22 feet wide and has large windows all down one side kept well up from the floor and reaching well up to the ceiling.
The boys’ school rooms are on the first floor with entrance from the playground at the back and private communication with the girls’ room below.  The large schoolroom is 60 feet by 22 feet with a lofty timber roof, windows all down one side and one end, the other end having two large classrooms, separated from the large room by sliding screens of pitch pine and glass. Three other classrooms are provided with book rooms etc.  The whole of the rooms are fitted up in the most complete manner with pitch pine desks, galleries, cupboards etc and the warming, lighting and ventilation seem equally perfect and have nothing to be desired.
The exterior of the building is a good example in brick and terracotta work and the whole does credit to the architect Mr C O Ellison, Liverpool and London, and the contractors Messrs Collin and Son, Warrington.
 
The opening on Monday was of an exceedingly simple kind, the Revs F.Payne and Aaron Francis offering a prayer and the Rev J Ogwen Jones reading a portion of the Scripture.  The children sang some pieces and the work of the school was immediately begun under the new master, Mr Rigby.”
Christ Church

Miss Evans must have been a remarkable lady to undertake such a task.  Her brother Joseph was a colliery owner in Haydock and when he died in 1892 she had a Congregational Church built in his memory.  The family owed several collieries in the Haydock area and were extremely wealthy.  Ruth was born in Chelsea in 1819 and never married.  She died in 1896.
She appears to have been heavily involved in good works in Rhyl.  The same year as Christ Church is opened sees her at the British School in Vale Road where she provides a Christmas Eve tea for the children and gives them cards, sweets and oranges.

Although she doesn’t appear on any of the Rhyl census she was living at Preswylfa as early as 1878 when she was mentioned in the Rhyl Advertiser as being involved in the setting up of the Rhyl Cocoa House in High Street.  It was open to the public in February the following year.  By 1885 a new premises was needed and Ruth offered to build a new cocoa house on the corner of Bodfor and Kinmel Street.  This was opened by Christmas the same year.
 
Ruth also involved herself with ‘good works’ for the poor.  She helped in arranging a ‘Treat to the Aged Poor’ in January 1879.  This took place in Reynold’s Assembly Rooms and ‘100 poor people from 50 to 90 attended’.  They were treated to tea, entertainment and there were prizes for singing and reciting.  In March that year she was superintendent of the newly opened Infants School in Clwyd Street.

In 1891 she appears aged 71 on the census living at Briers Hey in Rainhill.  Prior to this in 1881 she is living with her brother Joseph at Hurst House in Huyton.  In 1871, again with Joseph, they are living in Haydock.  
I can’t see that the family had a direct link to Rhyl so, perhaps they used to holiday here and she decided to make the town her home. She must have moved to Bod Arthur, Bath Street at some point prior to her death on August 10th 1896 as this is given as her address on her will.  However she died at Coel Tal, Glyndyfrdwy near Corwen.  Her estate was valued at nearly £47,000.
I had never heard of this lady before although I attended Christ Church School.  My Nain used to say that our family were among the first pupils and, indeed, she would have been correct as she and her siblings were born between 1872 and 1887 and lived in Abbey and Aquarium Street.  She was always very proud of the fact that she, my Mum and I all attended Christ Church.
It seems a shame that Ruth Evans has been forgotten about, but, at least she know has a mention on the Rhyl History Club website.
Thanks to Maggi Blythin






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9 Comments

Filed under Buildings/Location, People

9 responses to “Ruth Evans and the “Christ Church British Schools”

  1. Dorothy Jones

    That was a very interesting article, both my girls went there and their cousins before them.

  2. Pat Brooks

    What an interesting lady. She must have loved Rhyl to do all those good deeds to enable Rhyl to benefit from that love. Most of my friends went to Christ Church school but I went to Clwyd Street which is also mentioned. We all owe her much gratitude and she deserves recognition for her lifelong influence on many childrens lives long after she had died. We could certainly do with more people like her now I believe. How would she feel about Rhyl now I wonder? A little sad perhaps. Good that you have given her this recognition though Maggi.

  3. ola66

    I hadn’t heard anything of that story before, thank you Maggie. Clearly it was a special place, I wish I had shown more interest whilst I was there………indeed given the aspirations that they had when the school was opened I’m suprised they let me in!

    The article doesn’t mention it but I had always assumed that there was a link between the school and Christ Church (Church)……..do you know if there is a link besides the name?

    Peter Finnigan

  4. penny livingstone

    Hi, yes all the “Over ” family went to Christ Church school . My family members also lived in Vaughan st opposite the school many years ago.

  5. frank lyon

    Ruth Evans also financed the building of Congregational churches in St Helens Merseyside. She built a church my local village, Haydock – Christ Church, which still stands. She also built churches at Rainhill, StHelens and Peasley cross, St Helens. Unfortunately, the latter 2 were demolished in the 1950’s because of structural problems with the spires.

    • ola66

      Thanks for that Frank, although a link hasn’t been found I do wonder again if Ruth Evans had a link to Christ Church the congregational church in Water Street, Rhyl.

      Peter Finnigan

  6. Roy Dowell

    Just browsing your most interesting site. This Christchurch CP school piece stirred memories as I was a former pupil (about 1950-57) and I never knew its history. AT Williams was headmaster and Phyllis Owen deputy. By best school friend lived next door to the school

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