(Part 1)

We take so much of modern society for granted that it can come as a great surprise to discover how recent our so-called 'civilisation' is. Not just our technology, from electricity to space rockets, but our major institutions as well. Local and national government structures, including voting; transport systems; a health service and education for everyone — all these, and more, are very recent arrivals on the scene. It wasn't until the Education Act of 1880 that school attendance to the age of ten was made compulsory. Children could leave school at ten, but could also be required to stay on if their attendance had not been satisfactory. Primary school education became free for all as early as 1891 but it took secondary education (ie, pre-university education to 18) until the 1944 Education Act to catch up and make secondary education free for all. As recently as 1931, only 25% of pupils at Amman Valley Grammar School received their education free of charge — the rest had to pay a fee every term. If you don't believe this, click on Amman Valley Grammar School from 1914 to Present for confirmation.

Before World War I children left school at 12 after very rudimentary education and went straight to work. In the mid-nineteenth century, seven and eight year olds were sent to work in the horrific mines and factories with no schooling at all. Today's children and adolescents may complain bitterly about school but if faced with the choice between descending into the pitch dark of a mineshaft and entering a warm schoolroom there wouldn't be too long a wait before they made their decision.

Education in the Parish of Llandybie

Tracing the history of schools in Ammanford, Llandybie and Betws is a complex matter, even with the help of Gomer Roberts' "Hanes Plwf Llandybie" (History of the Parish of Llandybie, published in Welsh 1939, translated into English in 1986). What few schools there were in the area came and went at a rapid rate, as they were temporary and run by a mixture of church and chapel authorities, charities, and private individuals. The premises ranged from church or chapel buildings, small rooms, barns, cowsheds, lofts, stables, and even in the open air. But we shall try nevertheless, and where possible chronologies, or timelines, will be compiled in an attempt to simplify educational development. The state, in the form of local authority-run schools, gradually took charge of education from 1870 onwards. It is from then that the school system we know today finally began to take shape.

It may help to trace the history of the various educational movements in Wales in a separate, more general, essay in this web site so that the local development of schools can be seen against the background of Welsh developments generally. For a short history of education in Wales, click on a Brief History of Education in Wales (this can also be found in the 'History' section of this web site). Here however we'll confine ourselves to more local developments.

Until the late nineteenth century Ammanford was a small, under-populated corner of the much larger Parish of Llandybie so it is with Llandybie that the history of education in Ammanford must start. Gomer Roberts tell us:

"The first reference to education in the parish of Llandybie is in the report of the [Llandybie Church] wardens to Bishop Laurence Wornock in 1684, where it states, "one Griffith Rees keeps a school, but whether he is licensed or no we know not" This was the first known school in the parish, but we do not know where it was held, and we know nothing, either, of the schoolmaster."

Education for the majority of working people was basically non-existent until the late nineteenth century. Where it did exist it was provided by the church and chapel charities, Sunday schools, schools run by well-off benefactors and schools run by private school masters or mistresses, often with no qualifications, for a small fee. The earliest known school in what was to become Ammanford was held from 1844 over the stables of Cross Inn chapel (renamed Christian Temple in 1865). This was a private school and the first teacher received an income of £30 a year from the pennies of the 46 children on the books (see the page on 'Christian temple' in the 'People' section of this web site.)

Of course, if you had enough money, there was no difficulty in giving your children a good education, either by means of private tutors at home or at one of the public (ie, private) schools that were becoming increasingly common from the nineteenth century onwards. But this option was only open to the families of the aristocracy, gentry or business people of the area.

In 1870 the first purpose-built, non-denominational school in Ammanford was built in College Street. Before that Ammanford children, along with Pantyffynnon and Penybanc children, had to travel to the National School (ie, church school) in Betws, built sometime before 1846. Initially, they crossed the river Amman over a wooden footbridge which had been built sometime in the early nineteenth century. This stood until 1891 when a flood carried the structure away. Children had to ford the Amman until a new, iron bridge was built across the river in 1892, which was to stand until a strengthened bridge replaced it in 1990. Even after Ammanford school was built in 1870, Pantyffynnon and Penybanc children still had to travel to Ammanford school until they, too, got a new school in Parcyrhun in 1909. Tycroes, in the parish of Llanedi, got its school in 1902.

Before we move to the details of education in Ammanford and Llandybie in Part 2, it might be easier to view developments as a chronology, or timeline.


Year Street School
1844 High Street First known school in Cross Inn held over the stables of Cross Inn Chapel, a private school with 46 pupils. The original chapel started in a barn on High Street in 1744. In 1782 a stone chapel was built which was completely rebuilt in 1836. This was enlarged to its present form in 1865 and renamed Christian Temple.
1846 Quay Street Private house in Cross Inn (Dame School) with 42 pupils (private).
1870 College Street Ammanford Primary School built.
1896 College Street Ammanford Infants' school added (which was moved to Walter Road in 1962).
1896 Llandeilo Llandeilo Intermediate School built (admitting pupils up to 18 years old) with Amman Valley and Ammanford children having to travel to Llandeilo. Attempts to build an Intermediate school in Ammanford thwarted by governors of Llandeilo School until 1914.
1914 Llandybie Road Amman Valley County School built in Tirydail as a temporary building. The original plans to build a permanent stone building in Brynmawr Avenue had to be abandoned due to outbreak of war. On the opening of a much enlarged County School in Church Street in 1928 the Tirydail building had a succession of uses: a mining institute and technical college (before moving to the YMCA, Iscennen, in 1929); an unemployed training centre; an annexe of Amman Valley Secondary Modern School, a Youth Club and a small factory. After a fire in 1976 it was demolished and a sheltered accommodation complex was built on the site in 1981. This complex was named 'Nantlais' after the long serving minister of Bethany Methodist Chapel in Wind Street (see page on 'Nantlais' in the 'People' section of this web site.
1926 High Street Ammanford Central School built (later renamed Ammanford Secondary Modern). Pupils were moved to the Amman Valley Comprehensive, Margaret Street in 1970 (this is the old Grammar school with extensive additional buildings, including a swimming pool and cinder athletics track).
1928 Church Street Brand new Amman Valley County School built. This was renamed Amman Valley Grammar School in 1945, Amman Valley Comprehensive School in 1970 and Amman Valley School in 2000. What's in a name.
1929 Margaret Street Playing fields added to the Secondary Modern site for use by Amman Valley County School. Later used by Secondary Modern as well.
1967 Baptist Lane Ysgol Gymraeg Rhydaman (Ammanford Welsh school) in the vestry of Ebenezer Chapel.
1969 High Street Ysgol Gymraeg, Rhydaman moved to temporary accommodation in Ammanford Secondary Modern.
1974 High Street Ysgol Gymraeg Rhydaman newly built on land next to Secondary Modern.
1970 High Street Ammanford Primary School on College Street closed and the pupils moved to the site of the Secondary Modern. The Ammanford Primary, Infants and Nursery School buildings in College Street were demolished in 1982 and a new Co-operative supermarket (Leo's) built on the site. Only the old yew tree now remains from the school.
1970 Margaret Street Amman Valley Comprehensive School created from the merger of Amman Valley Grammar and Secondary Modern schools. The Secondary Modern becomes the site of Ammanford Junior School. In 2000 Amman Valley Comprehensive School was renamed Amman Valley School.
Year Street School
1684 1684 A church report provides the first mention of a school in Llandybie kept by one Griffith Rees. Place unknown.
1738-71 Llandybie parish Griffith Jones held 49 of his 'Circulating' schools in the parish of Llandybie. These were taught by itinerant teachers who held a school for 3 months before moving on. Although only reading the scriptures was taught, about half the population of Wales learnt to read from these schools.
1806-48 Llandybie parish Sunday schools replace the ciculating schools which ceased soon after the death of the founder, Grifffith Jones.
1848 High Street Llandybie Primary School.
1894 High Street Nursery added.
1895 High Street Infants' added.
1935 Llandybie Secondary Modern built next to the Gorsedd.
1971 Llandybie Secondary Modern children transferred to newly built Tregib Comprehensive in Llandeilo. The Secondary Modern now becomes the new Primary School and the old Primary School is converted into a Church Hall with council chambers for Llandybie Community Council on the premises.
Year Street School
1846 Betws Road Betws National School (one room). Rooms were added after the school, which was originally built and run by the church authorities, was taken over by Llandeilofawr Urban district School Board after 1878. It was known as the 'Board School' from this time on until its named was changed to the current Betws Primary School in 1928. Pupils from Ammanford, Pantyffynnonn and Penybanc originall had to attend school in Betws.
1870 Betws Road Pupils resident in Ammanford can now attend the newly built Ammanford Primary School.
1909 Betws Road Parcyrhun pupils can now attend the newly built Parchyrhun school.
1912 (?) Betws Road Infants class added.
1920 Betws Road Infants moved temporarily to the vestry of Capel Newydd across the road when the school lost land to a road-widening scheme of Betws Road.

1927 Betws Road New Infants block added to the school. School renamed Betws Primary School
1988 Betws Road Full renovation of school.
Year Street School
1919 Llandybie Road The original Ammanford County School organises a regular annual summer mining school to teach mining safety regulations to colliery managers and safety officials according to the 1911 mines Act.
1929 Iscennen The mining school becomes permanent in 1927 and is transferred to the recently closed YMCA building in iscennen Road in 1929 where it becomes Ammanford Mining and Technical Institute, later to be renamed Ammanford Technical College. Later it teaches car mechanics and other technical subjects. In 1942 children over 13 years were admitted for a three-year full time technical course (before this all students were adults or colliery apprentices). This course however ceased in 1962. In 1949 a secretarial course is added.
1955 Station Road The Technical College moves to a purpose built campus in Station Road, Dyffryn and is officially opened by Princess Margaret in 1957. The college has added pre-nursing and nursery teaching courses. The YMCA building remained empty until 1977 when the old swimming pool was demolished and a new branch library was built in its place. When a new library was built again on Ammanford Square in 1999, the old library was vacated and then demolished in November 2001. The rest of the YMCA (the old caretaker's house) was converted into an Open Adult Education Centre, called 'The Cennen Centre', in the 1980s.
1985 Station Road Ammanford Technical College is merged with the Graig, Llanelli; Pibwrlwyd, Carmarthen; and Golden Grove Agricultural College, Llandeilo to become the Ammanford campus of the new multi-campus 'Carmarthenshire College of Technology and Arts' (CCTA.).
Year Street School
1880 Hall Street The "Hope Academy" opens in the Ivorites Hall and is run by Watcyn Wyn (later the Ivorites Hall became Ammanford's Labour Exchange before being demolished to make way for a car park).
1882 High Street Hope Academy moves to Christian Temple (Gellimanwydd).
1888 College Street The Hope Academy moves to a barn in Brynmawr Lane . The school is known as 'Gwynfryn' or 'Watcyn Wyn's school' from this time, after the house of Watcyn Wyn which he built next to the school. The main road becomes known as "College Street" as a result.
1915 College Street Gwynfryn School finally closes due to the opening of a state-run County School just 400 yards away in Tirydail. Watcyn Wyn's house became a private house owned by Evan Evans ("Evans the Chemist") and his family for many years. It is still a private residence. Today the old 'college' is still in use as Ammanford English Baptist Church.

School Leaving Ages
The horrific practice of sending children as young as six or seven years old to work was common until the late nineteenth century. From 1880 there has been a steady increase in the school leaving age occasioned by various acts of parliament. Here is a table charting that progresson — though it should be noted that in 1880 ten year olds were still sent to work in mines and factories and many of the people who feature in the pages of this web site went underground at twelve.

Chronology of changes in school leaving ages
School leaving age
First time school leaving age is made compulsory
Elementary education becomes free of charge
The 'Butler' Education Act of 1944 also made secondary education free for all and is implemented by the Labour government elected in 1945.
Introduced from September 2008


Thanks to our current information society some of our local schools now have their own web sites. Former pupils can check up and see how their old school has changed. Sadly, none of the web sites includes the history of any of their schools.

School Web Site
Amman Valley School. This is the renamed Amman Valley Comprehensive School which was previously Amman Valley Grammar School.
Ammanford Infants' School, Walter Road (includes photographs of the school).
Parcyrhun Primary School.
Ysgol Cymraeg Rhydaman (Ammanford Welsh School).
Saron Primary School.
Tycroes Primary School (contains many links to related sites including how to learn Welsh).
Llandybie Primary School.
Brynamman Primary School.
Llandeilo Primary School.
Ysgol Gymraeg Teilo Sant (Llandeilo Welsh School).
Tregib Secondary School, Llandeilo.
Trap Primary School.

All schools in Carmarthenshire can be found on the website of Carmarthenshire County Council. Click HERE. The schools are grouped into Primary, Seconday and Special. (Note: Ammanford Primary School is today named Ysgol Bro Banw).

The above is a brief summary of educational developments in the area. A more detailed study, drawing heavily on Gomer Roberts' 'Hanes Plwyf Llandybie" (History of the Parish of Llandybie), published in 1939 can be found by clicking on Education in Ammanford (2). It can also be found in the 'History' section of this web site.

The provision of education in the Llandybie, Ammanford and Betws area has a long history, going back at least 270 years from the first circulating schools of Griffith Jones in 1731. This history is too long and detailed to be encompassed by one essay so it has had to be divided into several sections. And even this does scant justice to the rich and complex subject matter. It awaits a far more competent historian than the present author and will have to be far more scholarly than this patchwork quilt of a web site will allow. Still, we can but try. The various sections are:

Education in Ammanford 1
Education in Ammanford 2
Amman Valley Grammar School from 1914 to the present
Amman Valley Grammar School – the beginnings
Betws Primary School
Ammanford Technical College
Gwynfryn College (Watcyn Wyn's School)

Date this page last updated: September 28, 2010