History Of Holt CP School

The establishment of a school in Holt probably starts with the Griffith Roberts Charity. Griffith Roberts was Mayor of Holt in 1654. Although Primary Education in the village is now provided by Holt Community Primary School, which was opened in 1978, the benefits of that Charity continue to be applied for the promotion of education in Holt. This is done through a Charity called the Holt Endowed School Foundation. Income to the Charity derives from the lands mentioned below and also from investment income arising from the sale of the Endowed School. The earliest record is of a school in the Town Hall building, The Town Hall was sited on what is now the garden to the north of the Kenyon Hall. It was pulled down in 1897.


“This indenture made on 26th day of October in the 16th year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord Charles the Second by the grace of God of England, Scotland, France and Ireland King defender of the Faith and so forth AD 1664 BETWEEN GRIFFITH ROBERTS of the Town of Lions otherwise Holt….” “Estates aforesaid shall be to the use and be… and erecting a Free School in Holt aforesaid to be free for the Town of Holt….”


“A field in Hewlington in the Borough of Holt and County of Denbigh called the Middle Hall Field now divided into two parts containing 13a. 0r. 32p or thereabouts. A field in Hewlington aforesaid called the School Field containing 6a. 1r. 2p or thereabouts… A field in Hewlington aforesaid now devised into two parts called the two Hewlingtons containing 11a. 0r. 30p or thereabouts… A sum of £216. 9. deposited in the Savings Bank at Chester…”


This report details the Griffith Roberts Charity. The surviving trustees, at the period of the inquiry in 1836, were Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, of Wynnstay and Edward Lloyd Willams of Pen-y-Lan. The master was Mr John Edwards. The report notes: “There was no residence for the master, he lives in a house which he hires, but there is a very good and commodious school-room under the Town Hall in Holt, built, it was said about 1661.” The income of various trusts towards the school is then detailed, it was something more than £50. The report goes on: “The master has now a salary of £45, lately increased from £40. The receiver has three guineas a year, and there are besides certain trifling expenses at uncertain periods for repairs, stamps & etc; and a small surplus still seems to accumulate….” “The master is bound to teach all the children within the borough of Holt and its liberties, reading, writing, and accompts and some few mensuration, gratis. They pay 1s each as entrance, and 1s each year for firing; their parents provide them with books and stationery. They have three weeks holiday at Christmas and three weeks in the gleaning time. There are between 50 and 60 children on average.”


From the Charity Commission 14 October 1855 “The sum of £31 paid to the Schoolmaster of Holt exceeds the rent of the land and I am to enquire out of what fund the difference is paid…”

To the Charity Commissioners 4 April 1870

“The Trustees are all dead….” “The sum paid to the Schoolmaster of Holt has of course varied with the rents…..”

The Charity Commission 1st March 1871

“The Griffith Roberts Charities…. …there are not any legally appointed Trustees of the Charities and that it is desirable that such Trustees should be appointed…. …And the Board do hereby further Order that the said Vicar and Churchwardens of the Parish of Holt aforesaid for the time being and the said Reverend Ebenezer Powell, William Trevor Parkins and John Hurlestone Leche shall be the Trustees…”


“This ignorance of English is not confined to teachers who are native of Wales. In Schools taught by English masters the children are taught the bad grammar and mispronunciation incident to the provincial dialect of the teacher.” In a large free school at Holt in the County of Denbigh- The master speaks English with a broad Cheshire dialect, and very ungrammatically. He said he “went and teached some byes” (boys). He prefaced a question as to whether I had not met with many “ignorant schoolmasters,” by saying me being an interested party. And while I was examining a class, he directed the children to “stand backer”. He used no book in hearing the reading lesson, and when he thought a blunder was committed he corrected it by committing another.”


“The object of this foundation or Trust shall be to advance the education of boys and girls in the borough and liberties of Holt.” “The persons named in this clause shall be four of the first Governors, viz:- William Trevor Parkins Esq., Barrister-at-Law, Marford, Wrexham. Rev. Ebenezer Powell, Holt Thomas Morris Esq., Esp Hill, Holt George Williams Chaloner Esq., Holt Hall.


(Pictured is Holt Endowed School in 1905).

From the Charity Commissioners to the Governors of the School: “The Governors may spend a sum not exceeding 1,000 l., to be raised in such manner as the Charity Commissioners shall direct, out of the capital funds of the Trust, in helping to provide buildings properly secured to the Trust, and sufficient in the judgement of the Endowed School Commissioners for the purposes of elementary education in the Parish of Holt.” “All scholars, except as herein after provided, shall pay such tuition fees as the Governors shall fix from time to time, provided that no such fee shall be less that 2d or more than 9d a week.”

MINUTE OF SCHOOL GOVERNORS MEETING OF 23 DECEMBER 1873. “That an advertisement be inserted in the Chester Chronicle, Chester Courant, Wrexham Advertiser and Wrexham Guardian calling on Architects to send in Plans for the erection of a School for 210 children and one department for infants and one department for older Children and also a Master’s House the cost of both not to exceed £1000…..Carried unanimously”.

23 JANUARY 1874. “That the Church Green be dedicated for the purpose of the erection of the School….” “That the plans submitted by Mr W M Bowden be accepted…”

To the Governors of Holt Endowed School:


In submitting the accompanying design for your proposed New Schools, I beg respectfully to offer the following explanation of my plans:- The design has been prepared in strict accordance with the latest issued Rules of the Committee of the Council on Education and comprises, First a Mixed School Room, 51′.3″ x 20′.0″ with Class Room 16′.0″ x 15′.0″to accommodate together 126 Boys and Girls, allowing a superficial area of 10 feet to each and desk accommodation in the School Room for 96; and secondly an Infant School, 37′.0″ x 10’0″to accommodate 84 ………….Total accommodation 210 Boys, Girls and Infants. The playgrounds are enclosed, spacious and provided with privies and urinals. The cost of the School and Class Rooms, with yards complete will not exceed £800 and the Master’s House £175, inclusive of Architect’s Commission. The buildings are designed to occupy a portion of the waste ground known as Church Green, but will suit any other available site of sufficient area.

I am, Gentlemen

Your obedient Servant

Walter M Bowden


11 JULY 1874. “Tenders for the new School and Master’s House according to the Plans and elevations prepared by Mr W M Bowden were opened and read as follows:-

Carried unanimously that Mr John Lewis’ tender of £941. 9. 0 be accepted…”

26 JANUARY 1877. That the Tender of Mr Low for supplying the Schoolrooms and Masters House with gas fittings for £18. 16. 3 be accepted…”

27 FEBRUARY 1874. “That application be made to Lord Kenyon’s Trustees for the purchase or exchange of a piece of the field called Castle Croft…”


“I started school in 1914. The headmaster was Mr Bownass who had taken over from Mr Lester. The Deputy was Mr King, what a temper he had! You could use the cane in those days. You had to go across the yard to the toilets. We had coal fires and the senior boys had to bring the coal in”.

A Tapp

“I remember getting the coal in. Mr Bownass would send me and Harry Gibson to do it. Whilst we were in the coal shed we would have a quick drag of a fag end, rattling the coal bucket to make it appear that we were busy.”

J Penk

“In Standard 5 you had to sit for the Grammar School, that was Grove Park. Although I passed, my parents could not afford to send me, so I jumped from Standard 5 to 7. You couldn’t go any further. I left school at fourteen and a half.”

A Tapp

“It was the Three Rs for us reading, writing and arithmetic with a little bit of algebra and some logarithms.” “Mr Bownass commanded a lot of respect, both in and out of school. He was a marvellous teacher.” “The white collars were made of rubber. They used to cut red marks around your neck.” “We used to have a Maypole in the middle of the yard. Maypole dancing was one of the main recreations. It was amazing how clever and good some of the dancers could be. I was no good at it, I was more like a blooming camel.”

A Tapp

“Flicking cigarette cards was a great game. The cards had coloured pictures on them. We used to flick them up against the wall. The card that went furthest was the winner. The skill was getting a card to stand up against the wall because that usually won. The winner took all.”

H Jones

“We used to make holes all around the school wall to play marbles. You used to be able to buy marbles at Bessie Lewis’s shop.”

(Pictured is a School group  taken in 1936, with Mr Bownass, Headmaster).


The Trust provides money to assist the education and training of young people in Holt. In addition to providing grants to students it has helped to finance improvements to the school and the provision of books and equipment.


Holt Academy was founded by the Reverend Ebenezer Powell. It was written of him: “There was a great deal of the man, the gentleman and friend in him.” “He was not a gloomy man, he had a rich sense of humour, yet in his sermons there was never a glimmer of humour.” In 1855 he and his wife Mary Ann opened a school in their own house in Holt and had six boarders. Six years later they had over 80 students many of whom came from North Wales to learn English. In 1865 the new chapel was built and the old chapel turned into a school.

The subjects taught were:

Reading, Arithmetic, Bible Lessons, Geography, History, Grammar, Latin, Writing, Spelling, Mathematics, Mental Arithmetic, Drawing, Natural Science, Greek, French and German.

In 1873, aged 54, he sold the Academy to Mr Oliver Jones. H G Wells was an Usher at the Academy in 1888. He thought there was “an inordinate quantity of football to fill the gaps between learning.” He also wrote: “Holt, which should have some pretensions to the picturesque, in 1887 was blandly overlooked by the gasworks. From the first few weeks I knew I should have to escape from this flat grey desolate land, the dirty school and the Presbyterian habits.” “Holt turned out to be a squalid, ill-run travesty of the word Academy, where boys slept three in a bed, lessons took place with the uncertainty of April showers, and down right disorder threatened with such persistence that the headmaster freely advocated in private the physical punishment that he abhorred in public….”

However he later admitted:

“When at school at Holt I first found the urge to write.” It was here that he wrote “Lady Frankland’s Companions” and probably “Chronic Argonauts”.

Mr Tom Lewis of Rosset had different recollections. “None better, the lessons were regular, we worked from seven to eight in the morning, had breakfast and then worked from 9.30 to 12. After dinner we worked until 4.30, had tea and then returned to do two hours preparation in the evening. After prep we were bundled off to bed.”

Robert Cadwalader in a letter to his guardian in 1874 writes: “We rise in the mornings soon after five and commence school at six, thereby gaining two hours every day. I think we all like the system very well, though at times it is hard work rising.”

The Academy closed in 1902.

(Pictured is Holt Academy today, as private houses).


The Ladies College was founded by Robert Evans. The 1851 Census shows the Boarders at that time. A number came from Liverpool and one from Jamaica. It was later taken over by Mr Oliver Jones of the Academy with his wife as Headmistress. Part of the building has for many years been the village chip shop. The building is now a Grade II listed building occupied partly as a chip shop and Chinese Take-Away and partly as a private dwelling.

This extract was taken with thanks from ‘A Pictorial History of Holt’ (Holt Local History Society).

This entry was posted on Sunday, February 6th, 2011 at 5:45 pm and is filed under School History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.