The new 16 acre housing estate on Llannerch Road West facing the Promenade was once the impressive site of Penrhos College for Girls until it merged with Rydal School for Boys in 1995. The site was finally closed in 1999.
The College was founded in 1880, as a private Methodist school for girls and one of its driving forces was the Rev. Frederick Payne, who was also responsible for founding St John’s Methodist Church in Colwyn Bay, and was also behind the foundation of Rydal School (a private Methodist school for boys in Colwyn Bay). Methodism was clearly a very strong force in Victorian Colwyn Bay, and indeed by 1950 Methodist institutions were also very substantial landowners in the area, and have had a big impact on the area’s architectural heritage.
Initially the girls from Penrhos College attended St John’s Methodist Church for their Christian services (twice on Sundays, and also a Wednesday evening service). The boys from Rydal School used St John’s for worship in a similar way. Interestingly they entered and left by different gates, so that there should be no danger of the boys and girls meeting each other! This curious detail is known, because by some oversight Rydal used the wrong entrance one Sunday, and Rydal still has a record of the letter of protest it received from the headmistress of Penrhos – unfortunately we don’t know the wording of the headmaster of Rydal’s reply!
Eventually, as the school grew bigger, St John’s could not accommodate all the pupils, so in 1925 a separate free standing chapel was built for the girls on the Penrhos site. Sadly this was demolished with the rest of the school to make way for the new residential development.
The chapel had some very impressive stained glass windows, which fortunately have been saved and moved to the main Rydal Penrhos School buildings in Colwyn Bay. These have been professionally restored, mounted and provided with back lighting, so their detail can now be seen much more clearly than when they were acting as windows – to stunning effect in some cases. The windows encompass a wide variety of styles from late medieval to modern. Probably the most impressive modern abstract one is the Kronberger window, commemorating one of the foremost atomic scientists in the world in his time. His daughters attended Penrhos College and sponsored the window. The design seeks to encapsulate in pictorial form Hans Kronberger’s work in harnessing nuclear power for peaceful purposes. At the other end of the historical spectrum is a late medieval window, somehow rescued from the Savoy chapel in London. (The chapel was bombed in the war, but the window was saved and offered to Penrhos College as it could house the window so suitably).
There are more details of the college’s history on the commemorative display panel by the footpath entrance on Llannerch Road West.
A folder of excellent photographs of the stained glass windows by John Lawson Reay is attached here.
(Not to be reproduced commercially without his permission).