Summary: This pleasant site provides about 5 acres of public open space. It incorporates 2 secluded woodland paths, both leading from Chatsworth Close down to the sea – one in an attractive dell following the banks of a stream to the Promenade The original much larger site was occupied by Penrhos College for Girls for over a century, before being demolished in 2001 when the current housing estate was built.
Location: The main site lies between Ebberston Road East and Chatsworth Close, extended by the 2 attractive footpaths leading from Chatsworth Close down to the Promenade
Map Reference: SH843795
The overall site would have been open fields until 1882. In that year a “Hydropathic” Establishment was built on the westernmost part of the land owned by the Pwllycrochan Estate Company (formerly Lady Erskine’s estate, which covered most present day Colwyn Bay). Effectively this was an upmarket spa, boasting both Turkish Baths and also baths in hot and cold seawater! Despite being housed in an extremely large and impressive building which commanded fine sea views, it was not commercially successful.
Penrhos College for Girls bought it in 1895 and moved the school there from its original site on the Promenade (in a Victorian villa called Gilbertville). The college gradually expanded their site westwards and in the early 1900’s bought considerable tracts of land from the Cayley Estate piecemeal, as the owner was in considerable financial difficulties at the time.
The college had a very successful history as a Methodist foundation for girls’ education. It expanded between the wars and thrived into the 1960’s. However changing times led to it merging with Rydal School for Boys in 1995 to form Rydal Penrhos and eventually all the pupils moved onto the Rydal site in Colwyn Bay.
The school had a very interesting history in the Second World War. The girls and staff were given 10 days to get out and the buildings were taken over by the Ministry of Food which had been evacuated from London and took over much of Colwyn Bay. The school was evacuated to Chatsworth House, the stately home in Derbyshire and country seat of the Duke of Devonshire. Whilst this provided a very grand setting for the girl’s continuing education, it was also extremely cold for them in winter as the heating was very limited with war time rationing. The school buildings now occupied by the Ministry of Food housed the Bacon and Ham Division, the Agricultural Planning Branch and also the Strategic Planning section. This latter was very important – it arranged and coordinated the immediate next day supplies of bread and milk to cities and towns after they had been bombed and lost their normal supply networks.
Today the site presents a much more peaceful appearance, with an attractive housing estate and impressive amount of linked open space for the community to enjoy and walk in. The Penrhos College buildings were demolished in 2001 when the current housing estate was built. Several features from the former college have been retained, including the weather vane (overlooking the sea) and the top of the tower from the main school building (now located in the centre of the main site facing Ebberston Road East). There is also a heritage display board on the main footpath through the site giving details of the history of the school.