The Costain Building and Memorial Hall, Rydal School, Lansdowne Road, Colwyn Bay.
The Costain Building and the Memorial Hall at Rydal School are Listed Grade II. The Listing details state “Rydal School was founded in 1885 by a leading Methodist educationalist, T.G. Osborn. The Costain Building was added to the growing school complex in 1927-30 as science laboratories etc. and the Memorial Hall which extends the L-plan to the south was added in 1955-7. Both buildings were designed by Sidney Colwyn Foulkes, architect of Colwyn Bay.”
The Costain Building
The two storey L-plan Costain Building, is named after the Rev. A.J. Costain who was headmaster of the school for 37 years before his retirement in 1946.
The Costain Building, Rydal School – Lansdowne Road elevation
It is constructed in coursed and squared sandstone with a slate roof behind a parapet. The Lansdowne Road elevation, set behind a grassed bank consists of six bays in between a projecting gabled end at the west and a low corner tower at the eastern end. A moulded string course runs above the first floor windows and below the six water spouts which line up with the centre of the windows.
Each bay is lit by mullioned and transomed windows consisting of three lights across and three lights down with small rectangular leaded panes. Some of the original leaded lights remain in the upper glazed panels, whereas more recent glazing has been installed in the lower panels.
It is worth noting that the windows on the first floor are not as quite as tall as those on the ground floor. This apparently minor detail is important as it contributes to the very pleasing proportions of the building. Careful observation will show that in the ground floor windows the top lights have five small panes top to bottom whereas the top lights in the first floor windows have four panes.
Three blind, slightly recessed traceried panels separate the ground and first floor windows, decorated in a Gothic style. It will be seen that the mullions of the ground floor windows continue up to the first floor, also dividing the three blind panels referred to above. The bays are divided by buttresses.
The gabled west end is capped with a finial and has similar windows. Note the relieving arch over the first floor window. Another gable faces the ramp (which lies between the Costain Building and Old House) which leads to the quadrangle. A segmented arch opening on the side facing the ramp gives access to basement, once the woodwork workshop. The gable at the western end of the Costain Building and the gable end on the eastern end of Old House mark the entrance to the school from Lansdowne Road.
Costain Building/Memorial Hall, corner Lansdowne Road / Queens Drive
The corner of the Costain Building at its eastern end, at the junction of Lansdowne Road and Queens Drive consists of a low buttressed tower with a battlemented parapet. A moulded string course runs below the parapet on both the Lansdowne Road and Queen’s Drive elevations, returning around the tower on the south side.
On the Lansdowne Road side of the tower three small narrow windows are above a particularly delightful first floor oriel window with delicate and finely carved tracery. It is worth spending time studying this oriel window, one light wide at the sides, two lights wide at the centre with a lovely band of finely carved floral decoration above the corbelled masonry supporting the oriel. The glazing consists of small leaded panels, mullioned and transomed in the centre, mullioned at the sides.
Two small, narrow windows lie below the oriel underneath these windows there are three foundation or commemoration stones, the descriptions of which cannot be easily deciphered from the pavement.
With regard to the tower, note the difference between the Lansdowne Road and Queens Drive elevations. The Queens Drive elevation is dominated by the large two storey bay window flanked by the corner buttresses. Five small narrow windows are located above the bay and below the string course.
This two storey bay window is four lights wide in the centre, mullioned and transomed with one light wide at the sides, also mullioned. At first floor level the tops are arched with pleasing small panes. Blind traceried panels separate the ground and first floor bay windows – containing the design of both the Queens Drive and Lansdowne Road elevations. A water spout drains the roof of this bay.
The design and detailing of the six classroom bays facing Queens Drive is as seen on the Lansdowne Road elevation. Of particular note is the glazing of the stairs between the tower and these classroom bays. This is formed by a tall, mullioned and transomed window, four panes deep at the top, seven deep in the middle and eight panes deep at the bottom, all four panes across. The proportions of this window are especially pleasing. Below this window there is a small window at ground floor level.
The roofs of both the Costain Building and the Memorial Hall are visible from Lansdowne Road and Queens Drive, are laid in diminishing courses. The colours of the stone and the slate (perhaps from Cumberland or Westmorland) are complementary.
A photograph in “Rydal School 1936-1963 – The Rydal Press, Colwyn Bay” shows the Costain Building and the Memorial Hall from Queens Drive, probably as they appeared in the late 1950s or early 1960s. The absence of a large amount of vegetation is particularly noticeable allowing one to fully appreciate SCF’s design and detailing of both buildings and especially how well they complement each other.
Inside the quadrangle, the northern wing of the Costain Building has a very pleasing covered five bay covered arcade or cloister. Windows light the corridors, larger on the ground floor giving views over the quadrangle towards the former dining hall.
Edward Hubbard, in his book “The Buildings of Wales – Clwyd (Denbighshire and Flintshire) refers to the Costain Building as follows:-
“Thoroughly collegiate, though is the splendid stone built Costain Building which L shaped encloses court and occupies the NE corner. 1927-30 by S.Colwyn Foulkes. The repeating bay unit between buttresses, comprises two mullioned and transomed windows, one above the other, with the mullions continuing between the storeys. A low corner tower which provides the chief accent, has an oriel on both outer faces, one oriel two storeyed, the other corbelled. The inner elevations of the two ranges show particular sensitivity in their simpler use of Tudor elements and one has an attached walkway”
The Listing details mention:-
“The Costain Building is planned with corridors along its two inner faces (serving as a cloister on the northern range) and retains the original internal layout”.
The Listing details add:-
“The Costain Building is a highly refined interpretation of the collegiate architectural style, sensitive to its site and articulating precisely defined functions”.
A low stone wall, with an angled coping reflecting the local “cock and hen” coping runs along Lansdowne Road and continues up Queens Drive in front of the Memorial Hall.
Internally the wing of the Costain Building between the Memorial Hall and the corner tower has been used for classrooms, on both floors. There is believed to have been (and may still be) an observatory at the top of the tower, The part of the Costain Building facing Lansdowne Road has accommodated the science laboratories and science classrooms were close to the corner tower and facing Lansdowne Road. The covered cloister or arcade facing the lawned quadrangle is a particularly pleasing part of the building and school notices have been displayed there – sports events, school appointments and the like.
The woodworking workshop has been accommodated in the basement of that part facing Lansdowne Road with access from the bottom of the ramp which is between the CB and the adjoining building. However the former workshop was converted to another use some time ago. There was also a shooting range next to the workshop.
The Memorial Hall
The Memorial Hall, commemorating the 99 Old Rydalians who died in the two World Wars, stands at the southern end of the Costain Building, the eastern elevation and the western elevation facing other school buildings.
Memorial Hall shortly after construction
Unfortunately much of the Queens Drive side of the Memorial Hall is becoming obscured by trees and high overgrown bushes which makes full appreciation of this fine building somewhat difficult. Some of this vegetation is growing very close to the hall.
The hall is of sandstone matching that used on the Costain Building, with a hipped slate roof behind a parapet. At the southern, uphill end is a fly-tower with a stage below and has an arched doorway with a boarded door facing Queens Drive, flanked on each side by a small narrow window. Three small narrow windows are centrally located high up in the fly-tower. Buttresses rise to about three quarters of the way up the corners. A row of water spouts run along the south side. There is a weather vane on the south eastern corner of the hall roof.
Of particular note are the three bays of windows, divided by buttresses capped by twin finials. The windows in each by are two lights across, mullioned and transomed, the top lights with shallow arches. Each of the six glazing units are of leaded lights, four panels across, five up and bordered by narrow marginal glazing.
As with the Costain Building water spouts are located between the top of the parapet and the string course, all carefully located to line up with the centre of the windows. Between the northern end of the hall and the three bays of glazing, three tall windows light the gallery and above each of these windows is a quatrefoil. Two small windows are located near the corner at ground floor level.
At the side of the path leading from Queens Drive to the entrance to the Hall, ie on the northern wall of the hall, there are two small windows at ground floor level, two windows at first floor level and it appears that there are also circular windows at high level, but vegetation growing on or near the building makes confirmation of this very difficult.
Obscuring vegetation, Memorial Hall, Queens Drive
A segmental arched doorway, originally open, but now closed by partly glazed doors leads to the lobby of the Memorial Hall. This is effect a through passage which gives access to the space bordered by Old House, the former dining hall and the quadrangle. The corridor at the ground level of the Costain Building also leads to this lobby. The doorway commemorates Donald Hughes, who was Headmaster of Rydal from 1946 to 1967.
There is a mullioned and transomed window above this entrance to the lobby, under which there is some form of carving, possible quite likely to be the school crest. As with other parts of the hall this feature is now partly covered by vegetation.
Quadrangle/ Memorial Hall, Rydal School
The entrance to the path leading from Queens Drive to the lobby is marked by low (possibly Portland) pillars with curved sides and without gates.
In his book Edward Hubbard, referred to the above comments on the Memorial Hall as follows:-
“Lighter and more fanciful than the earlier work, with pinnacle buttresses, but the masonry still of fine quality. Inside is a coffered ceiling with coloured patterning in the panels. The entrance corridor is aligned with an oriel of the (former) dining hall”
The Listing details mention that the Memorial Hall was designed as a multi functioned hall with a stage at the southern end below the fly-tower and a gallery at the northern end, with a projection room above.
The concluding observations of the Listing details state:-
“The Memorial Hall is a harmonious addition to the range, notably for the refined elegance of its external and internal details”
The Memorial Hall, at least during the 1960s, was used daily for morning service, Sunday morning service every other week (on other Sundays boys went to either St John’s or St Paul’s), and every Sunday evening service. During the winter and spring terms the Hall was used for film shows on Saturday evenings. Drama performances also took place there and musical performances such as the Messiah. There are music practice rooms in the basement. The Hall has also been was used by visiting lecturers to give their presentations. Prize giving ceremonies also took place there as have drama performances.
Although some 30 years separate the Costain Building and the Memorial Hall are perfectly complementing with the fly-tower of the hall and the low corner tower of the Costain Building forming the stop to the long Queens Drive frontage.
These buildings make a very significant contribution to Colwyn Bay and are important assets to the town, both in architectural and historic terms.
Acknowledgement: David Birch
Read more about Sidney Colwyn Foulkes and his work here.