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Lick of Paint for School Designed on a Fag Packed

Did you know that Ysgol Brynhyfryd’s three- storey 1950s building facing Mold Road was basically drawn up as a doodle? It’s a lovely thought and it takes us way back to the days before computer aided design. Not on a cigarette packet, admittedly, but scribbled instead across the masthead of a daily newspaper. How so? This from Wrexham’s Save our Heritage (SOH) website regarding historic Denbighshire’s 1950s County Architect, Gilbert Wiles, “He would catch the bus from Garden Village to the office in the centre of Wrexham. During this bus ride, he would sketch details and ideas for buildings in the design phase, along the top edge of his newspaper. Upon his arrival in work, he would tear off the top of his newspaper and hand it to a draughtsman to turn into a proper plan. Ysgol Brynhyfryd in Ruthin was designed almost entirely in this fashion”. According to Gwynne Morris’s book published to commemorate Brynhyfryd’s 1999 centenary, the school officially opened this proud monument to modern education in 1954. Brynhyfryd’s mentioned on the SOH website is because it was Wiles who also designed Wrexham’s Grove Park School, also in the art deco style, also around the same time as our own school and probably, too, on his daily newspaper. It is to safeguard the Grove Park buildings that SOH—which includes our sister organisation the Wrexham Area Civic Society—was formed. To précis the SOH website, the Wrexham education re-organisation of 2003 was designed to release surplus capacity. The council thus wished to sell the valuable Grove Park site for redevelopment. Someone discovered that there was a covenant on the site which restricted it for educational purposes only. The process ground to a halt, during which time campaigners managed to have the building listed. Of course, back home, Brynhyfryd’s building doesn’t need saving. The school moves from strength to strength. Indeed, Ysgol Brynhyfryd’s has seen much better times. Again, from the SOH website, “Around the same time that Wiles was working on the Grove Park School, he was also planning a new co-educational building for Ysgol
Brynhyfryd in Ruthin. Fortunately, [the school] has seen fit to keep the building in good condition and, when it required refurbishment, the windows chosen were of the correct type and colour”. How very true. Over the Easter holidays 2018, the school has painted up this frontage and it now looks splendid. It may not be a structure to which we usually pay particular attention but its symmetry and simplicity are, in their own way, as striking as the more classical design of Ruthin School opposite. In fact, given Brynhyfryd’s importance to Ruthin and district, much more so. Enough of the bouquets. Sadly, the school also gets a brickbat. There is one corner of  Brynhyfryd that is in a sorry state and needs the school’s attention. It is most visible to traffic entering Ruthin via Mold Road. We refer to the lodge at the school’s entrance. So visible is it, in fact, that the “temporary” fencing surrounding it acts as a useful frame for banners which advertise the school’s successes. Whether this is allowable or not we aren’t sure but we should perhaps turn a blind eye, because it does promote the school and it diverts interest away from the lodge itself. For the lodge is now in a state, with slates lately missing & an alarming crack again appearing. Back to Wiles, the other fascinating fact about his commute to work was that he took the bus. Brynhyfryd is a testament to the way he used his commute well. You can’t design a school building while driving a car! And, yes, Gilbert Wiles was the son of Walter Wiles, also County Architect for historic Denbighshire. Walter designed the frontage of the County Offices—now County Hall—opened in 1909 and still with us today.
June 2018