Kate Griffiths (nee Hughes)


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My research brought to light Kate Griffiths who, in 1909 both instigated the setting up, running and teaching of 23 children in a remote quarry school in Rhiw Bach village quarry near Blaenau Ffestiniog.

She journeyed up the three quarry inclines every morning,  then walked the three miles down into the quarry village to the school.At the end of the school day she would walk up to Graig Ddu Quarry (which is over 2,000 ft) and ride down the three inclines to Blaenau (700ft) on the renowned ‘Car Gwyllt”, which was like a one man, handmade skateboard which was sat on, with a brake.

It was illegal for anyone to use this method of transport, but it meant they got home sooner. During the winter months, when the weather was too cold and wet to do the daily journey she would stay up in the village of Rhiw Bach, initially in the school building, until she found lodgings with a family in the village.

Marged Pendrell


Aled Llewelyn Owen via facebook has added a story of one of Kate’s pupils and also offered more information about schools in the Rhiw Bach/Cwm Penmachno area:

"Can`t find the Welsh version but here is more about the schools around Cwm: Regular state education in Cwm Penmachno started in 1870 at the Church School. However, by 1909, there was considerable overcrowding with 120 pupils in two rooms. In 1908, a second school was opened in Rhiwbach Quarry. This eased congestion in the Church School and avoided the long steep walk for children living in the quarry barracks. Their teacher, Mrs Kate Hughes from Blaenau Ffestiniog, travelled up to the school in all weathers in an empty slate wagon and travelled back down in a “wild car” at the end of the day. The school closed in 1913 as a result of the wartime closure of the quarry. In 1912, Carmel School also opened to reduce overcrowding but closed in 1915.
On three occasions, parents took strike action, withdrawing their children from school requesting better facilities. The first strike in 1912 lasted six weeks, followed by another in 1915 and finally an eight month strike in 1920-21.
On August 26th 1922, the Council School (now Latymer School) opened with 80 pupils registered. It closed in 1964 with just 8 children.”

Here is a copy of some of the pages of the ‘punishment book’ at the school at Cwm CE School in 1926… You can see some children being punished for going home to complain to parents. We wonder whether Kate Griffith’s Rhiwbach school was more enlightened!?

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