Even before the industrial revolution, education was seen as the way to improve your lot in life - and the earliest recorded school in the area appears to be a Welsh Circulating School held at Abertysswg Farm in 1768 and 69. According to EE Edwards in "Echoes of Rhymney", 9 persons (children and adults) attended this school to learn to read their native Welsh tongue.
Around 1835, a Private Adventure School was established in Bute Town by John Evans, who had lost an arm in an accident at the Ironworks. He ran the school for a short time until the Rhymney Iron Company offered him a new job as a weigher. Later, a small school was held in the church. In 1843 The Rhymney Ironworks National School was established in Middle Rhymney, and in 1847 the Calvanistic Methodists, Independents and Baptists came together to create 2 British Schools in Rhymney. When the Education Commissioners visited the valley in 1847 (as part of the Blue Book Commission ) they only listed and visited the Rhymney Iron Company School (which was taking place in a house, following a recent fire at the school-room) and Mrs Blackmore's school in Rhymney.
In the 1851 census for Bute Town we find 17 year old Master David Davies listed as being employed as a school teacher, although no school building is listed (at this time non residential properties were not always listed). He was the lucky one as three of his sisters aged 21, 19 and 16 were working in the mines. Some children missed out on schooling altogether or left school to start work very young. In 1871, two boys from the village, 12 year old James Howills and his eleven year old brother Benjamin, worked as Door Keepers in the Colliery, where their father David Howills was a Coal Timberer.
In 1875 a Board School was established in 15 and 16 Collins Row, and the garden area was made into a yard. If you visit Bute Town you will see that these 2 houses have been demolished but the yard is still a paved area next to St Aiden's Church. It is interesting to look at the number of scholars in Bute Town captured by the census between 1841 - 1911 - although it is important to remember that individual enumerators may or may not have listed all or indeed any students.
The school moved to the Newtown Council Schools red brick building in 1906 and was operational until 1990's, when it became a community hall and later a private residence. Nowadays the young people of the village travel to English and Welsh Medium schools in Rhymney.
Newtown School opened in 1906
The Blue Books
The 1830's and 40's saw several incidents of social unrest in Wales - with the Chartist Campaigns and events such as the Rebecca Riots . These were widely reported in newspapers like The Times and it was claimed that the lack of education in Wales was the route cause for the displays of unrest. In March 1846, William Williams, the Member of Parliament for Coventry (originally from Carmarthenshire), called for an inquiry into the state of education in Wales. The Government agreed and R. R. W. Lingen, Jellynger C. Symons and H. R. Vaughan Johnson were appointed to undertake the inquiry. The three commissioners visited every part of Wales collecting evidence and statistics. The work was completed by 3 April 1847, and Lingen presented his report to the Government on 1 July of that year in three large volumes - which became known as "The Blue Books".
You can read the full reports on The National Library of Wales website .
Treachery of the Blue Books
The reports covered much more than the appalling state of the education system - it commented on the everyday lives as well as the religious and moral standing of those who lived in the rural and industrial parts of Wales.
The report caused a furore with remarks from the three non-Welsh speaking Anglican commissioners about the Welsh language, Nonconformity and the morals of the Welsh people in general. As a result, the Report came to be known as 'Brad y Llyfrau Gleision', or 'Treachery of the Blue Books'.
The reports had a major impact upon the mind and psyche of the Welsh people. Ordinary people began to believe that they could improve themselves through education and the ability to read and write English rather than their native Welsh language. The 'Treachery of the Blue Books' resulted in the Welsh people harbouring a complex about their image in the world, which some might say is still evident today.
A community of 48 houses built along Collins Row, Middle Row and Lower Row in the late 1820's.
Find out more in:
- Echoes of Rhymney by EE Edwards
- A History of Education in Wales by Gareth Elwyn Jones & Gordon W Roderick