This was the site of the original parish church of St. Thomas the Apostle, and perhaps the site of the original cell of St. Dogmael from c.424 A. D.. In 1253 Master Roger, the Rector, died. The Church was then assigned to the monks. In October 1357 Philip Henry was the Vicar. On 11th December 1404 Howel Mathew succeeded John Creyr as Vicar. The position was presented by Abbot Philip Vader of St. Dogmaels. In 1472 another Abbot Philip presented the church to John Davy, Vicar. In 1488 Philip Lawrence was the Vicar. On 10th June 1496 John Llewellin became the Vicar. After his death, Geoffrey Parke became the Vicar in 1514. The church was valued in 1534, together with the churches of Bayvil and Moylegrove, at £31. In 1535 the Vicar received £2.6s.8d. annually. In 1536 one of the last acts of Abbot William Hire at the Dissolution, was to present the position of Vicar of St. Thomas’ Church to David Howell. The church here may have been abandoned soon after, in favour of a new site adjoining the old Abbey. In 1537 the church was valued at £20.
In 1603 George Owen mentioned the ruined “Capel St. Thomas”, the former parish church. He wrote of:
“…the parish church in old time between the two mills…the walls yet are to be seen called “yr Hen Eglwys”…”
The ruins were still evident in 1646. On 15th October 1691 during a dispute regarding rectoral tithes in the parish, many witnesses recalled the ancient chapel here, still visible, and used for divine service until comparatively recently. A pulpit, tombstone and font were recalled, all made of green granite.
In the late 18th Century Rev. William Jones, Vicar of St Dogmaels, allowed the Methodists to build a meeting house here, and he may even have conducted their services. In 1764 John Davies, Minister of St. Dogmaels, wrote to Madame Bevan, speaking highly of her school in his parish, where the Master was the Methodist exhorter, Henry Richards (1730-1815): -
“…Henry Richard has taught the Welsh charity school in our parish church…with great diligence and good behaviour. The children there made a very great improvement, not only in reading the Welsh language, but also in learning the principles of our holy religion…I have inspected his school often, and was satisfied with the conduct therein…The scholars were all in number 145…He asked that the school might be continued for another quarter; the request was granted and there were 128 scholars during the additional period…”
The Church School was founded here in 1790. In March 1794 a Methodist meeting house was being built, probably here, under the instruction of Rev. William Jones, the Vicar of the parish. In 1811 the Methodists separated from the Anglican Church and their chapel here was closed. In 1811 the school here had 98 scholars. In 1835 John Lewis was a school master in St Dogmaels, perhaps here. Buildings are indicated here on the 1838 tithe map. In 1844 David Lewis was the Master of the National School. In 1847 the following report was written of the school:
“…Parish of St. Dogmell’s – Mrs Bevan’s Circulating School – On the 27th January I visited the above school; it was held in a chapel belonging to the church. There was no school furniture in the place. The master could hardly speak any English; five only out of the 32 present could be formed into a class to read the Testament. They attempted to read a chapter in St. Luke which all did wretchedly ill. They knew nothing beyond the answers to a few unconnected Scriptural questions…”
In 1847-49 there were three schools in the village. Writing in 1857 Rev. Henry James Vincent noted:
“…The old parish church, the church of the seculars, was before this time about 16 yards to the north of the precincts of our schoolroom; some of its walls now form part of a cottage; and a portion of the stone jambs of the windows had not entirely disappeared some years ago. Near it are the remains of a cistfaen or two; one of these was destroyed a short time ago by a villager in pursuit of treasure, that of course he did not obtain…”
In 1865, during the demolition of a pair of old cottages to make way for a new house, some graves were found pertaining to the old church. The Church School or National School here was for Anglicans only. According to one source, the school opened in 1867 – the school log books begin from 30th December 1867, with William Gordon Williams the Schoolmaster. In 1868 Jonathan Morris was said, apparently erroneously, to be the Schoolmaster. He may have been the predecessor of W. G. Williams. In 1868-69 William Gordon Williams was the Schoolmaster. On 5th-6th March 1868 the playground was levelled. The Inspector’s report included the following remark:
“…This is quite a new school in a parish where education seems to have been neglected. There was a very good attendance on the day of inspection, the order and discipline, however, at present are but moderate…”
Attendance in the spring of 1869 fell due to the anticipated opening of the St. Dogmaels British School. The Inspector’s Report of June 18th 1869 commented:
“…This school…is not at present in a flourishing condition…”
On July 30th 1869 William Gordon Williams ceased to be the Schoolmaster. On September 6th 1869 Robert S. Humphreys became the Schoolmaster. H. M. Inspector’s Report for June 1870 commented:
“…This school at present, I regret to say is in a very low condition. The attendance is exceedingly small and the character of the instruction inferior…”
In July 1870 the schoolroom and premises was whitewashed. In 1871 Robert Humphreys, 22, Schoolmaster, was living in the School House. The condition of the school was “…not satisfactory…” according to the Inspector in June 1871. On 29th September 1871 Robert S. Humphreys ceased to be the Schoolmaster. On 20th November 1871 Hugh Arthur Richards became the new Schoolmaster. The 1872 Inspector’s Report was, once again, unsatisfactory. Hugh Arthur Richards, teacher, resigned on 29th August 1873.
On 6th October 1873 William Williams commenced duties as the new Master and appeared to improve standards. On 24th January 1875 E. Williams, H. M. Inspector of Schools, complained about the state of the Boys’ privy. On 30th June 1875 William Williams ceased to be the Master. On July 31st 1875 William Lewis, un-certificated teacher, became the new Master until 23rd July 1877. On August 20th 1877 Mr. W. J. Lloyd, un-certificated teacher, became the new Master until 18th April 1878. On 23rd April 1878 Jonathan Thomas became the new Certificated Master. There were about 80 scholars at that time. On 31st October 1879 Jonathan Thomas resigned and Charles Frederick Owen became the new Certificated Master on 3rd November 1879. His wife, Mrs. Jane Owen, became a schoolmistress here a few days later. The school was said to have improved greatly under their supervision. They resigned on 1st August 1881, and standards rapidly declined again. Other staff at the school in 1881 were David Rees, certificated teacher of the First Class, and Jenny Lind Rees, Assistant Sewing Mistress. On 15th August 1881 David Rees became the new Master. There were almost 120 scholars at that time. David Rees and Jenny Lind Rees left in late August 1883.
On 27th August 1883 John Jones became the new Master and remained the Master until 1921. In February 1885 a new bell was hung in a newly-constructed bell turret at the school. In 1888-89 Miss H. M. Burdon, former pupil teacher, acted as Assistant Mistress, succeeded early in 1889 by Miss Jerman. Average attendance was then about 120. In September 1892 the attendance fell after parents of scholars here who were members of Blaenwaun Baptist Chapel were threatened with “excommunication” unless they removed their children and sent them to the Board School. In August 1896 Miss R. M. Parry of Cilgerran became the new Assistant Mistress. On 21st April 1899 the school celebrated its’ centenary. On 8th September 1899 it was noted that the original parish church had stood 16 yards north of the school house. Part of the remains were incorporated into a house. On 21st January 1901 there was a presentation to John Jones, Schoolmaster here for 18 years service. On 28th June 1901 Mr. D. Thomas Volk of Clawddcam advertised for tenders for a new roof here. By 13th September 1901 the building had been completely re-roofed and “…the inter wall raised…” On 17th October 1905 the demolition of an old cottage nearby revealed three stone-lined graves, one containing bones. One of the cottage gable ends contained what appeared to be the east window of the mediaeval church.
In 1906 average attendance was 86. On 13th April 1906 Albert Morgan Jones was born – the son of Schoolmaster John Jones. On 6th September 1907 tenders were sought for conducting repairs to designs by Lewis Lewis, architect, Cardigan. On February 22nd 1910 Isabella Jones, wife of John Jones, the Master of the National School, died. In 1914 there were 74 pupils at the school. On October 2nd 1916 Oliver Jones, son of Schoolmaster John Jones, died aged 29. On 14th April 1917 John Edward Jones, son of John Jones, Master of the National School, married Elizabeth Constance Lewis, daughter of Rev. J. T. Lewis of St. Dogmaels. John Jones was the Master for 38 years and died on holiday in Sunderland on 12th August 1921, aged 64. In 1922 a report observed:
“…Building good condition. Water supply nil. Tap used 20 yards away. Lavatory needs towels, jugs and soap. Needs larger windows behind…”
In October 1922 John Williams became the Headmaster. In 1922-28 John Williams was the Master. In 1928 John Williams, Headmaster, accepted another post at Broad Haven. In August 1928 Mr. E. W. Jones was appointed the new Headmaster. In April 1933 E. W. Jones, Headmaster, married Eira Powell of Nantypele, St. Dogmaels, where they made their home. On January 15th 1934 Mary Elizabeth Jones, wife of Thomas Jones of the School House was buried at St. Dogmaels having died on 10th January 1934 aged 73. She had been the school caretaker for over 30 years. On 7th September 1951 the decision was taken to close the school. Cardigan residents objected. The school was closed on 22nd April 1952.
Since 2000 the former school building has been used as the Church Hall. In 2004-05 some alterations, including replacement windows, were conducted.
The school was listed in 1992 by CADW and was described:
THE OLD SCHOOL – Early C19 chapel converted to school in later C19, rubble stone with slate roof. Single storey 2-room school with 2 low single storey wings projecting to west. East side has 2 early C19 12-pane sashes with cambered stone heads and slate sills. North and south end walls have late C19 tall schoolroom windows, grouped triplet with cambered painted heads and slate sills. On west side is central original window with pointed head, intersecting glazing bars, and painted stone voussoirs. Low wing to left has west end casement pair, wing to right has west end bellcote and triple casement in painted stucco surround. Two tall red brick stacks were removed 1991, from main building.
School and Old School Cottage are in large courtyard with rubble stone wall around. Iron double gates to south and single gate to west.
St. Dogmaels Parish Register – Burials 1813-52; 1885-1952
Tithe Map for St. Dogmaels 1838
Pigot’s Directory of South Wales 1835; 1844
Report on the State of Education in Wales 1847
St. Dogmaels National School Log Book 1867-96; 1896-1926
Slater’s Directory 1868
Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser 1868; 1875; 1899; 1901; 1905; 1907-08; 1916-17; 1921-22; 1928;
1933-35; 1940; 1951-52; 1999
Cardigan Observer 1877
Kelly’s Directory of South Wales 1906; 1914; 1926
The History of St. Dogmaels Abbey, Emily M Pritchard 1907
Register of St. Dogmaels Parochial School
Historical Society of West Wales Transactions, Vol. 1, 1911
The Episcopal Register of St. David’s
St Dogmaels Parish Register – Marriages 1837-1970
Episcopal Acts Relating to Welsh Diocese 1066-1272 Vol. I, J Conway Davies 1946
Elizabethan Pembrokeshire, George Owen, ed. Brian Howells 1973
Pembrokeshire County History Vol. III ed. Brian Howells 1987
The Gateway to Wales, W J Lewis 1990
Buildings of Architectural or Historic Interest – Cardigan, Julian Orbach, CADW 1992
The Place Names of Pembrokeshire, B G Charles 1993
Monumental Inscriptions, St. Dogmaels Cemetery.
© Glen K Johnson 20/06/2013