Many of the people of Llanelli will affectionately remember the old Coleshill School that once stood proudly alongside The Town Hall in Coleshill Terrace. This grand building opened in 1891 was sadly demolished in the 1980s, shortly before its hundredth birthday and replaced by a very bland car park. But fortunately for those preservationists of the town's heritage there stands an older school in Coleshill Terrace, which has missed the eyes of the 'developers'.The old Athenaeum School building stands today in Coleshill Terrace and is frequently used by members of the public, but many are unaware that it was a building originally used for education. The school's origins began when the Scotsman, Robert Linn came to Llanelli and took over Robert V Innes' school in the Llanelly Athenaeum Hall, a building which is familiarly known to us today as the Llanelli Public Library.
Robert Linn was born in the small town of Biggar, Lanarkshire in 1843 and educated in the Normal School, Edinburgh, after which he became a pupil teacher [a]. He then travelled abroad to work in Normandy where he was employed as private tutor. By 1864 he arrived in the town Llanelli and set up 'the first private school of importance' in the Athenaeum Hall, but in January 1877, he had a new school house built in the then Llanelli Park, where the building now stands. [b][c]. The Town Hall had not been built at that time so the new school faced the full expanse of Peoples Park, an ideal playground for the pupils that attended the school, as stated in the school's prospectus of 1888, The School is pleasantly situated opposite the Public Park, which affords great facilities to the Scholars for Cricket, Football &c. [d] Its neighbour the Tabernacle Chapel, had been opened a few years earlier. David Francis' Middle Class School moved in to the Llanelli Library replacing Mr Linn's School.
A search of the annual examination of the Athenaeum School in 1880 at the Llanelli Library shows the standards and subjects that were taught there in the last quarter of the 19 century:
The Examiners' Reports~~~
I have much pleasure in reporting upon the Examination of the above school, which I completed by inspection and oral questioning on Friday, 25 inst.
The examination was as searching and thorough as I could make it, and I am glad to say the boys passed it very satisfactorily.
The First and Second classes did me (sic) papers in the following subjects:- Scripture History, English History, English Grammar (including Parsing, Composition , Writing from Memory, Diction and Paraphrasing), Elementary Physiology, Geography, Mathematics (Arithmetic, Algebra and Euclid), and Latin (Ceaser de Bello Gallico, and Principia Latina).
Speaking generally, all was well done. If I must make an exception, it was the Parsing, but this subject is thoroughly understood by several of the boys, and the rest redeemed their character in this respect at the viva voce examination.
The following papers were remarkably well done:- Scripture, Physiology and Arithmetic. The Arithmetic of the second class deserves special commendation, a fact which speaks very well for Mr Linn, showing that while he does his best to bring on his most promising pupils the less brilliant or younger scholars are not neglected.
The Third Class I did not examine by papers; that task, I believe, was performed by Mr Linn himself; but on prize day I made an oral examination of them as well as of the First and Second Classes. They proved to be well up in their work, more particularly one of them, who answered almost every question I put to him.
My report would be incomplete without an account of the examination of six or seven senior boys, to whom I set more advanced Classical and Mathematical papers. In Classics the subjects were Virgil (Aeneid I..) Sallust (Jugurthine War), and Caesar (Gallic War, Book 1) Homar (Illiad L, and Odyssey XI.,) Xenophon (Anabasis Book I).
In Mathematics – Arithmetic, Algebra and Euclid (Books I-V). These papers were all well done, especially The Odyssey, and Arithmetic and Euclid.
I did not examine the school in French, in which subject Mr Linn found another Examiner.
J.P. Morgan, M.A. Cantab.
Late Scholar of St John's College, Cambridge.
Llanelly 26 June 1880
After an examination of the papers I set in French for Mr. Linn's School, I am pleased to find so high a standard of excellence over the whole of the Senior Division, 63 per cent. Being the minimum. In particular the translation of the ad aperturam part was very well done. The parsing too, and knowledge of the syntax and grammatical forms was most satisfactory. The Junior Division showed a good knowledge of phrases and verbal forms, and give promise of good scholarship in the future . The neat business-like way in which all the papers were written deserves commendation.
James Craig, M.A.,
Edin. Univ. Queen Street Institution, Edinburgh. 22nd June, 1880 [e]
And not a computer or calculator in sight!
According to one former pupil, many of the notable people of Llanelli and the wider world were educated in this school. Names that included T. R. Ludford and Fred Nelson Powell. Some of the school's pupils became medical doctors and others held professional posts throughout the country and abroad. [f]
Robert Linn resided in Murray Street Llanelli which was within close walking distance of his school, although he had been widowed in 1883, he was listed at his residence as a Lodger. [g]
In the October of 1888 the dark clouds of 'consumption' were drawing over the headmaster and as he drew closer to his end his mind frequently looked back with fondness to his native hills in Scotland. Robert Linn, Headmaster of The Llanelly Atheaneum School, succumbed to his illness and passed away on Thursday 31 January 1889 at the young age of 46. His obituary states:
Llanelly loses an upright citizen, and the profession to which he belonged a scholar with rare faculty for imparting knowledge. He was a teacher of the first order, and went into that work with a thoroughness and detail which never fail to bring their reward. By virtue of an wearying assiduity and conscientious regard for the interest for those under his care, the school, of which he was the head, was favoured with a large amount of prosperity, and many of his former scholars have attained high eminence in the profession. Not long since he met an old pupil of his, who is a rising doctor in the West End of London, and found much encouragement from the warm manner in which his former pupil expressed his indebtedness to him for his success.His position in the Athenaeum was taken by Mr L. Ll. Brooks an Under Graduate (London). At that time Llanelli was a growing industrial town bringing wealth to its people, some of whom used their income to further the education of their children such that another private school opened its doors in Bridge Street and was known as Mr Ramsey's Academy.
The old school building has been used for a number purposes, including an Education Office. Upon the closure and demolition of the old children's Home at Bryntirion, the Llanelli Registrar's Office was removed to The Athenaeum School where it is still in use [April 2015].
How many genealogists researching their ancestors' births, deaths and marriages have been within its doors, and unaware that they were in their forbears school? A school built by Robert Linn, Llanelli's Mr Chips? [h]
Notes and Citations
[a] 1871 Census
[b] Llanelly Guardian Feb 7 1889
[c] Llanelly Star 16July 1932
[d] Local Collection184
[e] South Wales Pres 1July 1880
[f] Llanelly Star 16July 1932
[h] Goodbye Mr Chips James Hamilton (1934)
Former Pupils of the Athenaeum School
Who's Who In Llanelly & District 1910
Thomas Arnold, Engineer, Employed on the Topeka and Santa Fe Railway
Clifford A. Bowen A.M.I.E.E., Chemical & Electrical Works Engineer
William Edward Clement J.P., Commercial Manager of Thomas & Clement
D. James Davies Printer & Publisher of The South Wales Press
John Charles Howell, Inventor, Crompton Howell Electrical Storage Co.
Thomas Jones, Surveyor
F. N. Powell, Solicitor
Thomas R. Ludford, Solicitor & Editor of Llanelly Guardian