Decline in West Mon Boarders

I started at West Mon in 1942, the same year that “Nazo” Harrison became Headmaster. I got the impression that he was keen on building up the number of boarders as it was only the following year that the new Form One was established. You might remember that it was one of those boys who was drowned.

Whether this had any effect on the continuation of Form One or not I can’t say but at that time I was told that there were 80 boarders in the school. We had one in form 2A called Billy Monk who hailed from Manchester. He was a bright lad but many boarders were not as they were able to enter the school without sitting the entrance exam. Consequently there were more boarders in the B and C classes.

I was rather surprised therefore to get another email from Clive Barnby of Pontypridd who reports a large falling off in the number of boarders, so much so that their previous quarters were used by day boys. He says:

As one of my emails stirred memories, David, I thought I’d try it again !!  By the time I got to West Mon, most of the boarders had disappeared. There were about a handful or two but I’m not sure if they boarded in the school. I recall some who lived in the Abergavenny area & as they were relatively senior, I think they “commuted in”. I think there were a few who lived too far away & boarded in Blaendare Road &/or with masters & their wives.

Our new school library was an old dormitory. It overlooked the Old Quad & was above what I think we still called the Boarders Day Rooms. Down one side of the library was a partition & behind the partition were a no. of washbasins. There were chairs by each one, & each one had a wooden cover, so you could use it as a desk. Perhaps they were like that when it was occupied as a dorm & pupils could also use it for studying & work.

However I assume there must have been another or other dorms. There was a large no. of boarders at one time & tho’ they’d have probably been “packed” into the (now) library, no doubt violating current Health & Safety, I’m not sure it would have been sufficient for them all.

We used some rooms in “The Attic” in 6/7 Arts, one for economics & a larger one for history which was a bigger class. Our classroom in 7Arts was the “Old Bathroom”. There were presumably quarters for masters who lived in the school, & I wondered where those were & how many “house-masters” there were. As I said, wondered if this email would bring back enough memories for another post. Worth a try !!

Kind regards,


I was also surprised to hear that some boarders stayed in Blaendare Road or with staff members and their wives. I know that three masters lived in Blaendare Road: Messrs George Bicknell, (physics), Pead (physics), and “Fatman” Williams (French).

I remember moving in September 1947 from 6 arts to 7 arts which was in the New Building attic. It was a room with a stepped floor, far too large for the seven or eight boys in that form.

I wonder whether there are any former boarders reading this who might be able to shed some light on the disappearing West Mon boarders.

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7 Responses to “Decline in West Mon Boarders”

  1. Clive Barnby Says:

    Thanks, David, for adding this to your blog. Hopefully, it will evoke some memories.

    I think Bicknell, Pead and Fatman Williams had all left by my day but there were several masters who lived on Blaendare Road. One was Fred Haggar, who taught French. A decent teacher, I thought, but one who lost control of the pupils in later years. When I was in the 7th form, remember walking into one classroom which was in uproar only to find Fred there probably having given up. In later years I believe he became the Principal (or something) of The Settlement in Pontymoel.

    Another master who lived (further up, I believe) on Blaendare Road was Frank Whitty, another likeable teacher, who taught chemistry. Also, Roy (or Jack) Wiltshire, who took over as Head from D. C. Harrison, lived there.

    I think the last housemasters (who lived in the school) were Graham “Drip” Harris, who taught Latin & was the school librarian, & Clive “Siwni” Price, senior geography master. “Drip” moved to a house in Goytre, “Siwni” lived in Abergavenny & I believe later moved to Cwmbran. However, I stand to be corrected on these “facts”, Clive.

    • amos2008 Says:

      Thanks Clive,

      The only one of these masters I remember was Frank Whitty. I think he was one of those who was demobbed fairly soon after the war ended. I remember the staff v boys cricket matches were resumed at that time and West Mon returned to normal. The last mistress to teach there I think was Mrs Mosely the biology teacher whose husband was a master at the school. I think both he and Frank Whitty played cricket for Trevethin Cricket Club.



  2. Clive Barnby Says:

    I think Ken Smith, who was the senior physics master, circa late 50s & 60s, also played cricket for Trevethin. I’m not sure whether he & “Jake” Mosely lived in, or around, Leigh Road. I think a no. of masters lived that way including “Chippy” Wood at one time. I guess they must have “roped” in Frank Whitty, who was (I think I’m correct) a Yorkshireman & keen cricketer.

    Incidentally, Mrs “Ma” Mosely stayed at West Mon until 1959 when she got a post at the Girls County. Alan “Long Tom” Rosser then moved up to teaching A-level – I think he concentrated on botany with Les “Basher” Bennet doing zoology. Brian (Ba) Jones, a former boarder, then joined the school to teach biology up to O-level, but only remained a couple of years or so before going to Usk Agricultural College. I believe he died (quite young) not long afterwards.

    We did occasionally have a female teacher – I remember, in particular, Miss Barnes, who taught English, but they usually stayed no longer than a year, perhaps only a term or two. Of course, things changed in the 80s when the school became a comprehensive & admitted girls.

  3. John Owen Says:

    John Mosely and his wife lived on “Snobs Row” in Old Penygarn.
    Once a year Ma Mose would collar WMS pupils living in Penygarn & Trevethin to sell “Lifeboat” flags. I was deputed to stand outside the Pavie each time I was involved. I can’t recall how succesful I was.

  4. Laurie Oliver Says:

    Further to the previous messages, both the Art Room (top floor facing Blaendare road) and Library (top floor facing rear fields) had rows of wash basins along the windows in 1964 and were undoubtedly former dormitories. I believe that the music room (which faced onto the Old Quad and the 1st floor room below the library were also fitted with basins which were removed when rooms were re-furbished during late 1960s.

    • clive barnby Says:

      What became the library in 58/59 had definitely been a dorm. The wash basins were behind a wooden partition. They had tops so they could double as desks where the boarders could do homework in the evening. I’d “forgotten” the art room & other areas but I dropped art & music fairly early on, so didnt frequent them that much from the first few years on, & my memories are less vivid.

      I remember the art room had desks in a square – perhaps there was none at the front so they were round three of the walls. There were some talented artists in my class including Graham Milton Smith, son of the art master. Graham left West Mon at the end of 62/63 as his father got a job at Leeds Art College.

  5. Peter Vincent Says:

    I was a boarder at West Mon between 1952 and 1958. I can certainly shed some light on the last of us. 1958 was the final year of the establishment when numbers were down to about 28. It really was the last hurrah and with that small number school house won the annual sports for that year.

    You are perfectly correct that those of us who were in 6th and 7th form, lived with families in the area during 58/59 and 59/60 in order to complete our education.

    Regarding the boarding rooms taken over by the school were as follows. Facing the quad to the right on the ground floor were the junior and senior day rooms. Above was middle dorm and the top level junior dorm. That explains the partitions and the reason why the sinks were on those floors although they never doubled up for homework purposes. We did organised prep 3 hrs
    each evening usually in one of the classrooms in the old building. Beds were head to head down the middle of the dorm with prefects at either end. Again facing into the quod, the bottom floor ahead was our dining room and above that was the senior dorm.

    When I arrived in 1952 there were 100 boarders with 2 resident house masters, “Drip” Harris and “Lob” Garnett. And down to 28 when I left. Hope that answers a few questions

    Peter Vincent

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