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St. Alban's R.C. School

A Grade II Listed Building in Pontypool, Torfaen

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.7034 / 51°42'12"N

Longitude: -3.0386 / 3°2'19"W

OS Eastings: 328321

OS Northings: 201027

OS Grid: SO283010

Mapcode National: GBR J4.3SFK

Mapcode Global: VH79S.8GY1

Entry Name: St. Alban's R.C. School

Listing Date: 2 July 1962

Last Amended: 28 August 1997

Grade: II

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 3119

Building Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Location: In the north west corner of Pontypool Park about 300m north of Pontypool town centre.

County: Torfaen

Town: Pontypool

Community: Pontymoile (Llanfihangel Pont-y-moel)

Community: Pontymoile

Locality: Pontypool

Built-Up Area: Pontypool

Traditional County: Monmouthshire

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History

Major John Hanbury (1664-1734) is said to have built Pontypool Park in the 1690's, perhaps in 1694, and it is first mentioned in 1697 when it had glass in the windows. It is also said, however, that the house was first built in 1659 (ie. before Major John) and enlarged after 1701. Visual evidence shows nothing from before the 1690's, but the surviving house could be of any year 1690-1710. The available prints of 1752 and 1793 show this house, and shows that the house today is largely the same one with changes and additions.The Hanburys came from Worcester, and Major John was the first to take a direct interest in the ironworks at Pontymoile which, once he lived nearby, he was able to build up into a position of pre-eminence, as well as pioneering new tin plating techniques which were very successful. The house was first extended in 1752-65, and these extensions can be seen on an extant plan from c1800. The house was again greatly extended and changed by Capel Hanbury Leigh (owner 1795-1861), mainly 1827-1829, nearly doubling its size, and there was another major addition in 1880. In 1920 the house was given to the Roman Catholic Church, and the park to Pontypool Urban District Council. The house continued as a convent (which it had been since 1915), which it was when listed in 1962, but it has since become a Roman Catholic Comprehensive School. These uses have led to further changes and additions. A major fire in 1990 in the main original block has meant that many historic decorative features are faithful reproduction, but the shell of the house that was there in 1697 is basically still there today. The date and extent of the changes wrought by Capel Hanbury Leigh remain uncertain.

Exterior

The building is rendered and painted, probably over stone; with ashlar, probably Bath limestone, and Welsh slate and lead roofs. Large rectangular double depth block with two major wings added at a later date.
There are three major historic building phases, and then large additions, one of which is attached, since WWII. Some of the changes and repairs post date the fire of 1990.
Original block: This is two storeys and attics and is recognisably the same building as in the 1752 and 1793 prints when the entrance was on the east front.This shows the classic late C17 house shape with 3:3:3 windows with the centre recessed between projecting wings which have hipped roofs. All the windows are sashes in architrave frames and all are six over nine panes except for windows 2, 3, 7 and 9 (from left) on the upper floor which are six over six, and the three centre ones on the upper floor which are nine over nine. The house most probably did not have sash windows originally and in 1793 appeared to have all the same type, six over six, so the others will be early C19 changes, probably a part of the Capel Hanbury Leigh changes which include the three bay projecting ashlar extension in the centre of the ground floor. This has six over six sashes in architrave surrounds with a frame of Doric pilasters, cornice and parapet. Timber cornice carrying gutter, lead covered parapet.This extension replaced the previous pedimented front door. Roof with five flat topped dormers with slate cheeks and six over six sashes. There are no surviving chimneys.
South front: This is also recognisable from the 1752 and 1793 prints.It has eight windows arranged in pairs, all are six over nine sashes in architrave frames. The whole front is in the same plane, but projecting in front of bays 3 and 4 is a four column Tuscan portico with a balustraded parapet.This is an early C19 alteration when it replaced the front door on the east front. The panelled double doors in architrave surround is also a change of this period. The 1752 print appears to show that the staircase was originally in the centre of this front. Cornice, parapet, hipped roof, with four dormers all as above.
West wing: This is probably late C18 for it seems to be the tower which appears in the 1793 print.It is said to date from 1752-65; and does not appear in the 1752 print.Two higher storeys and five windows, the three centre ones forming a canted bay through both floors. All are six over nine sashes in architrave surrounds except for the centre one on the ground floor which is in a triple arched recess and has an arched headed top sash. Cill band on both floors. Cornice, parapet, roof not visible in this section.
Library wing:This was added in 1880 by John Hanbury Leigh. It has nine windows arranged 2:5:2 with 4 and 6 blind on the first floor. All are one over one plate glass sashes with architrave surrounds.The centre bay on the ground floor is a doorway. Hipped roof. The end of this wing has an additional door and window on the ground floor.
Rear courtyard:This is partly from the early/mid C19 changes.The kitchen wing backs onto the Library, but is shown already in situ on the c1800 plan. Five windows, eight over eight sashes with hoods on brackets, nine over nine sash in the end wall. Hipped roof.The wing on the north side of the courtyard is similar but with three storeys in part.The staircase in the original block has its own hipped roof and a very large and unusual window (probably of 1827-29), tripartite, and of 42 panes. Single storey projection beneath this. Small additional block from the 1840's attached to south west wing.This is perhaps a dairy and game larder. It has a window with cast iron lozenge glazing and hood mould.

Interior

The interior has features surviving from the various periods but a lot, particularly in the original block is modern reproduction following the 1990 fire.The house has been in convent and school use since 1915 so there are also many modern changes and decorative schemes. The staircase is partly c1700 type with panelled walls, wrought iron balustrade, mahogany handrail, panelled soffit, arcaded hall below and above, but there is much C19 change and the arcade has been partly closed in post fire. The window has mid C19 stained glass with the Hanbury arms. All this is said to be of 1827-29. The Drawing Room in the middle of the east front was the entrance hall and projects into the 1827-9 addition under a beam supported by two porphyry Ionic columns. Panelled walls and shutters.The Morning Room is in the south east corner. The Dining Room is in the bow and has a Rococo style plaster ceiling which is partly Victorian, as is the frieze which has rams' heads and vine leaves. (Some of this could date from 1752-65). The marble fireplace is supposed to have been given to Major John Hanbury by Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, but this room was not a part of Major Hanbury's house. This room has had the ceiling strengthened in an out of character manner with heavy steel joists. The Library has a ceiling rose and a curious filigree frieze which seems to act also as a ventilator. Fittings in other rooms include a fireplace with elaborate Baroque overmantel, but many of the rooms, particularly on the upper floors, are now fully utilitarian.

Reasons for Listing

This is an historically very interesting house and of great significance to Pontypool and its environs. However, the many changes brought about by time, family needs, institutional use, and finally fire, have meant that what survives has been compromised both architecturally and aesthetically, and much of the interior finish is reproduction. Group value with The Valley Inheritance Museum.

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