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Christ College, Brecon

Christ College

One of the oldest and most successful schools in Wales. Many visitors to Brecon walk to the Usk bridge from where they can photograph the Beacons and see Christ College, founded by Royal Charter in 1541. This site has been occupied for over seven hundred and fifty years.

The history of Christ College falls into three unequal periods. For three hundred years it was a Dominican Friary. In 1541 Henry VIII established a school here, and finally in 1855 the modern ‘public’ school was founded by Act of Parliament. The surviving buildings reflect each of the three periods.

The Dominicans were friars who first came to Britain in 1221; they are first mentioned as being at Brecon in 1269. Given that range of dates and the evidence of the surviving medieval buildings, it is likely that the friary was founded c.1250. The chapel is a fine example of 13th century work, though like all the medieval buildings it was much restored by Gilbert Scott in the 19th century. More remarkable survivals are the two halls with their fine 15th century open timber roofs. Of the cloister, chapter house and other monastic buildings nothing remains but their position can be deduced from documents. In 1530 momentous changes affected England and Wales. Henry VIII brought all of Wales under his control; this involved the creation of new Welsh counties, including Breconshire. At the same time the King made himself the Head of the Church and then dissolved the monasteries. This combination of events resulted in the foundation of ‘The College of Christ of Brecknock’ in 1541 to provide education in the area and thus would ‘the Welsh rudeness soon be framed to English civility’!

The Civil Wars caused devastation at the hands of the notorious Roger Thomas of Llanfrynach, repairs were carried out by Bishop Lucy after 1660. By the middle of the 19th century the College buildings were ruinous and there were few pupils.

A new start was imperative and a committee of local landowners, clergy and businessmen came to the rescue. Political and religious considerations again played a part; this time the threats of Chartism and Dissent prompted conservatives and Anglicans to action. The new independent school needed buildings and the Llandaff diocesan architects, Prichard and Seddon, were employed to provide them. The present School House building is theirs; so too is much of the furniture in the chapel. Expansion during the next 30 years produced Donaldson’s House and the ‘Big School’ now the Library. A great deal more building has been undertaken, both to expand the facilities available and to meet the changing needs of what is now a very successful co-educational independent school providing excellent results.

The black-robed Dominicans would recognise a surprising number of the buildings on the site, and the fields that surround the school are as undeveloped now as in the 13th century. However, they would be bemused by the sight of boys and girls eating lunch in their refectory, worshipping in their chapel and playing all kinds of puzzling games on the friary’s pastures. The extensive playing fields now include an astro turf, fitness suite and a wide range of individual and team sports.
Telephone No.: 01874 615440
Fax: 01874 615475
Email: foundation@christcollegebrecon.com
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