THOMAS ELLIS was born in 1711/12, the second son of Edward Ellis Galltfelyd in Fflintshire. He was destined for the Anglican priesthood in Wales, and in 1727 attended Jesus College, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. in 1731. He was elected Fellow of the College and retained the title until 1761. He was awarded his BD in 1741, just four years after coming to Holyhead as a lecturer (or curate). His salary was £50 a year. He spent the next 22 years in Holyhead as a priest.
Unfortunately there is no known portrait of Thomas Ellis. We do know, however that from letters written by William Morris (1705-1763) a good friend, that he was a thin man, who wasn't in particularly good health. His interests included gardening, playing the harp, literature and antiques, collecting fossils, and he also enjoyed his regular pinches of Phoenix Snuff. The welfare of the poor people in the parish was of great concern to Thomas Ellis, so much so that he distributed alms to the needy, sick and to large families.
Ellis had a profound effect on the lives of the people. Herring fishing was an important event in Holyhead so at the start of each season Ellis would conduct a special service of blessing on the beach. He moved "Wake Sunday" (Sul Y Creiriau) from first three Sundays in July to St. James's Day (July 29th). He put an end to the drinking, debauchery, feasting, fighting and cursing by arranging competitions and races for the parishioners and he gave the winners silk ribbons as prizes. He showed great kindness and forgiveness, and in 1753 he and William Morris sent a gallon of butter to Walton where Goronwy Owen the poet (1723-1769) had been appointed curate. Thomas Ellis helped with some proof reading of the S.P.C.K Welsh Bible in 1748. He dispatched 1070 bibles, 664 New Testaments and many Prayer Books in Holyhead.
Ellis became good friends with Madam Ann Owen of Penrhos who would liase between Ellis and her brother Edward Wynne (1681-1755) who was the Chancellor of Hereford Cathedral. He paid for the Holyhead Market Cross in 1743,and Ellis obtained the stone from Fflintshire to set it up. Also in 1743 Ellis began collecting funds for Holyhead's first school Eglwys Y Bedd, which was in a ruinous condition (It can still be seen today in the Churchyard of St. Cybi's Church in the middle of Holyhead's shopping centre).
He started tapping Chancellor Edward Wynne for funds towards the restoration, and regular reports were sent to the Chancellor of how the money was being spent. By October of 1746, the walls had been plastered, but the building had no roof, and the large window was unglazed. By September 1744, the roof was in place, and a large oak table for the school was purchased. He did not have any funds to run the school and so in 1746 wrote to Ann Owen to ask if her brother the Chancellor would be offended by a volunteer Master being put in the school for the time being. The building stood empty until 1748, when the jubilant Ellis wrote in the Parish Register that "Dr. Edward Wynne of Boderwyd gave by a Bond dated November 25th 1748, the sum of six score pounds sterling, towards the endowment of the school in the Churchyard of this Parish. The interest of the said money is to be paid ye Schoolmaster yearly (excepting what goes to the repair of the school) on ye 24th day of November for instructing six poor boys of the parish". The boys were taught to read, write and cast accounts by John Edwards of Bangor. He gave up his post in 1761 then served as Church Warden in 1762-3 to run a shop. He died in 1768. He was very sadly missed by all the people in his Parish.
Ellis had left Holyhead in 1759, for Nutfield in Surrey where he was appointed a Justice of the Peace. He missed Holyhead, and craved for any news from his friends here. Ellis married Mary Bristow, and they had two children - Owen and Mary.
He never returned to Holyhead, and died in Nutfield on February 23rd 1792, aged 80 years.
Leslie Owen was appointed as Master of the school in 1761. Following his death it is probable that Richard Owen (1751-1828) who lived in the Waterside area of Holyhead was appointed master, and that he held the position for forty years, earning £6 a year! The affairs of the school were at a very low ebb by 1816.
NATIONAL SCHOOL -The National Society was founded in 1811 to provide Anglican education for children. William Lloyd (curate of Holyhead) applied to unite the Charity School with the Society. A meeting was called at the "Eagle & Child", following the acceptance of the application, to set up the school under the patronage of Sir John Stanley of Penrhos.The Vestry appointed six new trustees for administering Edward Wynne's endowment of 1748. They were - Richard Griffith, Capt. Goddard, Capt. Weton, Capt. Johnson, Capt. Slieves and Capt. Rogers.
It was decided to amalgamate the "Parish School" with the National School. This new school officially opened on March 1st, 1817 with 180 children. The new building was 35ft by 18ft The school was run on the "Madras Method" which was based on a monitorial system which meant that older children could teach the younger ones - thus giving the teachers more free time. It was regarded as an efficient, orderly and inexpensive method of tackling mass illiteracy. Pupils progressed from learning the alphabet to reading the Bible, writing with pen and ink and classes were graded. It was compulsory to attend Church also.Henry William Owen was Master in 1820. He was later give the position of Perpetual Overseer of the poor, working from the old school building at Eglwys Y Bedd.William Williams became master in 1822. He was paid £40 a year. Elizabeth Watkins became mistress and was paid £30 a year.
In 1847, Ebenezer Lloyd was master, and Elizabeth Owen - mistress. At this time school fees were one penny per week for each pupil. Ninety sex boys and forty seven girls attended the school. John Lewis of Llanelli was the next master with Elizabeth Thomas a 32 year old local woman, as mistress. He died in 1856, by which time Elizabeth Thomas had left, and Mary Ann Jones replaced her.
A new vicar called Thomas Briscoe came to Holyhead in 1858. He worked closely with William Owen Stanley of Penrhos to improve Churches, more services, more schools and more ordered social system. The population of Holyhead grew to almost 9000, and by 1859, a British School had been opened - therefore it was felt that something needed to be done about the National School.
On 25th October 1859 Ellin, wife of William Owen Stanley laid down the foundation stone of the new school building. The architect was Henry Kennedy. It took 7 months to build, and was opened by Thomas Briscoe. The Stanley's had contributed £50 towards the new school, and Briscoe had contributed £417 for the school and £124 towards the building of the school house. Thomas Briscoe was respected by everyone and his kindness knew no bounds. He decided to leave £10,000 to the poor of Holyhead in his will, but upon his death in 1895 the will was contested. The town came to a standstill on the day of his funeral in St. Seiriol's Church., and he was buried in St. Seiriol's Churchyard, close to the pathway to the Church.In 1960, all the log books from the years 1863-1947 went missing. We do know, however that by 1870 Owen R. Ellis was master and Nancy Rimmer - mistress and there were 207 boys, and 207 girls at the school.
Education was made compulsory in 1880 for children up to the age of 12 years and was made free in 1891. Owen R. Ellis was succeeded by Evan Jones in 1881, and Gertrude Seed succeeded Nancy Rimmer in 1891. In 1895 Chancellor Briscoe died, and John Walter Hughes and a Mr. Rowlands were in charge of the school. A grant for £35 was successfully applied for to build a proper infants department. It was opened in 1896. Infants were "mixed" classes, but in the junior school girls and boys were segregated. a £50 improvement grant was awarded in 1912 but it is not known what work (if any) was done.
By 1922, the school building badly needed repair. There were also constant frictions between the school Managers following the 1902 Education Act as the L.E.A. became responsible for staffing levels. Also, there was not £1. 1.0d spare to pay for the annual subscription to the National Society. With this , the school's Managers voted unanimously to seek terms for the transfer of the school to full L.E.A. control.
Ellis Caswallon Willimas was appointed the fist headmaster of the amalgamated National School in 1947m and together with Ellen E. Morgan Jones, guided the school through the last 7 years of it's life in the old buildings.
The school roll reached 400 and so, on 24th September 1954, from plans drawn by H. J. Slade, and built on a three and a half acre site by Pochin, the brand new £52,400 school was opened. It was the first new school building in the town for over 50 years. There was much debate, about the naming of the new school. One section of the Managers preferring the name of Thomas Ellis and the other (including Ellis Williams) preferring to honour the name of the Chancellor Briscoe. The name of the founder of the Charity School back in 1748 was finally agreed upon.
Managers and dignitaries assembled a the old National School, and together with the children, proceeded to the new school. A guard to honour was formed for the Bishop of Bangor - Dr. J. C. Jones. He was handed a golden key inscribed in Welsh an English by the vice-chairman of
Anglesey Education committee who was handed the key by a representative of the contractors. The Bishop unlocked the door of the school. Speeches were made and the school choir sang. Three hundred guests were given a tour of the new school. The following day the children were given a tea party. School trips began in 1958, with the infants going to Benllech, and the juniors going to the Lleyn Peninsula, New Brighton, Belle Vue in Manchester, and also to London. Music thrived a the school throughout the years with percussion bands and recorder groups, the latter especially under the guidance of teacher Miss Mona Preston Thomas. The school choir was trained by Mr. Ellis Williams, headmaster, and they won many first prizes in competitions.
Mr. Williams retired in 1973, and Mr. Emyr Salisbury Jones became the new headmaster. Mr. Selwyn Davies introduced road safety classes, football reached a high standard with Mr. Raymond Reynolds, and netball also reached a high level under Mrs. Mari Jones. Mr. Emyr Salisbury Jones retired in 1988 after 15 years as headmaster. He was succeeded by Mr. Richard Hugh Jones, but the position fell vacant again in 1989 to be filled by Mr. Selwyn Davies with Mr. Eryl Wyn Rowlands filling the post of deputy headmaster. Mr. Gareth Jones succeeded Mr. Selwyn Jones in 1995. Mrs Alison Moncur Jones succeeded Mr. Gareth Jones in 1998.