|A Mansion and a School for Girls|
For more than 25 years, Llanarthney School for Girls was a place for girls to learn the knowledge and etiquette to be sophisticated young ladies. The school is long gone, but the building that it called home for most of its life remains.
What is Llanarthney, you might wonder and how did it come to call the Oliver district of Edmonton home? The Topographical Dictionary of Wales, published in 1844, describes Llanarthney as a village in the southern part of the country, surrounded by a profusion of the richest and most picturesque scenery; situated on the south bank of the Towy, on one of the finest reaches of that beautiful river.
It was Edmontons own picturesque beauty that drew Gladys Maddock to Edmonton in 1914, where she started Llanarthney School for Girls. Miss Maddock was a graduate of Englands Oxford University who came to Canada in 1912 to teach at Miss Edgar and Miss Cramps School in Montreal.
Her first school at 10944 89th Avenue opened with only three pupils but became popular and soon a house at 10022 116th Street was rented and allowed for the addition of kindergarten, French and Art instruction. As demand continued to grow, Miss Maddock moved again to a house at 10023 115th Street.
It was a large house with a five-room cottage at the back and room for boarders. When the owner of the house phoned one morning to say he would sell the house by the next morning if the school did not offer to purchase, Mr. and Mrs. F.M. Lee moved to buy the house and lease it back to school.
By 1921 Llanarthney was finding itself again tight for space and, when the Grindley Mansion at 10160 121st Street became available, the Board of Directors made a decision to buy the house. The mansion was built in 1910 by Thomas Grindley, who arrived in Edmonton in 1893 and worked for Ross Brothers Hardware.
Grindley was elected to city council in 1911 and 1912 and that year he sold the house to William McNamara, a wealthy realtor and developer. McNamara was elected mayor of Edmonton for a one-year term in 1914.
He formed an alliance with Alderman Joe Clarke to defeat the forces working for the elimination of prostitution and gambling in Edmonton. Both the police chief and the head of the morality squad were fired. The association between the two men came to a roaring end when a shouting match in council chambers erupted into a fist fight between the two men.
McNamara subsequently faced scandal over questions of impropriety related to business connected with the city through one of his club associations. He holds the dubious distinction of being the first Edmonton Mayor to be removed from office. Although he ran again, he was defeated by a large margin. In 1916, he moved out of Grindley Mansion and five years later, Llanarthney moved in.
Money was raised to adapt the building and eventually 64 pupils (16 of them boarders) moved into the new school. The property adjacent to the mansion was also purchased and housed the live-in teachers and was used for Science classes.
Extracurricular activities included swimming, tobogganing, ping-pong, horseback riding and tennis. The girls at Llanarthney edited and contributed to a yearly Review magazine called "The Torch" which provided information on school events and the whereabouts of the school's graduates.
Gladys Maddock returned to England in 1936 and passed away three years later. Under the guidance of Miss Ethelinda Watts, the school functioned until 1941 when it was decided to shut down for the duration of the war. Llanarthney was never reopened.
After the Llanarthney School for Girls ceased operations, the mansion was converted into Barrie Haven, a convalescent home. It then became the Barry Rooming House and the Barrie Apartment Hotel and its original appearance was disguised by front and rear additions and the removal of porches.
All these years later, it still functions as apartments. But now you know the rest of the story.
Information for this article compiled with the assistance of the staff at the City of Edmonton Archives as part of the Oliver history project. A version of this article appears in The Life of a Neighbourhood: A History of the Oliver District, co-authored by Lawrence Herzog and Shirley Lowe, published by the Oliver Community League.