Campaigners fight to save historic girls school in Cowbridge

The derelict but historically significant Cowbridge Girls School, the first secondary school for girls in England and Wales, is at risk of being knocked down and replaced with flats and houses.

Hafod Housing Association has submitted plans to Vale of Glamorgan Council to demolish the site and replace with 30 flats and 4 houses. 

However, a campaign to save the building in some capacity has emerged and a petition opposing the proposed plans has gained over 5,000 signatures.


The school in 1907. Credit: Rob Scourfield.

Established in 1896, under the Welsh Education Act of 1889, the school functioned until Cowbridge Comprehensive School was opened in 1974. The old girls’ school was then used as the comprehensive’s sixth form building. It has been empty for 20 years.

Dr Tudur Davies of the ‘Save the Old Girls’ School’ campaign says the school was ahead of its time when it opened with facilities including a science room.

“This wasn’t standard for schools at that time,” he said.

“It wasn’t standard that girls were allowed to study science. This was really important as a building in terms of what it provided for the girls. It would be such a shame if it was lost.”

Back in 2019 the ‘Save the Old Girls’ School’ campaign, along with ‘Save Britain’s Heritage’ group offered to work with the developers to restore the building for social housing.

This was rejected by Hafod Housing, which stated: “We have reviewed the plans provided by Save Britain’s Heritage and there were a number of challenges with the design that are not feasible.

“Where possible, we do our best to preserve existing buildings if it is economical and in the interests of meeting local housing needs. However, in this instance the former school is in a very poor state of repair and it is not commercially feasible to retain the structure for re-use.”


Campaigner Sara Pedersen says it would be a great loss to Cowbridge and Wales if the building was knocked down as its of great historical and architectural significance.

“We’ve got a real Welsh treasure there, we should look after and restore her,” she said.

“She should stand there as a reminder of the privileges she allowed girls which they had not had before. We shouldn’t destroy it, we should celebrate it.”

The planning application has now entered a 21 day consultation period where people can object but campaigners say they will continue to fight to save the building despite the result.