Originally a small farm house close to Clay’s Farm on the Holt Road heading out of Wrexham, Brynestyn was part of the Erlas Hall estate, belonging to the Davies [Puleston] Family.
It passed by marriage into the wealthy Kyffin family, who owned it until 1783 when Sir Thomas Kyffin sold it to the Wrexham Mercer (Textile & Flannel Merchant) and Banker Richard Myddleton Massie Lloyd, who, shortly afterwards built the first Bryn Estyn Hall on the land.
The architect was Joseph Turner of Chester.
Brynestyn Hall was the childhood home of Major Sir William Lloyd, a professional soldier, cartographer, mountaineer, local magistrate and one time High Sheriff of Denbighshire.
Following the death of Sir William Lloyd on 16th May 1857, the Brynestyn estate became part of the Plas Power estate of the Fitzhugh family (who were related), before being passed down to Emily Fitzhugh, the wife of Captain Charles Rumney Godfrey, and upon who’s death in 1893, was inherited by his son Rumley Frederick Godfrey, until the estate was sold to the Wrexham brewing magnate, Frederic W. Soames.
F. W. Soames demolished the old hall in 1903, constructing the present building some distance east of the original structure, the following year.
Built from the plans of Messrs. Grayson & Ould of Liverpool, it was a large, Elizabethan/Tudor style mansion, which gave the impression of being much older, but this was done intentionally, and the use of stone roofing slabs certainly helped in that.
The cost of the construction of Bryn Estyn, it’s gardens and ancillary buildings, was said to have been ‘enormous’, estimated to have been around £12,000 ( the equivalent of £1,303,225.81 in 2014), and modern features, such as full central heating, electric light and a piped water supply were incorporated.
The estate featured a walled garden, a temple, and Exedra seat, a rose garden, an avenue of Yew trees, and a long set of stone steps which led down a slope to a natural lake.
Frederic W. Soames died of colon cancer at Bryn Estyn, on 8 March 1926 at Bryn Estyn, and the estate was inherited by his wife, who, two years later, put the estate up for sale.
The contents of the house, which included a number of rare and valuable items, including antique Sheraton, Chippendale, Dutch, Flemish and Oriental furniture, were sold separately by auction by the Wrexham auctioneers, Frank Lloyd & Sons.
Bryn Estyn was sold to the Bunbury race horse owner and breeder William E. Greenwood for £6,000 (half its construction cost), and was occupied by him, until he advertised it for sale in 1938.
It was acquired by a Chester Board of Trustees on the 21st of August 1940, on behalf of the Home Office who re-purposed Bryn Estyn as an ‘Approved School’.
The addition of an ablution block and numerous interior alterations, changed Bryn Estyn from a sumptious mansion to a school.
The outward appearance of a mansion, as well as much of the beautiful oak interior panelling and staircase had been retained, but drastic changes to a number of rooms, were deemed necessary.
It began operating as an Approved School (Intermediate), for the training of up to eighty boys in January 1942, (opening officially during September 1943) the remaining work on the building and the grounds, being carried out by the boys themselves.
Boys between the ages of 13 and 15 years were admitted to the school, approximately half of whom would be under 14 years of age.
Full schoolroom instruction was provided by two qualified teachers, one of whom combined the duties of Deputy Headmaster.
The work provided for the boys was varied and specifically designed to be practical in nature, the Joinery and Building trades being favoured.
The Garden Department was the other main trade training section of Bryn Estyn, providing instruction for 24 boys, who had expressed an interest in learning Horticulture.
A library was added towards the latter part of 1943, which comprised of general reading matter and reference materials which reflected the trades and hobbies of the school.
During the subsequent years since its opening, much work was carried out on the site, including the adaption of cottages for staff accommodation, the extension and levelling of the sports field, the construction of garages, building a gymnasium, a Cadet Force Training Headquarters, a Building Dept. Workshop, and in 1957, an outdoor swimming pool was built.
The majority of the work, including the excavation of the ground, the surfacing tiles and the surround, was carried out by the boys of the building department, with assistance from the other school groups, under the direction of their instructors.
The last big building project undertaken by the boys (under supervision) was in 1960, which was the construction of the Headmaster’s 4-bedroomed house, and took approximately 18 months to build, from the laying of the foundations, until its completion.
Mr. and Mrs. Harold James Bennett, the Headmaster and Matron of Bryn Estyn School since it’s opening, retired in 1967 after 26 years, being replaced by Mr. David Ursell, who was previously deputy headmaster at Dobroyd Castle School, near Manchester.
Bryn Estyn School, as an institution, operated quietly and almost invisibly within the Wrexham community, attracting very little outside attention, except for some incidences of vandalism in the local community by the boys, and some disciplinary disputes among the staff.
David Ursull however, was suspended in 1972, subsequently replaced by Peter Burton, aged 39, who along with his 37-year-old wife Marie, Andrew David, their 7-year-old son and the Bryn Estyn deputy, were tragically killed in an road traffic accident near Crewe, Cheshire in November 1972.
Bryn Estyn School had remained the responsibility of the Home Office until the 1st of October 1973, when it became a local authority “Community Home’ with education on the premises.
Responsibility for the running of the establishment was then passed to the former Denbighshire County Council, until the 1st of April 1974, when the newly formed Clwyd County Council took over.
Granville Bernard (Matt) Arnold, took over as Headmaster in 1973, from his former position of Headmaster of Axwell Park Approved School, County Durham.
The position of Deputy head was filled in November the same year, by Peter Norman Howarth, who had followed him from Axwell Park.
Bryn Estyn as a residential school finally closed it’s doors on the 30th of September 1984.