Putting a Name to a Place – Rydal Penrhos’ Costain Building
March 13, 2023

One of the most recognisable buildings on campus, Costain is one of the key academic hubs at Rydal Penrhos and perfectly demonstrates the successful combination of old and new that is characteristic of the school.

Despite its estate being vast and extensive, one of the strengths of Rydal Penrhos is the fact that its buildings and classrooms are all logically laid out based on their uses. When a child enters the Senior site for the first time, it is relatively easy for them to parse out, even without directly being told, that expressive arts like Art, Drama and Music are to the south, along Combermere Road, and that core academic subjects like Maths, Science and English lie to the north.

The benefits of this coherent layout are numerous, beyond simply making it easier for our pupils to settle in and focus on the work and opportunities in front of them. With faculty classrooms situated next to one another, teachers can communicate and collaborate effectively with their colleagues, which in turn ensures that each pupil’s progress is tracked across subjects and teachers, rather than individually with respect to each class.

Nowhere are the benefits of this more evident than in Costain. The beautiful and imposing building that wraps around the corner of Queen’s Drive and Lansdowne Road, and adjoins directly onto the school’s iconic Memorial Hall, is home to both the Science faculty and the Language, Literacy and Communications faculty.

Language classrooms span both floors along the Queen’s Drive side of Costain, while Science classrooms occupy the three floors of the Lansdowne Road elevation – including the bright, modern Biology labs that span the basement, where the woodworking workshop once sat.

As Year 7 pupils complete three lessons a week of a unified Science subject, before branching out into the constituent subjects of Biology, Chemistry and Physics in Year 8, it is vitally important that the Science classrooms sit close to one another.

This allows teachers seamless access to the entirety of the faculty’s extensive equipment and, of course, the support of our amazing Science technicians, who work tirelessly behind the scenes to enable the amazing practical laboratory experiments that pupils participate in from the very beginning of Year 7.

Seeing the remarkable science experiments that take place in our classrooms can ignite a sense of wonder and curiosity in a child or young person. This can prove to be a sliding doors moment in their life, after which they follow a particular pathway through school and university which leads them to a job in medicine, biotechnology, astrophysics, or some other STEM field.

Given this, and the fact that Costain was first built in 1927, it is no surprise that many alumni working in the sciences today first learnt the basics in the building’s history-steeped classrooms and laboratories.

Costain is named after the Headmaster of the time in which it was first built, Rev’d A. J. Costain. A centrally important figure in the history of Rydal Penrhos, Rev’d Costain oversaw a period of huge change that included the construction of new buildings, the purchase of New Field, a huge increase in pupil numbers and the opening of the junior school.

One of Costain’s great achievements was to see Rydal through the challenge of the Second World War, during which time the school evacuated to Oakwood Park near Conwy. A year after the war’s end, Rev’d Costain retired and handed over to Donald Hughes, the fourth Headmaster of Rydal, who gives his name to the school’s main charitable trust today.

If you would like to read more about the Costain building and its history, we would recommend you read the Colwyn Bay Heritage Online article about the building, which includes contributions from alumnus David Birch (RS 1965-70).