Most one-room schoolhouses built in rural Manitoba were small, modest and unassuming affairs, usually of wood construction, occasionally made of brick. Tenby School, located in the R.M. of Lansdowne, is the exception, in fact, a unique exception. Two factors contribute to the school’s uniqueness: its design and its building materials.
Rather than a small rectangular box, the usual design for country schools, Tenby School is larger, almost square and features a pyramidal roof. Windows along the south side brought light into the classroom as did the two gabled dormers which open into the room. The north and west walls are without openings to protect the room against our prevailing northwesterly winds.
The school’s facade, with the peaked dormers and extended vestibule, is dramatic despite the small size of the building. The gabled entrance and dormers suggest the unbuilt portion of the pyramid roof.
In 1904, the year the school was built, a popular construction material was employed: concrete blocks. Before you could buy blocks ready-made, itinerant crews traveled the province with portable block-making moulds that created the materials onsite and in the exact quantity, quality and with the features required. In the case of Tenby School, the blocks are long and rectangular and sport several finishes.
Many different finishes were available to the block makers and Tenby School is an excellent example of the building method, featuring four types of block detailing. Smooth blocks, rough blocks, striated blocks and floral blocks combine to create a delightful exterior. The elegant floral design is used on the corner quoins to fine effect.
Around the time this school was built, Tenby was a going concern. Named after a town in Wales by the community’s founder James Griffiths, Tenby had many businesses, a water tower that serviced steam locomotives as well as a grain elevator. Today little remains of the town but for a house or two and this remarkable little schoolhouse. The local residents have done an excellent job preserving this unique Manitoba relic. I would suggest they get a new Canadian flag to fly, replacing the rag that flapped in the breeze during my visit. Tenby is located NNE of Neepawa with access off Provincial Roads 260 and 575.
Find many more stories about Manitoba schools on my Schools page.