Google Analytics

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Caer Rhun Hall

One small aspect of our holiday near Conwy twisted an old thorn in the side: Caer Rhun Hall, a private accountancy college. I seem to remember its name emblazoned in large bold letters along the dry stone wall at the front, but may have imagined that. There are no letters now.

As mentioned in other posts, after leaving school I started to train as a Chartered Accountant but didn’t pass the exams. Well, technically, I did, but you had to pass all the exams of each stage in a single attempt. I managed to fail different ones each time, including ones I’d previously passed.

Only a few years earlier, accountancy had been a profession for the privileged. Trainees, known as articled clerks, did not receive a salary; in fact they paid their employer a ‘premium’ to take them on. A sum of around £500 (£10,000 in today’s money) would have been typical in the late nineteen-fifties. A recently-qualified chap at the firm where I worked told me he had been the first there not to have to pay, and I was one of the first to receive a salary, starting on £360 p.a. (£5,000 today). It covered my board and lodgings. Everything else depended on parental generosity, so in that sense it was still a profession for those with advantages.

You studied for the exams in your own time by correspondence course, for which an outfit called H Foulks Lynch effectively had a monopoly. You were supposed to complete and post off one unit each week, and, for most people, that went on for five years. By heck, it was tedious. No wonder accountants had such a reputation for being dull and boring when five years of their youth had been spent evenings and weekends on their own in their bedrooms studying such riveting subjects as commercial law, company accounts, auditing, income tax, and estate duty, instead of getting out and enjoying themselves like they should have been at that age.

Take a look at this, if you can face it:  

 

And that was one of the most interesting topics because it had a large practical element. For a really good night’s sleep, consider the other titles listed on the back. 

H Foulks Lynch then acquired a competitor. Caer Rhun Hall began to offer residential cramming courses. You could forget about the dreary correspondence course and just spend four weeks at Caer Rhun instead. It was a hard six-day week, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and it was costly, but they were so sure of themselves that if you didn’t pass you could go again for free.

Needless to say, only the rich kids could afford it, i.e. the sons (there were few girls) of wealthy clients who got sports cars for their birthdays. Then, because they had transport and were self-assured around company directors and top businessmen, they got sent out on the best jobs, the public companies and large manufacturers, while we the proletariat were stuck in the office doing shopkeepers and small traders. And they were the ones who pissed about with their correspondence courses, went to Caer Rhun Hall and passed their exams first time. Chartered Accountancy still favoured the privileged.

Chip-on-shoulder, yes, but I suppose in truth my heart wasn’t in it. Things worked out well enough in the end. And it did give me the confidence to deal with relatives’ estates and take on HMIT when they tried to tax me on expenses. 

Nevertheless, I still felt perverse satisfaction last week to see Caer Rhun Hall now out of business and abandoned.  

POSTSCRIPT
Urban Explorer visits the abandoned building: https://youtu.be/kuhuci3GXlI
(you can use the YouTube tools to watch on 2x speed) 

27 comments:

  1. Sounds to me like you dodged a bullet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I liked the work at first but my motivation and study skills weren't up to dealing with the very dry legal stuff. I then became dissatisfied with the routine of employment and having to wear a suit all day.

      Delete
  2. I suppose the fact that it all worked out in the end is the most important part of the story! My nephew has studied to be an accountant. I don't know how he does it. I can manage our taxes but only because they're pretty simple.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a very good career in which you get to see how the world works. I would probably have done well and enjoyed it if other things in my life had been right, but by going to university late I ended up doing something entirely different.

      Delete
  3. That would not have been my first career choice .. or second, or third .....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's more that I fell into it as something I could do rather than choose it with any deliberation. There was also a bit of parental pressure.

      Delete
  4. My brother was a chartered accountant and I'm amazed to learn that it required such effort to pass the exams as I don't recall him doing much work at all! Dad felt the same and sent him to a crammer before his final exams, I think it might have been this one, I shall have to ask him. (We are like chalk and cheese.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It probably was Caer Rhun. I might have been able to persuade my dad to pay for me to go if I'd tried, but as mentioned, my heart wasn't really in it, and if I'd passed it would have been much more difficult to give up to go late to university.

      Delete
  5. I think this sort of thing applied to many professions in 'the old days'. I didn't go to Teacher Training College until my mid thirties. Loved teaching but doubt I would have loved it so muc hhad I gone straight from school.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think too many of us are in a hurry to get as far along the career path as quickly as we can, without really thinking through the kind of people we'd like to be. I might have liked accountancy if I'd entered it later, but instead I enjoyed computing and university work.

      Delete
  6. I've always found it sad when certain educational centers make themselves available primarily to the wealthy. It sounds like you did quite well on your own! I admire you for your studies because I would not be able to go in that direction.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On my own in the sense that I went late to university, and not accountancy.
      Caer Rhun was set up as a business meeting an identifiable demand. I think correspondence courses an awful way to learn almost anything. Nowadays, people learn accountancy through university degrees which seems the best way. I don't think there were any accountancy degrees in those days. It wouldn't have been "academic" enough as a subject.

      Delete
  7. It’s an impressive building , I had no idea it was there
    You should have popped in for coffee

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I believe it did become a hotel for a while, but it's now abandoned. You wouldn't know it was there unless you were looking for it. Just looks like a farm entrance in the stone wall. Just south of Tyn-y-groes across the Tal-y-cafn bridge from you.

      Delete
    2. I've appended a link to a recent urban explorer video of the abandoned hall.

      Delete
  8. *Last night I dreamt I went to Caer Rhun again.*

    This is like Rebecca meets Rhys Davies.
    Being an Articled Clerk sounded every bit as tricky as being called to the Bar, with the two-tiered system favouring Rich Boys.
    How unfair that you had to pass all the exams at one go, then resit those you had already passed !
    They were trying to make it difficult for Poor Boys; England before meritocracy and Harold Wilson's Government.

    Now we have globalisation and the gig economy. And Caer Rhun is falling to bits.
    Haggerty

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now you can take some of the exams in a university degree it's a lot less exclusive, but you'd be lucky to get training with some of the top firms unless you're from the right background. That being said, it seems some firms are taking steps to recruit bright people who might not be from an advantaged background, so things might be changing.

      Delete
  9. I was an accountant. I was hired by a very small company, my hire # was 77. I was able to cut my teeth on everything in the early seventies; computers ('79), the first spreadsheets, WordPerfect, if you encountered any of that. Then we began being acquired, several times, for the use of our product and systems. Our own plant grew to over 3,000 employees. I reported to presidents. I outlasted three of them. Women were not welcomed in conference rooms back then, and when I saw the 4th president had his sights on getting rid of me, I took the package and left. But I knew a lot, thanks to picking accounting as a way to support my children.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As in most jobs, it's the plotting and politics that get to you in the end. But as I said, accountancy certainly does teach you how to fight against the procedures and systems of large organisations.

      Delete
  10. Haha. After reading the bulk of your post, I'm glad they're closed as well!

    It's an interesting reminder that children of wealthy parents still receive flashy cars for their birthdays. Instead of a sports car, I think well-to-do teens may receive European SUVs as b-day presents nowadays.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One had an MGB-GT, another a TVR-Vixen, and another had a Mini-Cooper. Prats.

      Delete
  11. Training to be an accountant would be my idea of hell. I would rather spend a year or two locked up in a prison with thugs. I watched the video all the way through. It is a shame that the trespassing filmmaker had a problem with the audio. As a law-abiding citizen I have reported him to Gwynedd police. Besides, he couldn't spell "possession" correctly in the rolling credits so he deserves what's coming to him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I watched on 2x speed.
      Just think, while you were working at Butlins, picking raspberries in Scotland, hitch hiking round Ireland and going to rock festivals I was in an accountants' office wearing a suit and tie all day. Layabout.

      Delete
  12. I love that old building and hope that it finds some new purpose. I will come back and finish the building tour later.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a lovely building except for what it reminds me of. The video is by people who broke in to the building and looked round a small part of it.

      Delete
  13. My very first paying job (in which I had to clock in) was as a trainee accountant. I went to evening classes at the Liverpool Polytechnic to get my basic starting qualifications (whatever they were) but I realised within a couple of months that that was definitely not for me and moved on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish I'd realised sooner, although as mentioned in another comment, I confess to enjoying it at first. The only classes I had was an introduction to bookkeeping over two days at Leeds College of Commerce. One of the lecturers was Paul Hockney, brother of David. He was very entertaining. I didn't have to clock in, probably because the firm was small enough for the partners to know where everyone was all the time.

      Delete

I welcome comments and usually respond the same day (unless it looks like you are trying to advertise something).