Anderson Academy

John Anderson was the son of the Bo’ness teacher of the same name.  He became the local agent for the Royal Bank of Scotland and acquired property in the town.  The rapid increase in the population meant that he was able to gather a small fortune from rentals.  This he invested and became a ship owner, with several whalers engaged in the Greenland hunt.  He took a large share in the whale oil boiling house in Bo’ness and had shares in the Bo’ness Gas Company, becoming its first chairman in 1842.

Illus 1: 1895/97 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland). The Anderson Academy is in the top right of the plan with the Public School in the bottom right

John Anderson and his sister desired to give relief to parties residing in the town and parish of Bo’ness from their poor rates, and also to assist respectable young people with a small sum of money on their setting out in the world.  One way in which this was effected was by granting annuities or pensions to deserving persons, such as widows, and instituting a certain scheme of insurance for young people.  After Miss Anderson’s death, Mr Anderson, by virtue of powers contained in their mutual deed, made certain alterations in the terms of the Trust, providing, among other things, that a sum of over £50 should be a first charge on the funds in respect of the upkeep of a school and the payment of a teacher.  The codicil, dated 16 March 1869, directed his trustees to complete the building of the school and dwelling house which he had begun to build at Bo’ness.

The school was designed for Anderson by John Paul, the inspector of the poor for the parish, and contracts for the building of the school were signed in May 1869.  The site, which already belonged to Anderson, was on the hill slope a little to the south of the town on the east side of Providence Brae, north of the Burgher Church.  On 12 June the foundation stone was laid with Masonic honours with the contents of a cornucopia sprinkled with oil and wine.  A glass jar containing related documents was sealed into a prepared cavity.  John Anderson was too ill and frail to attend the ceremony.  By July the walls were up and the joiners started on the roof.  John Paul acted as clerk of works and the building officially opened on 28 March 1870 and was named the “Anderson Academy.”  This time John Anderson was present, though too weak to take an active part in the proceedings.

The building was very plain but still cost around £1,000.  It faced west onto the steep lane and was entered by a porch surmounted by a belfry.  Set into the side wall of the porch was a tablet bearing the following inscription:

“Founded and endowed in the year 1869 by John Anderson, Esq., banker and shipowner, Bo’ness, Justice of the Peace for the County of Linlithgow, son of the late John Anderson, teacher, Bo’ness, C.B.S.B., C.F.S.S.D., and Jean Paterson, and grandson of the late Rev. John Anderson, A.B.C., Elsrickle, and Agnes Bryson, for the education of the young and rising generation of this his native town in all time coming.  ‘Train up a child in the way he should go and when his is old he will not depart from it.’” 

The school, with its single large classroom, occupied the whole of the ground floor, and measured 50ft long by 30ft inside, with a ceiling 15ft in height, and was designed to accommodate 200 pupils.  The classroom was capable of being thrown into three compartments by means of folding doors and curtains.   Williams’ patent Windsor desks were fitted – the seats being furnished with slanting backs were a vast improvement on the benches generally used.  The second floor was fitted up as a dwelling house for the teacher and there was a small garden for the teacher.  The playground was large. The contractors were: Robert Drysdale & Son for mason work; John Shaw, joiner work; Robert McNair, plastering & c; Wallace & Connell of Glasgow for the plumbing and gas fitting.

The school was non-sectarian and unusually Anderson and his trustees selected a married woman for its first teacher.  This was Agnes Paul – the mother of the architect.  She had successfully run a private school in the town for 36 years and her fee-paying pupils were the first to occupy the new building.  Keeping things in the family, her first assistant was her daughter, Charlotte.  Education was given there to all the Standards – hence part of the reason why it took on the name “Academy.”

The school was conveniently located for the town of that date and with the competent teacher proved popular.  By 1876 it had a daily attendance of around 200 pupils, though the Bo’ness School Board, established in 1873, wryly noted that according to the government standard measurement it only had room for 142.  Additional pupils had to be turned away. The teaching staff then consisted of Mrs and Miss Paul, assisted by Miss Mary Buglass and two teacher pupils.

In 1887 the Educational Endowments Commission ran an enquiry into the management of educational charities in Scotland and examined the running of the Anderson Bequest.  It suggested that the fund should concentrate on its bursaries and annuities, leaving the running of the school to the School Board.  The Trustees had already considered this possibility and so in May 1889 a trust deed was signed handing the building over on the condition that it was to be used for school purposes.  No agreement was reached about the retention of the staff.  The Anderson bequest continued to make financial contributions to the running of the school.  One of the few conditions on the transfer of ownership was that the United Presbytery Church should be allowed to continue its use of the building for its Sabbath School and other meetings as laid down in the 1869 codicil.  The Board closed the Academy to the higher Standards and resolved that only infants and first Standard pupils should be taught there.  This was an odd decision as there were few places available for the older children elsewhere but plenty of spaces for infants – two members of the School Board therefore resigned.  It is probable that the decision had been influenced by a feeling of animosity towards what had been a successful private school which had deprived the public schools of pupils.  Attempts to change the name to the “Anderson School” seem to have failed.

In any case, the switch to an infant school did not last long.  As more and more pupils remained in education for longer, the Bo’ness School Board had to review its lack of provision for secondary education in 1893.  It proposed that the Anderson School be set apart as a higher State-aided school, with a secondary department to be known as the Anderson Academy; and that scholars in the 5th and 6th Standards who intended to continue into the secondary department also attend; that fees be charged at such moderate rates as may be found necessary, and that free places be found for such as, owing to circumstances, were reasonably entitled to obtain them, but these only to be rewarded after a competitive examination.  To fulfil this role John Paul and James Dodds, the Board’s architects, arranged for a small extension to the building to the south and for the interior to be remodelled.  Land here was acquired from the Seabox Society, allowing for an enlargement to the playground.  The boundary wall in front of the Academy was taken down and rebuilt 5ft back in order to widen the lane at this point – the Street Committee contributing £15 to the cost.  The building work cost £530 and was undertaken by the following contractors:—Mr Thomas Peattie, builder; Mr John White joiner; D McKerracher & Co., plumber; and K. Kilpatrick, plasterer.  It was then put under the management of William Gladstone, headmaster, assisted by Mr John Reith, Miss Jane Hislop (French, German, &c), and Miss Alice Drummond (English and sewing).  It re-opened after the summer holiday in August 1893.  About 120 pupils were enrolled, including pupils of the IV and V Standards, classes not later admitted to the Academy.  In addition to the Ordinary Subjects for Standards V and VI, Latin, French, German, mathematics, shorthand, science and drawing were taught, also cookery and advanced needlework; other subjects being subsequently added.  As time went on and older pupils advanced, the number of classes increased.  This increase, taken with the restriction in later years of the size of the classes to 30 and some to 20, necessitated an increase in the staff too.  Bo’ness was now slightly ahead of other areas in its secondary provision.  In the wave of enthusiasm for the concept the School Board agreed the following year to the expenditure of £400 on a gymnasium at the Academy and in 1895 the headmaster donated his personal library to it.    As practically no instruction in foreign languages or advanced mathematics had been attempted in the parish, the pupils were all beginners in these subjects, and could consequently be taught in comparatively few classes.  The first leaving certificate examination, the test of higher instruction all over Scotland, was held in 1895, and the results obtained at the Academy were highly gratifying.  Upon the return after the summer break Bo’ness Anderson Academy was made non fee-paying.

Illus 2: 1913/16 Ordnance Survey Map showing the school in Providence Lane (National Library of Scotland).

This, however, was the heyday of the school building.  The population of Carriden were unhappy about its location and the School Board began to think of a replacement.  Then, in 1901, the Education Department condemned it because girls and boys had to share the same staircase!  The Board had already put in an option to buy Williamson’s ground to the east of the Bo’ness Public School and it now called upon Alexander Cullen, architect, Hamilton, to report on the space available.  The land stretched all of the way from Stewart Avenue, which had only been formed a few years before, to Braehead.  According to his instructions, Cullen produced rough plans and sections for a 300 pupil school with a science room and a central hall and estimated the cost at around £4,150.  It was now clear that the site was eminently suitable and the School Board put the final plans out to competitive tender.  It got responses from Mr Laidlaw, York Buildings, Edinburgh; Alexander M Gardner, Westminster, London; Morrison, Turnbull & Peacock, Glasgow; Mr Cullen, Hamilton; and Mr Wightman, Bo’ness, with estimates varying from £4,000 to £5,000.  In the meantime the Board acquired the late Thomas Peattie’s stables fronting Braehead and the adjoining park with a view of providing room for any possible future extensions. 

After close examination the Board decided to accept the plans submitted by Alexander Cullen.  Tenders were taken and the following contractors were successful: mason and brick work – Baillie & Peattie, Bo’ness; joiner work – J Duguid, Bo’ness; slater work – J Miller, Falkirk; plumber work – C Anderson, Bo’ness; plaster work – R Kilpatrick, Bo’ness; heating – Combe & Son, Glasgow; tiling – Haddow, Forbes & Son, Edinburgh; painting – James Harris, Bo’ness.  The total offers amounted to £4,500.  Excavations commenced on 22 May 1902 and the building formally opened on 1 September, being the first day of the new session.

The building faces the north, and is of plain but handsome Queen Anne design, with a heavy cornice and broken pediment over the large three-light window in the centre.  Under the hooded circular opening in this pediment is engraved the burgh arms, surrounded by floriated scrolls.  The hood-mould has small wreaths suspended from its consoles and originally “ACADEMY” appeared in large letters between them.

Illus 4: Anderson Academy looking south from Stewart Avenue, c1910

The building rides the hill slope and is of two storeys to the north but only one to the south.  The east and west elevations are of similar design, relieved by square towers at the back of each of the porches with ornamental stone vases at each of the corners, and carved shields and enrichments over the windows.  The whole of the dressed stone in this part of the building is “batted,” giving it a fine strong substantial appearance.  The south parts of the gables, and the south front, have the dressed work batted, and the rubble work partly squared, the stone coming from Messrs Baikie and Peattie’s quarry at Maidenpark.  The basement of the building on the north side was utilised as play-sheds, that on the east being for the girls, on the west for the boys, whilst between these was the heating chamber.  These play-sheds were lined throughout with white enamelled bricks, and floored with granolithic, having seats fixed around the walls.  The main entrances were set on the sides – one for the boys to the west, and one for the girls to the east. 

Entering at the porches the pupil went along a passage to the cloakrooms, which were tiled to a height of 5ft, and fitted with a range of basins, and two racks provided with hooks for hats and cloaks.  From the passage a broad flight of stone steps led to the central hall, a well-lighted room 48ft by 22ft, from which all the classrooms opened.  On the south side were four rooms intended for 60, 40, 40, and 60 pupils respectively.  There were two sliding partitions between these classrooms, so that if required the four classrooms could be converted into two large rooms, 43ft by 21dt 9ins.  On the north side of the hall were three classrooms, intended for 60, 40, and 60 pupils respectively, with a sliding partition between two of them, allowing their conversion into one room of 44ft 6ins by 24ft 9ins.  The third classroom, to the west, was fitted up as a science room and chemical laboratory.  All the classrooms were fitted up with folding desks for two, arranged in tiers.  The walls were panelled to a height of 4ft, above which the plaster was coloured a light green, giving them a very light and airy appearance.  The central hall was floored with wood-block paving, the walls being painted a dark green colour 4ft up, with an ornamental dado, and above this a dark brown strip, some 3ft high, the remainder being coloured a light green, while the cornices, panels, and enrichments were coloured light green and yellow.  The whole of the light in this room was obtained from the roof.  At either end of the hall were found the headmaster’s rooms and the mistress’s room, fitted with all conveniences, and having large book cupboards adjoining, fitted with shelves from floor to ceiling. 

The heating of the school was by hot air on a system devised by the architect, which had proved successful in other schools – a boiler in the basement, with pipes through all the rooms, supplying the necessary heat.  The w.c. accommodation was provided outside, both boys’ and girls’ places being lined with enamelled brick throughout, and provided with patent w.c.s with automatic flushing siphons.  The playground for the boys was situated to the south side of the school, that for the girls to the east side, the surfaces being coated with blaes.  The grounds to the north were laid out with ornamental shrubs. 

Illus 7: Bo’ness Anderson Academy looking north-west.

Taking into consideration the purchase of the original site, the additional ground acquired, and the fitting up and furnishings of the school, the total cost came to about £7,000.  The new Academy was constituted a non-fee paying higher grade school.  The classes were to be restricted to 30 allowing more attention and time to be given to individual pupils.  The Academy was mainly intended to supply secondary education but had attached to it an elementary or preparatory department open to all children of the parish of the age of ten.  The higher department was intended for pupils who were twelve years of age and had passed the qualifying examination.

A three years’ course prepared them for entrance into a university or technical college, and for the preliminary examinations in law and medicine.  In addition to English, mathematics and arithmetic, Latin, French, German, and drawing, there were science and woodwork.  Chemistry was a brand new subject.  Laundry work and dressmaking was added later for the girls.  The school was subject to periodic examinations by HM Inspectors, but the aim of the preparatory department was the qualifying examination for the admission to the higher department, and the work of the latter was chiefly tested by the leaving certificate examinations, which were held annually in June.  Upon the opening of the new building in 1902 the staff were Mr Gladstone (rector), J Reith, T. McGill, T. Cant and W. Sleath (pupil teacher), and Misses Renton and Gowans.  For the first time in the history of Bo’ness a girl went straight to university having passed her exams at the “Bo’ness Anderson Academy” this year.  After three years the school was recognised as a centre for junior students.

Illus 9: The View west along Stewart Avenue in 1910. The buildings from left to right are the Craigmailen Church, the Bo’ness Anderson Academy, the bandstand, the Public School, the Town Hall, private houses, and the Liberal Club.
Illus 10: 1913/16 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland) showing the spatial relationship between the Public School on the west and the Academy on the east.

The ground floor of the old Anderson Academy building in Providence Brae was utilised for the teaching of woodwork – it was now called the “Anderson School.”  In September 1903 an announcement was made that the teaching of Sloyd would commence – this was a system of manual training developed from a Swedish model and designed for training in the use of tools and materials but emphasising training in wood carving as a means to this end.  A proposal to move the infant school there came to naught due to the expense involved.  The trustees of the Anderson Education Bequest evidently considered that this was not a proper educational subject and its factor, Robert White, wrote to the School Board stating that the buildings were not being used for the purpose for which they were taken over, and that the property, through want of use, heating and cleaning was rapidly deteriorating in value, and in danger of becoming uninhabitable.   Consequently, in terms of clause 16 of the conditions of tenure he demanded that the School Board return the buildings to the Board of Management of the Anderson Academy.  Part of the problem was that the Education Department in Edinburgh had condemned the use of the building.  With its permission, a supplementary class was moved to the building.  This appears to have struggled on for a few years.  In 1924 the old idea of using the Old Anderson Academy as a “housewifery centre for the area” came up again.  Evening and Saturday classes were held there too.

1924 also saw a proposal by the West Lothian Education Authority to erect an advanced school at Kinglass, to be called the Central School, leading to the de-grading of Bo’ness Academy in Stewart Avenue from its status as the secondary school in the area.  It was 1928 before it got to the point where tenders were invited for the new building. 

By the late 1930s the old Anderson Academy building was little used and in 1938 the Girl Guide Company, which had been displaced from Grangepans School was granted the use of the upper floor.  In 1942 the newly formed Sea Cadet unit was given the use of the lower half.  The site was no longer required for educational use and appears to have been handed back to the trustees of the Anderson Bequest.  After the war the following advertisement appeared:

Heritable Property for Sale – ANDERSON ACADEMY, Providence Brae, Bo’ness.  Assessed rental £42.  Feu-duty £3.  Apply Robert Taylor, Solicitor, 56 South Street, Bo’ness.”

(Linlithgow Gazette 13 February 1948, 1).

It was sold to the Royal and Ancient Order of Buffalos.  The building was already in a poor condition, but it lingered on into the 1970s when it was demolished.

Illus 11: 1970s Aerial Photograph showing the roofless shell of the old Anderson Academy on Providence Brae.

As for the new Bo’ness Anderson Academy in Stewart Road, it was replaced by an even larger school building at Kinglass to the east of Bo’ness in 1931.  That school will be dealt with separately (see Carriden Parish).  The 1902 block in Stewart Avenue was then subsumed within the Bo’ness Public School.

Year ArrivedHeadteacherYear LeftNo. Pupils
1870Mrs Agnes Paul150
Miss Charlotte Paul
(1885)James Dunlop1891148
1891Miss Brown1893129
1893William Gladstone1917140
1917John Reith1928
1928Mr W. Milne1930
1930Mr J C Barrowman
(1933)Mr Gray

Sites and Monuments Record

Providence Lane & Stewart AvenueSMR 1505NS 9979 8157 & NS 9997 8146

G.B. Bailey, 2023