Kinneil School

Illus 1: 1895/97 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

Kinneil Ironworks was established in 1843 by John Wilson of Dundyvan to exploit the local coal and iron reserves.  It was a huge concern and brought in a large number of workers from outside of the area.  To house some of these the company built the Furnace Rows on the low ground to the east of the works.  Soon it set up a “subscription” school paid for by directly deducting money from the wages of all in its workforce.  This was presumably located beside the existing rows.  Money was also given to the parochial teacher at Bo’ness to provide education for the older children.

Upon the formation of the Bo’ness School Board in 1873 the school at Kinneil was handed over to it.  Inspection, however, found that the ceilings were 6ins too low to meet government standards and that meant it would not qualify for government support.  It was therefore arranged for building work to be undertaken to raise the ceilings.  This was only seen as a temporary measure and the hunt was on for a new site for the erection of a school.  Initially, ground at the back of the Furnace Row was favoured, or in the field on the west side of the road leading up from Snab Toll to Kinneil.  This school was to accommodate 120 scholars.  By December that year plans by John Paterson were drawn up and sent to the Education Department for approval.  The following year a feu was taken from Mr Crombie in the north-west corner of his field at Castle Loan at £12 per imperial acre.  The higher ground at Deanfield was considered to be healthier than that beside the works though there was an open pond opposite the site and a working quarry a short distance to the east. However, the Board’s priorities meant that work at Kinneil had to be delayed while it proceeded at Bo’ness Public School and Borrowstoun School

At the end of 1876 the Board decided to abandon the Deanfield School project and asked permission from the Education Department to sell its feu there.  Eventually, pressure from the local population and the Education Department forced the School Board to build the school at Deanfield.  It was completed in September 1884 at a cost of £1,700 and William Gladstone was appointed its first headmaster.  In 1890 a “separate” infant department was formed within the school.  This was largely a paper exercise to allow the School Board to claim a larger grant.

Water pipes were connected in 1892.  Part of the reason why this was possible was that a large amount of new housing was being laid down to either side of Castle Loan.  This, of course, led to a requirement to extend the school.  Two additional rooms were added to the south end of the east wing, providing for a further 114 pupils.    The work was done by the following contractors: Drysdale & Son, builders; Ballantine & Duguid, joiners; D. McKerracher & Co, plumber; and Mr R Kilpatrick, plasterer.  The plans were provided by Paul and Dodds, who also acted as clerk of works.  The new infant room was formally opened on 24 August 1893.  A schoolhouse was added to the project, adding £650 to the cost.  This school was now under the management of James Hunter, with Mr Boyd and other assistants, and Miss Livingston as Infant Mistress.  It served the district west of Church Wynd, together with boys from Newtown above the Second Standard and girls from same district.

Illus 2: 1913/16 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

The school teacher’s house was ready in early 1894.  The contractors this time were: —Messrs R. Drysdale & Son, builders, £304; Mr Robert Stirling, joiner, £177; Mr Robert Kilpatrick, for slater and plaster work £71 10s 7d; John Wyllie, plumber, £58.  Making a total of £610 10s 72.  With grates, painting, and so on put at £34, and £6 for making up the ground round the house, the total cost of the house was around £650.

Further extensions were contemplated in 1900 and plans were submitted for the erection of three infant class-rooms to the south-east end of the school accommodating 182 pupils in all.  Fourteen firms bid for the various contracts.  However, the work was put on hold and the opening of Grange School in 1906 put paid to it altogether. 

James Dodds, the master of works was instructed to draw sketches and give an estimate of the cost of erecting a drill shed at Kinneil School in February 1914.  These were discussed at a July meeting of the School Board and at £500 were considered excessive.  Dodds was asked to provide a cheaper alternative and in September he came back with quotes for an iron structure by Spiers & Co.  The outbreak of the First World War ended the scheme.  After the war the senior pupils from Kinneil were sent to Grange School to ease overcrowding and over the following year the protests from parents grew.  Their efforts bore fruit and in 1925 the West Lothian Education Authority decided to feu an additional area of ground amounting to 0.92 acre for extension purposes at Kinneil School from Bo’ness Town Council at the rate of £14 per acre.  Electric lighting was installed in 1928, but there was still no extension.  The following year the situation was so dire that the hall of the neighbouring Miners’ Welfare Institute was rented for £2 a week, which included rates, heating, lighting, and cleaning.  Extensive council house building in the area from 1932 onwards only worsened the situation.  Now the Education authority advocated building a larger new school as a replacement.  Once again the outbreak of war delayed such schemes and Kinneil School was reserved as a Rest Centre, though thankfully it was never used in anger.

With the war coming to an end in May 1945 the Education Committee realised that a larger site was needed to meet the requirements and sought a site further south.  Once again the plans were delayed, this time due to the need to replace St Mary’s RC School.  A review in 1952 considered the possibility of using the existing building for Primary I, II and III.  The new school would then consist of eight classrooms with a hall and various offices, to accommodate two-streams at stages Primary IV, V, VI and VII.  In this case a one-storey building would have sufficed and it might be made of wood, but brick would be preferable.  In the end a site south of the hospital on the south side of Dean Road was selected and a school erected to accommodate 600 pupils.  Oddly, given that the Antonine Wall runs through the front grounds, no archaeological monitoring was undertaken. 

The new school was not made of wood.  It was modern with contrasting colours, brick walls and vast areas of glass.  It made the most of modern materials and had a low-angled roof covered with copper sheeting.  It was officially opened on 1 May 1956.  From February 1957 six of the classrooms in the old school were leased to the National Coal Board to teach English to Hungarian mine workers.

Illus 3: Kinneil Primary School looking south-west.

The school in Dean Road designed by George L Walls & Duncan was light and airy – typical of the new breed.  It cost £140,000.  The lightweight construction was severely tested on the night of 4 February 1957.  The roof had been designed to resist wind speeds of up to 75 miles per hour.  That night it gusted at 100mph.  The copper lining was caught by the gale and rolled up like tinfoil, ending up on the main road which had to be closed.  The wood and asphalt roof crashed 80 yards away into the playground, where it was completely shattered.  The gables of the part of the building from which the roof was lifted collapsed and a gaping vertical crack appeared in the structure.  Water pipes burst and flooded the interior.  Workmen were on the scene very quickly and turned off all of the services to avoid further damage.

Illus 4: Kinneil Primary School looking north-west.

The pupils got a week’s holiday whilst officials demolished the unsafe parts of the building and prepared eight of the classrooms for occupation.  The services were reconnected and the National Coal Board was given notice to quit the old school so that half of the children could use it.  The new school was not insured for storm damage and the bill for the repairs came to £10,000.  Specialist engineers were brought in and the roof was strengthened using steel latticed girders.

In later years a nursery was added to the school and in 2015 this became an Early Years Campus, catering for babies and toddler as well as the usual pre-schools.

Date ArrivedHeadteacherDate LeftNo. Pupils
1884William Gladstone1893243
1893James S Hunter1917350
1917(Provost) Angus Cook Livingstone1938425
1938William Scott1938
1938Frank D Dickson1951
1951James H AndersonP1964
(1969)Mr Alexander
Mrs Connarty
Marianne BrownPresent270

Sites and Monuments Record

Deanfield Road & Dean RoadSMR 2287NS 9895 8106 & NS 9950 8089

G.B. Bailey, 2023