Carriden Public School

In 1863 the Heritors of Carriden Parish seem to have agreed to sell the 1636 parochial school building to Admiral Hope so that he could proceed with his plans to create a model village at Muirhouses.  The proceeds of the sale, with further financial contributions from the Heritors, were then used to construct a grand new school at Cuffabouts almost opposite to the parish church.  The site lay on the coast road at the foot of Carriden Brae.  The building was T-shaped in plan with a central N/S classroom having smaller rooms attached to either side at its northern end.  The north gable of the main classroom and the west and east gables of the smaller rooms each had two lancet windows topped by a round one, giving the building an ecclesiastical feel.  The Tudor Gothic appearance was reinforced by two sets of three-light windows with diamond leaded panes in the bays either side of the northern gable.  It had accommodation for 90 pupils, though even as late as 1876 the average attendance was only 57.

Illus 2: The Schoolmaster’s House on Bridgeness Road looking south-east.

By 1888 the school population had grown and so that year the Carriden School Board spent £1,311 on an extension to the south.  In 1895 the attendance averaged 250.  The old headmaster’s house was still in use and in 1895 it was decided to erect a replacement nearer to the school at an estimated cost of £1,000.  William G Rowan of Glasgow was chosen as the architect and the tender of Ballantine & Duguid for the joiner work was accepted.  The house is an excellent example of Arts and Crafts design and is Listed (SMR 1501)

In the same year the Carriden School Board was amalgamated with that of Bo’ness and priorities changed.  Before long there was a huge controversy as to whether or not Carriden and Grangepans Schools should be closed and a grand large one built which could also serve the east side of Bo’ness.  Naturally the taxpayers of Carriden were wedded to their old school at Carriden.  In 1898 some members of the Bo’ness and Carriden School Board suggested selling Carriden School to the burgh for use as a fever hospital.  There was an outcry of public indignation and the matter was set to one side – temporarily.  On a more practical level, the Board contributed to the repair of the shore path from Blackness to allow scholars to attend the school from that area.

Illus 3: 1895/97 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

In 1900 a west/east range containing two classrooms was added onto the southern end of Carriden School by James Dodds, the Board’s architect.  Building work by John Hardie & Sons was taking place over the winter months and bad weather delayed progress.  On 11 December a severe gale blew down the upper part of the western gable which had just been completed, causing an estimated £20 of damage. It was with some relief that the slates were put in place the following January.

Illus 4: 1914/15 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

Despite the opening of the 1901 extension to Carriden School the Board persisted with its plans for a potential replacement and on 27 August 1907 these came to fruition with the opening of Grange Public School on the hill to the south-west.  The headmaster of Carriden School, William Andrew, was given the headmastership of the new flagship school.  Local pressure meant that Carriden School remained open and, along with Grangepans School, was supervised from Grange School.  At this point only a small portion of the school was required as an infant and junior department under Miss McEwan – the attendance being around 100 children.  In 1910 James Dodds was asked to report on the cost of removing the gallery from one of the unused schoolrooms at Carriden and re-laying the floor.  He estimated it would cost £7 but as there was still a possibility that it would be needed as a classroom in the future and so the project was delayed.

In 1935 the West Lothian Education Committee was exploring the possibility of setting up a Juvenile Instruction Centre at Bo’ness.  It therefore looked at several of the buildings under its control.  The cost of adapting the Grangepans building, with the necessary extensions, was reported to amount to £2,000 or thereby, whilst the cost of adopting Carriden School would be £500.  The estimated cost of an entirely new building would be £6,000.  Not surprisingly, the Committee recommended that Carriden School be adapted for the Centre and that the pupils of that school be transferred to Grange School.  That year, after the summer holiday, the transfer was completed with the minimum of fuss.  The headmistress of Carriden, Miss Jenkins, became the infant mistress at Bo’ness Public School.  The Hope Mortifications were transferred to the West Lothian Educational Trust to be used for the issuing of bursaries.

Alterations were carried out at Carriden School by the West Lothian Education Authority in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour and it opened in May 1936.  The school was redecorated, new floors laid, and electric light and modern appliances installed.  A large cookery room at the south was furnished with two large gas cookers, a double kitchen range, a laundry copper, a clothes-drying cabinet, and so on.  Adjoining was an arts room, and then a sewing room.  A long gymnasium ran north and south.  Woodwork was taught in the room at the north with its diamond-shaped window panes.  The Junior Instruction Centre served Bo’ness and Linlithgow districts – vouchers being supplied for free bus travel to pupils living in Linlithgow and the outlying parts of Bo’ness.  The Centre was for teaching useful crafts to unemployed boys and girls above the statutory school-leaving age and under 18 years of age.  The register kept by the superintendent at the centre provided a record of the unemployed pupils, which was forwarded to the Labour Exchange, where the unemployment benefit money was paid weekly.  The morning session, from 9.30 to 12.30pm, was devoted to the instruction of boys, and the afternoon session, from 1.30 to 4.30pm, for girls.  In this way, the girls were able to help with the housework in their own homes in the morning.  Mr R S B Slater, formerly teacher at Armadale Public School, took over the duties of superintendent at the centre, and had a teaching staff of six.  During the first week 70 girls and a smaller number of boys enrolled.

The work of the Instruction Centre was disrupted by the advent of the Second World War.  Immediately after the announcement of the war in September 1939, local contractors moved in and began converting the buildings into an auxiliary hospital and decontamination centre according to plans prepared in advance by Mr Hamilton, the West Lothian County Council architect.  A month later a canteen for A.R.P. workers organised by Mrs Wilkie, Benvue West, was established in part of the complex.

Illus 5: Drawing by George Gould, Art Master at Bo’ness Academy, 1953, showing Carriden School to the back right.

By the end of the war the buildings were rather run down.  In December 1947, J A Michie of Stoneyburn Terrace, Bo’ness, offered to buy them to use as a hosiery factory.  The offer was seriously considered but objections were raised by local youth organisation which for several years had been allowed to use the school.  These organisations were represented by Councillor Miller who succeeded in persuading West Lothian Education Committee to agree to let it to a local group of residents as a community centre.  A grant of £782 from the government was due for the reinstatement of the building after its wartime use by the ARP and this allowed for initial repairs.  The community centre closed in the 1960s and the building was demolished

Illus 6: Demolition of the house at the foot of Carriden Brae to the east (left) of Carriden School.
Year ArrivedHeadteacherYear LeftNo. Pupils
1863Adam B Dorward
1873Mr Brown1881211
1882William S Andrew1906317
1907Miss McEwan1908100
1908Miss Jenkins1935215

Sites and Monuments Record

Bridgeness RoadSMR 2283NT 0184 8133

G.B. Bailey, 2022