Grangepans Subscription School

At the Royal Commission enquiring into the conditions of the mining population in 1840 James John Cadell gave his precognition in 1840 in which he states:

I think the parents are the best judges when to take their children below for assistance, and that it is of consequence for colliers to be trained in early youth to their work. Parents take their children down from eight to ten years of age, males and females.  The colliers are perfectly unbound at this colliery; they have large families, and extremely healthy ones. I believe most of the children can read. There are two schools, at which children can be taught common reading for 2d per week.  There exist no compulsory regulations to enforce colliers paying for their children or sending them to school.”

At the same enquiry Charles Robertson, overseer of the Bo’ness Coal Works noted that

Since the building of the Newtown the colliers have been more settled as to their place of work, but they still continue to take down very young children, which impedes instruction. Most children can be instructed if the parents please — and fairly so.  There are two schools.  The one in the Newtown has a well-trained teacher from Bathgate Academy, and one is shortly expected at Grangepans.  Men would do well to let their children remain up till thirteen years old, as they would be more use to them thereafter.

The new school at Grangepans was evidently opened soon afterwards for in 1845 the parish minister for Carriden wrote that there were three schools in the parish

the third dependent upon the personal efforts and success of the teacher

(New Statistical Account).

It was sometimes known as the Grange Works School because most of the children came from families connected with the Grange Colliery and saltworks, the school fees being deducted from the wages of the employees.  This school was situated on the north side of the Main Street near the east end of Grangepans.  A salt girnel or cellar occupied the ground floor; the whole of the second floor was utilised as the schoolroom; and the top storey was used as the schoolmaster’s house.  In 1854 the Ordnance Surveyors described it as:

A large house three stories high, and in good repair.  The ground flat is used as a cellar, the next as the school room which is large enough to afford accommodation to about 250, the average number of attendants is about 200.  Thomas Dickson is the schoolmaster; he uses the upper flat for his resi­dence.  The branches taught are those usually taught in a country school.   The schoolmaster’s salary is composed of a government allowance and the school fees.   He has the house and garden free from James John Cadell Esq of Grange.  The schoolmaster receives 2d from each individual employed on the works iron mines whether they have children or not, but those who have children, no matter how many, can have them educated for the above amount.”

Illus 2: 1855/56 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

Like the children at Blackness and Carriden Schools, those of Grangepans joined in the annual treat provided by the Hope family of Carriden Estate which normally involved a picnic and games in the grounds of Carriden House.

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

Around 1860 a new school building was erected on the south side of the Main Street (Cowdenhill Road was not formed until 1906) and Cadell again supplied a house for the teacher.  In September 1873 Grangepans Subscription School was formally transferred to the Carriden School Board.  It had accommodation for 150 pupils, and with an average attendance of 100 had capacity to spare.  Over the following decades Grangepans Infant School became the feeder school for Carriden School.  Pupil numbers increased and in 1894 an extension was built to the Grangepans Infant School.  Extra land was acquired from Mr Cadell to extend the playground.  Cadell granted a new feu as the old feu had a condition on it preventing the School Board using the ground for any purpose other than a school.  At the same time the School Board purchased the old schoolhouse house nearby from Mr Cadell for £200 and a large sum was expended upon its renovation and the addition of washhouses.  It was then rented out as two dwellings for £20 a year.

Illus 4: 1914/15 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland) showing the eastern extensions to the school.

Despite all of this activity it was clear that the days of the school were numbered and in 1896 Rev Easson approached the School Board to see if it would be willing to sell it to the Roman Catholic trustees.  The Board vacillated and to everyone’s surprise added a further extension in 1898, taking out a loan of £500 with the Glasgow Savings bank to defray the cost.  The work increased the accommodation at the school by 109 places, making it suitable for 290 pupils instead of 181.

With the opening of Grange School in 1907 there was again a possibility that Grangepans School would be declared surplus to requirements.  In the event it acted as an industrial annexe for Grange School, housing facilities for cooking, laundry and woodworking.  Then in 1931 the new Bo’ness Academy opened and rumours again circulated that Grangepans Domestic Science School would be closed.  The ancient three-storey original school in the Main Street was demolished in 1934 as part of the burgh’s sum clearance programme.

Illus 5: Aerial Photograph looking north showing Grange School at the bottom and Grangepans School on the west side of Cowdenhill Road. c1960.

During the Second World War some of the rooms in the Grangepans School buildings were used to store and distribute gas masks.  In September 1938 some 30,000 masks arrived in preparation.  They were stacked in boxes, tier upon tier.  At the end of the month the whole building was handed over to the ARP Committee.  Part of it functioned as a wardens’ post.

After the war the demobilised school was kept by the Education Authority for use as backup accommodation, should it be needed.  For some reason its name was changed to Cowdenhill School, probably to avoid confusion with Grange School.  In the event, it was not needed for school use and rooms were leased to the Boy Scouts and other youth organisations.  The 3rd West Lothian Scouts redecorated three rooms and installed electricity in 1950.  Later that year Bo’ness Council used one room as a day shelter for old men – the blackout materials on the windows had only just been removed.  The Bo’ness Area Education Committee undertook some internal decoration and improvements in 1954.

Inevitably the building fell into disrepair and was eventually demolished.  The date of demolition appears to have been the late 1960s and subsequently houses were built on the site fronting Cowdenhill Road.

Year ArrivedHeadteacherYear LeftNo. Pupils
(1843)James Blair90
Mr Wardrop
Thomas Dickson1871
1871?Mr Aitken
Mr Bowack
Mr Anderson
(1894)Miss NelsonP 1902
1900 – 275

Sites and Monuments Record

Cowdenhill RoadSMR 2284NT 00 91 8154 & NT 0095 8150

G.B. Bailey, 2022