Herbertshire Castle Academy

Herbertshire Castle was leased to Thomas Wilson Richmond in 1877 for use as a boarding school for young gentlemen under his rectorship.  He had successfully run two such schools in Sunderland and Perthshire, and the Herbertshire Castle Boarding School opened on 4 September.  The newspaper advertisement says that the schoolrooms were separate from the house which was used as bedroom accommodation, dining and lounging.  Presumably the classes were held in the east wing.  A cricket team was quickly established, though they were thoroughly beaten when they played the nearby established private school of Blair Lodge, Polmont.  Fox hunting, of a sort, was also indulged in.  Three “foxes,” selected from the older pupils, would leave the house twenty minutes before their pursuers – the hounds – and left a trail of sawdust at intervals for them to follow.  The hunt would cross farmers’ fields as well as run along roads or canal towpaths and could cover up to twenty miles.  Usually the foxes were back at the house long before the hounds and some of the hounds got lost and had to hire taxis to get back.  These were bi-annual events and caused much amusement amongst the local population.  Military drill was on the curriculum and in 1880 Louis Saurin composed a grand military march called “The Herbertshire Castle.”  The younger locals were invited into the grounds to make supervised use of the sporting facilities – a form of outreach that is familiar today.  The vice-principal, JW Reid, also gave lectures in the church halls of the area. 


Illus 1: Advertisement from the Scotsman 26 September 1877.

Illus 2: Edinburgh children at Herbertshire Castle, 1898.

John Wilson Reid was a hard working charismatic teacher and when, in February 1888, he was appointed mathematics master of the new Inverness Academy it was clear to his uncle, Principal Wilson, that the days of the boarding school were numbered.  For a year he hired temporary staff as replacements and at the beginning of the summer of 1889 he closed the school to take up private tuition, also in Inverness.  In the last term at Herbertshire Academy his pupils presented him with a portrait of himself in a gold frame inscribed: “Presented to T.R. Wilson, Esq., by his pupils, as a token of deepest regard, on his leaving Herbertshire Castle. May, 1889.”

For a few years thereafter Herbertshire Castle was leased to a residential tenant but in 1898 it became the country destination of hundreds of poor children taking a break from the rigours of life in the capital city.  In the early summer of 1898 the “Edinburgh Holiday House for Poor Children” furnished the castle in a simple fashion for the purpose of receiving boys from five to twelve years, and girls from five to fourteen years of age.  It was open all year round and during school time a doctor’s certificate to the effect that the child needed a change had to be shown, and in all cases the parents had to be willing to let them go.   As a precaution the homes from which they came had to be free from infection.  The castle’s large and airy rooms made splendid dormitories, dining, and play-rooms.  The children got three meals each day of what was described as “good, plain food”.  The matron was Miss Younger, Herbertshire, Denny.  The holiday home did not last long and for a couple of years before 1904 the house stood empty.

Sites and Monuments Record

Herbertshire Park, DunipaceSMR 763NS 8049 8309

G.B. Bailey, 2023