Longcroft Public School

Longcroft School was built by William Chalmers, teacher, Haggs, in 1846/7 as an adventure school.  It was located near the junction where the road from Bonnybridge split into roads to Kilsyth and to Cumbernauld.  The tradesmen’s estimates put the cost at £130 but the actual spend was £150.  For many years it was simply known as Chalmers’ School and was well attended.  The Ordnance Surveyors in 1860 noted that:

This school was built in 1846 by a private individual, and since conducted by him.   Average number of scholars about 40 males and 28 females.  The school is entirely supported in fees.”

Illus 1: 1861/62 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

In 1860 Chalmers considered giving up the school and William Wilson of Banknock House decided to step in to provide a school which could be given to the local church.  He bought the property from Chalmers for £100 and then set about raising money to improve and enlarge it.  The method used to raise the necessary funds was to have a print made of one of the paintings in his amazing art collection and he selected “Incident in the Life of Napoleon” for this.  The prints were then sold to subscribers, the prospectus stating that they were contributing to

a fund in connection with the congregation at Dennyloanhead, to erect a schoolhouse, tower, and bell, or such other buildings as he may hereafter decide upon.” 

It was rumoured that in this way he received a little over £500 but no accounts were ever produced and no improvements were made to the school building.  Part of the reason for this was that rumours had circulated that the government was to introduce legislation to establish school boards to take over the running of education.  In the meantime teaching at Longcroft School seems to have continued under Miss Connell and about forty children from the extreme western end of Falkirk parish in the vicinity of Castlecary attended.  It was 1872 before the Act was passed and the following year the Denny School Board was set up and Wilson was elected as its first chairman.  At the very first meeting he handed Longcroft School over to the Board as a free gift.  His generosity was noted but over the following months questions were raised concerning the missing subscribed funds and in 1874 he resigned from the School Board.

Upon close inspection the Denny School Board came to the conclusion that the two schools that had been given to it at Haggs and Longcroft were not up to the standards demanded by the Department of Education.  The Board therefore resolved to replace them with a single building.  Despite the objections of Wilson a new site was found and approved of by the Education Department in Edinburgh provided a sufficient supply of water could be found on the site.  To solve the question, the miners of the neighbourhood voluntarily sank a well, and at a depth of 20 feet reached water.  They then took it deeper, having received tackle from a neighbouring colliery (Stirling Observer 6 June 1874, 3).

The water problem solved, work proceeded to plans by Thomas McFadzen, architect:

“Denny School Board: To contractors, this Board is now prepared to receive tenders for the different works required in the erection of a public school and teacher’s house on the Lands of Longcroft, near Haggs, for the Southern District of the Parish, viz: Mason, CARPENTER and JOINER, PLUMBER, PLASTERER and SLATER WORKS.

Plans and Specifications may be seen, and Schedules of Quantities obtained, either from John Hay Esq, of Glenbo, by Denny; or at the Office of T.B. McFadzen Esq, architect, 19 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh.

Scaled tenders (marked for Longcroft School Buildings) to be lodged with Mr Hay, at above address, nit later that the 8th March, 1t 12 o’clock noon.  The lowest, or any, tender may not be accepted.”

(Falkirk Herald 18 February 1875, 1).

At the same time negotiations were opened with the Falkirk School Board so that children from the southern part of Denny Parish could attend its school at Bonnybridge.  Had it not been for this arrangement the school at Longcroft would have been too far to the west.  The new Longcroft School was located about 370yds west of the old one, opposite to the Russell Memorial Hall.  It was officially opened on 14 March 1876 at a cost of £2,822 to accommodate 250 pupils.  It had a principal schoolroom or central hall and four classrooms ranged around it.  An entrance to the school ground was also placed on the road to the south to give the pupils from that direction a shortcut.  Little did the School Board realise that this would lead to a dispute regarding a right of way.

Illus 2: Ordnance Survey Map of 1896/98 (National Library of Scotland).

James Robertson was appointed as the first headmaster of the new school and a lady assistant was also taken on.  Less than ten years later, in 1885, the spire at Longcroft School had to be taken down and rebuilt, and the walls repaired, and additions made to the teacher’s house, at a cost of £105.  Sheds were put in the playground in 1891 to protect the children from the weather.  By then the population that the school served had expanded significantly and it had to be enlarged.  The plans for additions at Longcroft School by Mr Mitchell, architect, Coatbridge, were approved by the Department of Education in July 1891 and that October a feu charter was obtained for the land to the east of the existing school.  A loan of £1,800 was obtained from the Loan Commissioners and building work began that December.  It was April 1884 before it was completed at a cost of £2,210 and already it was too small.  Part of the problem was that pupils were attending from the Kilsyth area and so the School Board there was spoken with.

Despite the extension to the school, the renting of the hall of the Russell Memorial hall on the other side of the road, and the exclusion of the Kilsyth people, overcrowding was still a problem.  In 1904 the Schools’ Inspector noted that Longcroft Infant Department had 148 infants who were taught by three teachers in one room which had accommodation for only 131.  That room had desk accommodation of an inferior type for only 45 and was badly lighted.  Denny School Board considered their options.  They could either re-model and enlarge Longcroft School or build a new school at Dennyloanhead and merely improve Longcroft.  It put off acting because it knew that a new school authority was likely to be formed.  Needless to say, the situation only got worse.  Similar overcrowding at Bonnybridge caused the Falkirk School Board to eject the pupils from the Denny parish.  In November 1905 it was decided to erect temporary accommodation at Dennyloanhead and Speirs & Co, architects, Glasgow, was commissioned to design it.  It opened in March 1906, providing accommodation for 180 children.  Just one year later, the massive increase in population meant that both Longcroft School and the temporary iron one were overcrowded.  The Department of Education would not countenance an extension to the iron school and so a permanent new school was built at Dennyloanhead a small distance west of it.

Longcroft School continued to be maintained and in 1911 gas was installed.  Incredibly, further extension was also required here and in September 1911 it was agreed to add at least two new classrooms.  Three solutions were offered to extending Longcroft School –add an additional floor, extend to the north, or erect a separate building on the feu to the west and use it as an infant department.  James Strang was asked to draw up plans and the last option was chosen, it being the cheapest.  To keep costs down it was built of brickwork roughcast on the outside.  The new building opened on 20 January 1913 and comprised three classrooms, a large central hall, cloakroom, teachers’ room, etc. 

Illus 3 : The East Façade of the 1913 Building.

The central hall was also used by the scholars of the existing school.  Provision was made for future additional classrooms being grouped round the hall.  The contractors were: brickwork etc – J J & P McLachlan, Larbert; joiner work – Wilson & Garden, Kilsyth; plumber – George Campbell, Camelon; plaster, cement and tile work – James K Millar, Falkirk; glazier work – Daniel O’May, Falkirk; smith – Scott & Grahame, Denny; heating – James Cormack & Son, Glasgow; painter – James Hamilton, Denny.  The cost of the building was £2,000.

The facility to extend the infant department by two rooms was taken up.  In 1924 a two-years Advanced Division was added and in 1926 a £700 new room for teaching science, cookery and woodwork opened; prior to that the pupils had walked to Dennyloanhead for lessons in those subjects.

Illus 4: 1968/69 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland

However, as the coal mining industry declined so too did the population, freeing up capacity at Longcroft School.  Early in 1940 the conditions at the iron School in Dennyloanhead were considered to be unsatisfactory and the two classes were transferred to Longcroft.  In 1947 Longcroft became a Junior Secondary School.  This closed at the end of the summer term in June 1959.  When the new session opened in August that year the Secondary section was transferred to the new Denny High School and Longcroft became a Primary School.  Its pupil numbers were swelled in August 1964 when those from Banknock School were added.  This was only a temporary measure and in August 1965 a new school was opened at Bankier and all of the children were transferred to it.  The buildings at the old Longcroft School were converted into a factory and parts have since been demolished.  Only the 1913 block and the teacher’s house remain.

1847William Chalmers186068
1860Miss Connell
1876James Robertson1913225
1905 – 385
1914Robert Jenkins1922340
1922Robert M Calman1932370
1932James B Wilson1935
1935James Hogg1935-1936
1936William Mowat Govan1939
1939Hugh G Stark1942
1942Miss Mckechnie (temp)
1942Peter Maclean
1946Charles W C Simpson1956
1956Robert V Mackay1965

Sites and Monuments Record

Kilsyth Road, LongcroftSMR 2263NS 7965 7934 & NS 7930 7922

G.B. Bailey, 2023