Torwood School

A school was established in the early 19th century in the east portion of Dunipace Parish to cater for the dispersed population there which otherwise would have struggled to reach the parochial school at Dunipace.  The rural nature of the area meant that it also attracted pupils from St Ninian’s Parish and from Larbert.  The date of foundation is not known but it is mentioned in the New Statistical Account of 1841.  It may have been a project of Sylvester D Stirling of Glenbervie, whose wife, Anne C Stirling, lived for 53 years after his accidental death in 1846.  It was she who built the present mansion house at Glenbervie in 1850/51.  The school was located at the extreme western edge of the Glenbervie Estate, next to the lands of Torwood and the newly formed estate of Carbrook.  It was set back from the main road which suggests that the school used an existing building.

In 1860 the Ordnance Surveyors set down the following details:

A private school in the village of Torwood, un-endowed, the teacher being solely supported by the pupils’ fees.   The average attendance is about 80, two thirds of whom are males.   Reading, writing and arithmetic are the branches taught.   The house is the property of Mrs Anne C Stirling, Glenbervie, Larbert.

The school was run by trustees and in 1850, when an advert appeared for experienced teacher, the contact was John McLay of Torwood.  The school must have been approved by the established church and, from at least 1861, Rev John McLaren of Larbert Parish Church conducted annual examinations.  J C Bolton of the adjoining Carbrook estate took the school under his wing and provided prizes for the pupils to compete for as well as Christmas and end of term snacks.  It 1861 it was noted that he had also supplied

the greater part of the school apparatus such as Johnston’s geographical maps, Renold’s astronomical diagrams, a map and book stand, natural history plates with which the walls are adorned

(Falkirk Herald 4 April 1861, 3).
Illus 1: 1860/63 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

As a small school the post of teacher was seen as a stepping post in a longer career and there was a great turnover.  To make the position more attractive the advert for 1871 stated that there was a “Salary (in addition to Government grant), £20, house, and garden” (Glasgow Herald 21 February 1871, 1).

With the formation of the Dunipace School Board in 1873 the school building at Torwood was handed over to it.  Within a year the Board commenced the construction of a replacement on a site at the east end of the village, a little south of the old Tollhouse.  This sufficed until 1895 when Mr Mitchell, architect, Coatbridge, prepared plans for an extension to accommodate an additional 50 scholars.  The following year the valuation of the building increased from £8 to £25.  The inspector’s report stated that: “the building has been much improved but the complete separation of the rooms is not favourable to the supervision of a pupil teacher.  While the infant room has been nicely furnished apparatus for lessons is rather scanty.”  An increase in staff was required and reflecting this increased status a male head teacher was then appointed.  Upon taking up the post in 1903, Mr McArthur was offered the choice of a house in which to live, or a £10 addition to his salary.

Illus 2: 1895/7 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

In 1907 Mr Coats, junior, of Paisley, generously presented the school with a handsome bookcase with two hundred books, and a number maps.  The volumes include Shakespeare, Tennyson and other classical works.  Another gift, in 1910, was made by Mr Edwin Bolton, of an acre of land adjacent to the school to be used as a recreation ground. 

The number of pupils at the school remained stubbornly low at a time when most other schools were overcrowded.  In 1942 the County Agricultural Executive Committee demanded that part of the recreation ground be ploughed up for the war effort.  This should have been reinstated after the war but in March 1945 it was announced that Torwood School would temporarily close on account of the small number of pupils attending.  The pupils were to be conveyed to Larbert Village School.  This was not quite the celebration of victory that the parents had been anticipating.  Petitions to the Member of Parliament were to no avail.  One of the rooms in the school was to be made available for use of the Sunday school and for social functions, and the other room used as a store for blankets and other camp equipment.  A newly formed club – the Torwood and District Agricultural Discussion Society – met at Torwood School fortnightly until c2010.

In December 1949 the former infants’ school at Torwood was opened as an “occupational school centre.”  It has been added to and reconstructed internally to accommodate 30 occupational pupils in two groups of 15 each.  The pupils were those with special educational needs, and it was staffed by two teachers under the supervision of the headmistress of Dawson Park School.

Torwood School continued as a Special school until 2007 when the pupils were transferred to specialist units at Maddiston Primary and Carrongrange School.  The building was then boarded up and eventually demolished.  In 2019 planning permission was granted for 24 flats on the site, which have now been constructed.

1850?Mr Hamiltonc1865
Mr Murray1869
1869William Smith187140
1880sMiss Haining
Miss Whillis1891 52
1892Agnes G. Adamson
Miss Pearson?
1897Mary Maclennan
Miss Gill190333
1903Mr A McArthur192743
Anne H Reid192736
1927Miss Isabella Miller1941
1941Miss Annie Mitchell

National Grid Reference

TorwoodNS 8379 8520NS 8416 8473

G.B. Bailey, 2023