Falkirk Free Church School

On 20 April 1846 the Deacons’ Court resolved to take steps for the opening of a school in connection with the Free Church of Falkirk, the minister, Rev. Lewis Irving, being empowered to advertise for a teacher, and to crave help of Rev John Bonar of Larbert, and Rev. Cunningham of Blairlodge, in judging of the qualifications of the candidates.  As the premises in the Pleasance occupied by the parochial teachers were at this time to be vacated on account of the new parish school in Park Street being ready for occupation, it was resolved to rent those premises for one year at the same sum paid by the Heritors.  A scheme propounded by the General Assembly of the Free Church for raising a sustentation fund for schoolmasters received the approval of the Deacons’ Court in August 1846.  However, some difficulty seems to have been experienced in finding collectors to take up the subscriptions, an agency of young men were therefore found in the church for collecting that fund, the congregation being divided into eight districts.  The Free Church School was opened in the Pleasance on 4 January 1847.  In addition to the ordinary elementary subjects, the branches taught were, Latin, Greek, French, mathematics, Tytler’s Elements of History, vocal music, and drawing.  Shortly afterwards a separate school was set up for girls in the old Baptist Church on Callendar Riggs which was rented for the purpose and a mistress was appointed.

In July 1851 the Deacons’ Court resolved to acquire a site for a school on the grounds of Campfield to the north of the Free Church.  The site was just to the north of the railway with a broad new access road parallel to it from Graham’s Road, which came to be known as Meeks Road.  The minister, Lewis H Irving, drew up the plans for the building, though alterations to these to meet regulations cost £60 (Love 1898).  The building cost just under a thousand pounds:

Gardner & YoungMason work£355
John FergieJoiner work£368
Slater & plumber work     £100
Alterations to plan£ 60

This sum was raised by voluntary subscription from the members of the church congregation, sales of work, aided by a grant of £297 from the government.  The new building opened on 24 January 1853.

Illus 1: 1860/62 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

The Ordnance Survey Name Book in 1859 refers to the schools in the plural and provides the following information:

The male and female teachers, who are both certified teachers, are each allowed apartments, rent free, in a part of the building.  Their salaries are derived from scholars’ fees and voluntary contributions from the members of the Free Church congregation.  The males’ school affords tuition in the various branches of an English education and also Greek and Latin.  Average attendance 110.  The females’ school affords tuition in the ordinary elementary branches and sewing.  Average attendance 60.”

Illus 2: Plan of the Free Church Schools from the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey.

In common with most schools of the time the buildings were laid out in two departments, with the boys’ classroom on the west and the girls’ on the east.  Each lay in a north/south wing with the main gables facing the road.  The gables had central porches with a window on either side, a louvred ventilation space above and a tall narrow chimney stack on the apex.  The latter served heating stoves in the lofty classrooms.  The boys’ classroom extended the whole length of the wing and had a projecting ancillary room to the north; the girls’ was shorter and the associated ancillary room was incorporated within the wing.  The two wings were joined by a central block that contained the accommodation for the two teachers.  On the ground floor, entered by a central door on the south was the male teacher’s flat; and on the upper floor was that for the mistress, accessed by a rear entrance.  Each flat consisted of four rooms and a kitchen with a scullery.

A garden between the projecting wings provided some privacy for the teachers.  To the south of this was a large playground, divided centrally by a fence to retain the separation of the sexes. 

Illus: The Free Church School building in use as the Foundry Technical Institute, looking north-west.

The year after the passing of the Education Act (Scotland) of 1872 the school buildings were transferred to the Falkirk School Board free of charge, the only stipulation being that the use of the school rooms for Sabbath schools or prayer meetings should be reserved to the Free Church.  The school then became known as the Central Public School and became a mixed school.  The teachers’ accommodation was converted into classrooms for an additional 152 scholars.

1847David Kerr Convery1851
1851John Dow1873110
Boys’ School
1858Miss McCulloch1851
1851Miss Forbes187360
Girls’ School

Sites and Monuments Record

Meeks RoadSMR 1835NS 8875 8035

G.B. Bailey, 2023