Falkirk High School I (1886-1898)

In the early 1880s the Falkirk Burgh School Board started to seriously discuss the idea of setting up a school in the town for higher class education – to bridge the gap between the existing schools and university.  The Board saw that such a school could serve a much wider area and attract significant grants.  Strong objections were raised to the spending of much money in connection with it until it was seen whether or not it would prove a successful venture.  These representations weighed with the School Board and it was agreed that instead of erecting a new school, as had at first been intended, to utilise one of the existing buildings, and the building chosen was the Southern School in Park Street.  It was understood that should the High School prove successful a building of a more suitable kind would be provided. 

In 1884 plans were drawn up by William Black for the necessary alterations to the school to fit it for its role in secondary education and it was agreed that the new school would be called Falkirk High School.  However, it was only over the summer of 1886 that the work took place.  A building was acquired at Arnothill Gardens to accommodate the junior or elementary pupils displaced from Park Street and which was to serve as a branch of the High School.  The building in Park Street officially opened as Falkirk High School on 6 September 1886 under a new rector, Hugh Campbell.

The Higher Department paid attention to Classics and Modern Languages as was normal, and now extended the study of English in all its branches, and the practice of drawing, arithmetic, and mathematics.  Phonography (shorthand) was introduced early on.  The fees were deliberately set at a “moderate” level to encourage parents to keep their children at school.  One Grangemouth resident noted that:

It will be a boon not only to your good town, but also to Portonians. Parents here, for want of a good secondary school, have been – and some are still – sending their children to either Edinburgh of Glasgow.  Now the fact of their being a means of getting higher education in Falkirk obviates the necessity of parents sending their children to either of the cities, thereby saving their parents not a little money and anxiety

(Falkirk Herald 11 September 1886, 3). 
Illus 1: The first Falkirk High School in Park Street, looking north-east.

All of the original classrooms were re-modelled, each now having raised galleries. The antiquated iron windows were replaced by opening windows so as to improve the ventilation.  

New offices were constructed, lined with white enamelled bricks and fitted up on “the most approved principles to ensure thorough ventilation and cleanliness.”  The whole of the old buildings were ventilated by Munn’s patent exhaust ventilators.  The boundary wall facing Park Street was taken down to form a low wall, on which a malleable iron railing was erected, thereby opening up the school and playground.

Illus 3: Elevation drawings of the old Falkirk High School.

He also noted that for older learners there were evening classes at the Zetland School.

G Deas Page, architect, had been given the responsibility for putting the 1884 plans into execution and in 1886 the internal alterations were undertaken.  The main space in the former residences of the two teachers was converted into two classrooms, each for 52 pupils, increasing the overall capacity to 423.  Other parts of these dwellings became two rooms, each 20ft by 20ft, one for use as a boardroom, and the other as a private classroom for advanced pupils.  Separate lavatories for boys and girls were also provided in this portion of the building.  

Illus 39: The High School after the alterations of 1886.  Note the two newly inserted windows above the entrance arches.
Illus 2: The High School after the alterations of 1886. Note the two newly inserted windows above the entrance arches.

In 1893 the County Council certified that Falkirk High School satisfied the requirements of higher education and consequently the school qualified for the new grants then available.  The number of bursaries and scholarships was steadily increased to ensure that the benefit was widespread.  It was well established and in 1894 the first of many annual meetings of the Falkirk High School Ex-pupils Club took place.  The school then became a victim of its own success and in June 1895 the Education Department complained about overcrowding and inadequate facilities, thus threatening the government grant.  Sufficient time had now elapsed to enable an opinion to be formed concerning the institution and the success that had attended it overcame any doubts about erecting a suitable building. 

For a decade Arnothill School had served as the junior department of Falkirk High School and then the idea was mooted that the schools should be amalgamated in the new building.  In 1898 it was agreed that the new High School be worked on the departmental system under the supervision of the rector, Dr Campbell, the head of each department to be responsible to the Board through the Rector.  On 30 September 1898 the new Falkirk High School opened in Rennie Street.

Sites and Monuments Record

Park StreetSMR 1334NS 8889 8008

G.B. Bailey, 2023