Dundas School

From its inception in 1873 the Grangemouth School Board intended to erect a brand new school in the new town to serve the rapidly increasing population there.  It was initially referred to as the “Eastend School” and opened on 4 March 1876 as the Dundas School.  The plans were drawn up by Alexander Black in 1874 and included a teacher’s house at an estimated cost of £2,945.  The architect was immediately asked to keep costs to £2,000. 

“TO CONTRACTORS. GRANGEMOUTH DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD. The Grangemouth School Board are desirous to receive OFFERS for the different WORKS in the Erection of a PUBLIC SCHOOL at Grangemouth- viz.:—For MASON, JOINER, PLASTER, SLATER, and SMITH Work.

Plans and Specifications to be seen, and Schedules of quantities procured, at the Office of the Architects, Messrs A & W Black, Falkirk…”

(Falkirk Herald 15 October 1874, 1).

At the time the area was only just developing and new streets were being formed.  The school building was of a single storey and consisted of an infant room and one large classroom.  It opened on 6 March 1876 with a staff of six teachers and accommodation for 350 pupils.

Within a year Mr Black was asked if the Dundas School walls were sufficient to take another storey.  They were 20ins thick and the architect reckoned they were.  The enlarged school re-opened in September 1878.  The contractors for this work were; masons – Cuthbertson & co, Grangemouth; joiners – J Milne & Co, Grangemouth; slater – J Murray, Grangemouth; plumber – J Hardie, Grangemouth; plasterer – J Russell, Grangemouth.

Illus 2: 1896/97 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

The amazing growth of the town meant that even this was not sufficient and in 1883 William Black was back with plans for a single storey extension to provide for an extra 55 pupils at a cost of around £300.  Slight amendments to the plans were made at the suggestion of Mr Jolly, the Education Inspector and in 1884 the work went ahead.  Not surprisingly this was still insufficient and in 1886 the Bethany Hall was rented to take the infants.  Now an extra storey was added to the extension at Dundas School!  This provided accommodation for a further 220 scholars at a cost of about £1,200.  It now consisted of the infant department, nine classrooms for standard work, and two classrooms for secondary education, with a teachers’ room – in all 14 rooms with a theoretical accommodation of 780, manned by 15 teachers.  Lighting was by gas.  It opened on 12 October 1886.  A & W Black, architects.

The main façade was symmetrical and faced Dundas Street.  It had projecting gables at either end containing triple-light windows on the ground floor and four windows on the first floor.  The recessed central section had four double-light windows with a gablet containing a clock surmounting the central two.  The clock was a prominent feature of the building and its appearance was monitored by the passing population.  In 1909 the figures on the dial had to be repainted and in 1921 one of the hands blew off.  The clock was retained in subsequent alterations.  The entrances were placed in the re-entrant angles of projecting wings to either side of the main block.

Illus 3: Dundas School looking east.

The opening of Grange School in 1896 relieved some of the pressure on the accommodation at Dundas School whose fourth Standard took its cookery lessons there.  Bigger changes were to come.  In 1910 it was decided that Dundas School would be used exclusively for boys; the girls attending Grange School.  In the first week of April the girls previously attending Dundas School, together with a number from the Zetland School, changed their locus to the Grange School; and the boys from Grange School walked in escort to Dundas School.  Simultaneous with these changes certain teachers were transferred.

Illus 4: Dundas School looking north-east.

The dream of every school child was for their school to catch fire and for them to get a long holiday.  However, when fire did break out at Dundas School in February 1912 it was quickly brought under control and although two classes were sent home in the forenoon, arrangements were made in the afternoon to accommodate them in other classrooms in the same school.  A fire had been left going over night in one of the upstairs classrooms and had heated the hearth to such a degree that the joists upon which the hearth was resting had become ignited.  The fire had spread down the lathe to the room below, and had it not been discovered by the janitor at 8am serious damage might have resulted. 

Assistance was obtained from Mr Hogg, inspector of works to the School Board, and the whole fireplace was taken out and the hearth removed.  The damage was estimated by the insurance company at £12.10s.  Rather surprisingly, it was the female cleaner whose job it was to carry the coal to each fireplace and it was decided that this was a man’s job.

In September 1926 the Dean of Guild Court passed plans from the Stirlingshire Education Authority to reconstruct Dundas School.  The timing was odd as the school had stood empty all summer and now alternative accommodation had to be arranged.  The YMCA hall was rented to take the infants during the work and other properties around the town were used for the remaining pupils.  This was a major reconstruction involving the demolition of most of the existing structure.  Only the stone façade with its famous clock was retained.  Building work was still going on in June 1927 when William Price was mounting the stone stairs inside the building, carrying a hod of bricks.  The hod hit against a batten projecting from the scaffolding, causing him to lose his balance.  As there was no handrail on the stair he fell a distance of 15ft, receiving a bad wound on the head.  He was removed to the infirmary suffering from concussion.

Fire again struck the school in December that year, though on this occasion it was the temporary school premises at the YMCA Institute that were affected.  Fortunately, the building was occupied that evening and the fire was immediately dealt with.  The damage was largely confined to the heating apparatus, though it still amounted to £850 worth.  The Dundas building was sufficiently advanced for the pupils from the YMCA to be moved into such portions of the remodelled school as were ready to receive them.  By mid-December five class rooms of the school were occupied.  The official re-opening took place on 4 January 1928.

Illus 5: 1951/53 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

Of the old school, which had twelve rooms, the stone front only was retained.  All the buildings at the back were demolished to make room for new classrooms, of which there were fourteen, accommodating 640 pupils, as well as a science laboratory for advanced pupils, three staffrooms, and a room for medical inspection.  The classrooms were built of brick and ranged around a tall one storey central assembly hall which measured 48ft by 27ft.   Each classroom had windows on opposite sides for cross ventilation, and they were lit by electricity.  There was also ample cloakroom accommodation; and the whole building had central heating.  A N Malcolm, architect, produced the plans and James Hogg acted as clerk of works, keeping costs down to £9,000 (a new school would have cost £21,000). 

Illus 6: Dundas School looking north c1950 (JP Munn).

Hallmarks of the modernity of the new building were the open glass corridors, colonnade fashion, with pillars and porticos, and a quadrangle between – features that the same architect was to use to good effect at Falkirk Technical School in 1932.  The contractors were: builders – John Gardner & Son, Falkirk; joiners – A Williamson & Son, Grangemouth; slaters – Drummond & Crowe, Falkirk; plumber – Wm Milne, Stirling; plasterer – JT Murray, Grangemouth; electrician – A Anderson, Grangemouth; heating – J Saunders & Co, Glasgow.

The Second World War brought the installation of black-out material and air raid precautions.  The shelters had to be above ground due to the high water table and experiments were conducted with battery lighting.  The play sheds were also converted for this purpose.  Brick baffle walls traversed the entrances, also reducing the amount of natural daylight entering the building.  At night several of the teachers had to keep vigil as fire watchers.  At the end of June 1941 Andrew Robertson, the science master, was on duty with two ladies.  It was a stormy night and as he closed one of the windows to keep the rain out he saw a bright sheet of flame in the sky followed immediately by a clash of thunder. 

Illus 7: New Dundas School looking east.

On going outside to see if there was any sign of fire in the neighbourhood he found masonry scattered on the ground in front of the school – it had been hit by lightning.  Next morning large groups of people congregated to inspect the damage, which was limited to the breaking off of some pieces of masonry above the clock face and the loosening of a few slates. After the war the facilities at the school were occasionally updated to keep in pace with expectations.  The biggest problem was the provision of adequate toilets and cloakrooms.  Several times the toilets had to be upgraded and augmented.  The secondary department was closed in 1958 and it became Dundas Primary School.  The older pupils then went to Moray Secondary School.  Dundas Primary School had a roll of 410 pupils and twelve teachers in 1961.  New Dundas School for infants and primary pupils opened 1962 with 594 pupils.  Closed July 1988 and the buildings used for the Dundas Resource (Day) Centre.

Illus 8: 1965 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).
1874Michael Gavin1895240, 352, 646, 706, 790
1895George Hastie1913720, 519, 394
1913John Drysdale1935
1935Hugh Ferguson1938
1938David Stark1945
1945Alexander G Beveridge1949
1949Alexander P Dickson570
c1966Robert Troup
c1970?Jack Prentice
Dina Duncan1992

National Grid Reference

Dundas StreetNS 9260 8191

G.B. Bailey, 2023