Grangemouth High School (I)

“GRANGEMOUTH SCHOOL BOARD.  To Contractors, Tenders are Invited in connection with the Erection of a NEW SUPPLEMENTARY and HIGHER-GRADE PUBLIC SCHOOL at GRANGEMOUTH, for the following Works:

  • 1. Digger, Mason, and Brick Work.
  • 2. Carpenter and Joiner Work.
  • 3. Slater Work.
  • 4. Plaster and Cement Work.
  • 5. Plumber and Gasfitting Work.
  • 6. Glazier Work.
  • 7. Iron and Steel Work.
  • 8. Smith Work.
  • 9. Tiler Work.
  • 10. Drainage Work.

The Plans can be seen at the Office of the Subscribers, from whom Schedules of Quotations can be obtained on receipt of a Deposit of Two Guineas, which will be returned when bone fide Offer is received…. WILSON and TAIT, Architects, B.L. Bank Buildings, Grangemouth.”

(Falkirk Herald FH 25 April 1908, 1)
Illus 2: Detail of the south-western pedimented Bay.

It was June 1908 before this new higher grade school was named as Grangemouth High School.  It was designed by Wilson and Tait (Henry Wilson in the lead) between 1908 and 1909 in the Renaissance style in polished red sandstone ashlar with a two-storey façade of five bays each with three single-light windows.  The central and end bays are slightly advanced.  The outer are pedimented, and their central windows on the first floor are flanked in antis by attached and paired Ionic columns, with cartouches on the angle piers beyond the end windows.  The advanced central bay is topped by a balustrade which flanks a floriated decorated plinth carrying the classical representation of Education as a woman writing in a book with a quill, having a globe to her left and an eager child to her right. 

Illus 3: Detail of the top of the central Bay.

The building sits on a substantial plinth of polished ashlar blocks, offset along its top by a moulded course.  Above this the ground floor has channelled masonry up to a plain string course.  The channelling continues on the end piers flanking the three advanced bays of the next floor up.  The whole is finished with a moulded eaves course. The side elevations have an advanced central bay with broad channelled angle piers crowned by segmental pediments.  On the ground floors of these bays open-pedimented aedicules contain round-arched entrances with Gibbs-like voussoirs – one for boys and one for girls each with a carved keystone depicting the head of a child of the corresponding gender.  Escutcheons flank the doors.  Inside, stained glass windows by Meikle decorated the two light wells and colonnaded arcading the galleries.  The school motto “Semper paratus” – always ready – was emblazoned across the glass roof of the central hall.

Illus 5: The Girls’ Entrance – escutcheons lost.
Illus 4: The Boys’ Entrance on the east elevation.

£8,000 was borrowed, payable within thirty years.  The school contained an up to date chemical laboratory.  A memorial stone was laid with ceremony in the centre of the dividing wall of the two main classrooms on 24 June 1909.  Behind it a casket was deposited containing a current gold, silver and copper coin of the realm, daily and local newspapers, a list of the members of the School Board with the clerk and treasurer, and the names of the architect and the various contractors.

Illus 6: 1914/15 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

The contractors were: mason, brick and digger work – George Primrose, Grangemouth; carpenter and joiner – A. Williamson & Son, Grangemouth; plumber and gas fitting – Adam Taylor & Son, Grangemouth; plaster and cement – David Macnair, Falkirk; slater – John Stewart, Bainsford; iron and steel work – Redpath, Brown & Co, Glasgow; drainage – R. Macmillan, Grangemouth; glazier – William Meikle & Sons, Glasgow; tile work – Allan & Sons, Edinburgh.

The year after the opening of the High School a single-storey manual instruction room was built to the north for practical lessons in woodwork and the like.  Its foundations were made substantial enough to take an extra storey and a few years later a gymnasium was added above it.  A section at the north end of the boys’ playground was divided off for them to garden.

Illus 7: Grangemouth High School looking north-east with the gym to the left.

When it opened in August 1909 it was one of the first schools to be built specifically for secondary education and the demand for this was modest.  Within a few years it greatly increased.  In September 1922 it was reported one class was without a classroom and had to dodge between the science room, the art room, and any of the classrooms that were temporarily vacant.  In 1925 it was made a full secondary school.  Plans for reconstruction and enlargement began in 1930 but the economic slump and then the Second World War delayed action.  To meet the immediate requirements for additional classrooms, wooden huts were constructed in the playground.

During the war brick surface air raid shelters were built in the playground.  These had to be roughcast to keep the damp out.  The school was designated as a Rest Centre and on 16 April 1941 was visited by Joe Westwood, M.P., Under-Secretary of State for Scotland.  After the war, in 1948, the science and woodwork rooms under the gymnasium were improved.  Soundproofing was one of the requirements!  More prefabricated classrooms were needed and an un-floored shed, measuring about 24ft. 12ft, with double doors one end, was put up for sale in order to make space for them in 1949.

Illus 8: Floods outside the Prefabs at Grangemouth High School (Falkirk Herald 21 November 1951, 7).

Meanwhile, routine maintenance work continued.  It was at this time that James Robertson, a master slater and chimney sweep, was doing some work on the ventilator on the roof when he lost his hold and fell to the ground sustaining severe injuries.  Amazingly he made a good recovery.  In September 1951 the possibility of using the hall of the nearby Grange Church for surplus pupils was explored.  Just three months later all of the pupils got a day off when the Grange Burn overtopped its banks and the entire area flooded.

Illus 9: A day off for the school children due to floods (Falkirk Herald 5 December 1953, 5).

A massive scheme of school building in Grangemouth was announced by the Education Authority in 1955, starting with the primary schools.  Grangemouth High School was short of accommodation and two additional timber classrooms were to be provided in 1956 – one as a temporary science room requiring water services.  For its estimated roll of 450-475 pupils in 1959-60, the school would require alteration and new provision for science, homecraft, technical subjects, art and physical education.  Building should, it was said, be begun not later than 1958.  Duly, late in 1955 construction began on the temporary classrooms in a timber building 64ft long by 22ft wide set on concrete foundations at an estimated cost of £3,000.

As a result of the new school-building project Grangemouth High School became a selective senior secondary school in 1960.  The High school took the certificate pupils from the burgh and a few from outside of it.  Children allocated to non-certificate courses went to Moray Secondary School.  Both schools sent older pupils to Falkirk.

The completion of a new high school in Tinto Drive in 1971/72 led to a complete overview of educational provision on Grangemouth.  As a result the old building in Carronflats Road became Abbotsgrange Middle School in August 1975.  It now took pupils between 10 and 14 years old in classes named M1 to M4.  This experiment ended in July 1988 when Grangemouth conformed to the general pattern of a two stage system – primary and secondary.  Abbotsgrange Middle School closed and the building was sold.  The main block was converted into housing and ancillary buildings were demolished and replaced by the housing of Bryden Court and Peddie Place in the 1990s.

Illus 10: Grangemouth High School looking south-east from Peddie Place.
1920Peter Auchinachie1937236, 275
1937Hugh McClemont1942
1942John J Harold1954
1954James Robertson1966
1966Robert Brown

Sites and Monuments Record

Carronflats RoadSMR 274NS 9313 8170

G.B. Bailey, 2023