Zetland School

By 1789 the Dundas family had provided a school and school mistress for Grangemouth (Porteous 87).  It is mentioned in the Old Statistical Account of Falkirk in 1797:

– “Lord Dundas of Aske gives to a schoolmaster in Grangemouth a house to dwell in, a schoolroom, and £5 a year.” 

The early schoolroom was situated at 8 Burnet Street near the shipyard.  These premises became too small and sometime before 1808 they moved the short distance to 17 West Middle Street.

Illus 1: 1859/62 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

An early report on education in Grangemouth informs us that:

In 1827 there was erected by Lady Dundas an elegant building containing a schoolroom for boys, and another for girls; an ante-room which is used as a library, and dwelling houses for teachers.  It is of the English cottage order, and is surrounded with extensive playground.  There are few parish schools superior to this, in point of comfort and neatness of appearance.  Salaries of £10 and £5 have been secured by the Noble founder to the teachers, and a yearly allowance is made for the education of poor children.  The munificeness of the family also enables the teachers to distribute prizes for the encouragement of merit.  English reading, grammar, Latin, French, writing, arithmetic, book-keeping, geography and practical mathematics, are the branches taught in the boys’ school.  The average number of pupils is 70.  The fees range from 4s to 6s a quarter.  English, reading, knitting, and sewing are taught in the female school; the average attendance is 36.  The fees from 3s to 5s.  These schools undergo examination by the Presbytery of the bounds.

The 1827 school was at the north end of North Bridge Street and backed onto the River Carron.  It was cross-shaped in plan with ample grounds around it.  This together with the ornate style made the Ordnance Surveyors in 1859 think that it had been built as a church.  Indeed, like many school buildings, it was used for church services.  An almanac of 1836 calls the school the Grangemouth Academy.  It also names Mrs Logan as in charge of the Ladies’ Seminary, and Elspeth Lind the Infant School.  These were probably both departments of the Earl’s school as he provided them with endowments of £5 each.  An additional teacher seems to have been appointed in 1850 to instruct the children of colliers in the area.  In 1851 these colliers demanded their own school with the right to appoint their own teachers.  This was refused but presumably stemmed from the fact that their school fees would have been deducted directly from their wages.  The Earl of Zetland continued to take a personal interest in the school and visited it with his wife and Countess Grey (daughter of the Earl of Durham) in November 1851.  It was managed by a board of directors and was generally known as the “Earl of Zetland’s School.”

The 1859 Ordnance Surveyors stated that:

This building has evidently been built for a church but it has been of late occupied as a public school.  It is however occasionally occupied as a place of worship by the Established body.   The teacher’s salary is made up of the following:

             Annual grant given by the Earl of Zetland          £21. .

             Amount of annual fees (on an average)              £60. .

                   making a total of                                      £81. .

together with a large garden,  also given by the Earl of Zetland.   The usual branches of education are taught, together with navigation, French, Latin, Greek and German.   The average number of scholars is 120, of which about ½ are females.   It is the property of the Earl of Zetland, Kerse House, Grangemouth.

At this period the school became the centre of the temperance movement in the town.  The library stock was supplemented from time to time by collecting money at public sermons.  In theory this should have allowed children whose families could not afford a subscription to it to have free use of its facilities but in practice very few did.  In July 1873 the Earl of Zetland’s factor, Mr Newton, contacted the newly formed Grangemouth School Board stating that his Lordship had resolved to hand over the school buildings at an annual feu-duty equal to the value of the buildings and the site, to be settled.  He would then give this yearly amount as a donation to the funds of the Board during his pleasure.  This liberal offer was accepted.  Alexander Black valued the school at an annual rate of £46.15.2 and so £45 was fixed upon as the feu-duty.  This was returned by the Earl until the year 1894 when he deemed that the School Board’s finances no longer required the donation.

It was 1877 before the title deeds to Zetland School were finally put in the name of the Grangemouth School Board.  In the meantime repairs and alterations had to be undertaken with Mr Lindsay doing the mason work, John Murray the plaster work and J & R Milne the joiner work.  Zetland School was insured against fire for £800.  The Grangemouth School Library continued in the building.  It was a subscription library with upwards of 1,400 works. The librarian, Mr Campbell, was in attendance in the Library Room every Tuesday evening from 7 till 8 o’clock.

The playground was often “damp” and had often to be resurfaced.  In January 1877 the houses connected with the school, and which stood on its west side, were flooded – but the teachers were already accommodated elsewhere.  The following year Mr Black produced plans for an extension to Zetland School for 85 scholars.  A large infant room for 130 pupils was added on the east side with the entrance by the girls’ playground.  The contractors were: mason – Douglas Syme, Linlithgow; joiners – Braes & White, Linlithgow; slater – J Murray, Grangemouth; plumber – D Draper, Falkirk; plasterer – J Murray, Grangemouth.  The cost of the work was £461 7s 9d and it opened on 5 August 1878.

When it was originally built the school lay in relatively open surroundings but over the years these became more and more built up.  A timber yard was established to its west and in the 1870s this gave way to a slaughter house.  To the east the open space was converted into a public bleaching green in 1878.  To the north the bank of the River Carron was slowly eroding away.  Elsewhere the town was filling up with new housing and this put extra demand on the schools.  In 1882 the library moved out of Zetland School, freeing up what was a relatively small room.  A further extension for an additional 75 pupils was built in 1884 at a cost of around £400. The next 25 years saw the School Board vacillating over further extensions.  Already by 1888 there was serious overcrowding.  Part of this was solved by sending pupils to schools in the New Town but something needed to be done at the Zetland School and in the meantime the building deteriorated to the point where it was often described as “loathsome.”  In 1888 both William Black and Deas Page produced detailed reports and plans to demonstrate how the school could be altered and extended.  The School Board looked around for new sites upon which to build a separate infant school in the old town but none was available and in 1891 it concluded that the only feasible option was to reconstruct the existing school.  This was still the state of affairs in 1910 when it was noted that the accommodation at the school provided for 309 but that there were 339 on the roll.  An iron building in the playground was provided to accommodate 45, but its use was limited to periods when the school was particularly busy.  Wilson and Tait, architects, were brought in to report on Zetland School and to provide a way forward.  The 1911 report offered two options – structural alterations at an estimated cost of £2,800 or the erection of practically a new school on the same site at an estimated cost of £4,700.  Investigations revealed that the Marquis of Zetland’s was prepared to reduce the feu duty of the existing site from £45 to £15.  He was also prepared to give a site at the junction of Clyde Street and Levin Street for £16 per acre.  Should the Board decide to increase the existing site they could take the adjoining piece of ground used as a public drying green at a rental of £7.10s per annum.  The School Board agreed to go for the cheaper option and reconstruct the school.

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

A School Board election delayed the implementation of this decision and further enquiries were made.  An independent assessor said that the actual cost of reconstruction would be in the region of £4,000 causing great concern over escalating prices.  Much to everyone’s surprise Malcolm and Robertson of Falkirk offered to do the work for £2,700-£3,000.  Plans were prepared and passed by the Dean of Guild in June 1912.  An objection to the loss of the bleaching green by the Town Council led to a compromise whereby that part of the green at the east end measuring 50ft in length was reserved for bleaching clothes and the remainder used for the school.  The lane could not be acquired as the adjoining feuars had rights to it.  The corrugated iron hall, 31ft by 16ft, with stove, gas-fittings, and sink, was immediately advertised for sale by Peddie and Grosart, joiners, Grangemouth.  During the ensuing construction work the infants were accommodated in the West United Free Church Hall, whilst the older boys went to Dundas School and the girls to Grange School.  To keep costs down the Board had intended to retain as much of the walls of the old building as was permissible, but it was found that in order to obtain a decent plan it was necessary to take down almost the entire building, leaving only the north wall facing the River Carron intact.  The reconstructed school opened in the second week of August 1913.  Owing to the narrowness of the feu, the main front and the entrances were placed to the east with access to the school from Middle Street Lane.  The new design was on the hall principle with a central hall measuring 70ft by 23ft lit from the roof and by a large semi-circular window in each of the two end gables, which partly opened to provide cross-ventilation to the classrooms.  The roof of the hall was an open pitch-pine trussed one, and the floor was laid with maple wooden blocks.  The headmaster’s room, with oriel windows, was placed between the two main entrances to the hall, thereby controlling ingress and egress, and permitting of easy supervision of the school and playgrounds.  Cloakrooms for boys and girls were entered from the entrance corridors on each side of the headmaster’s room.  Two staffrooms, with lavatory accommodation, were provided at the opposite end of the hall where there was also an emergency exit.

Illus 3: Zetland School looking west with the two Entrances either side of the Headmaster’s Room.

The building was lit by gas throughout.  The accommodation provided in the reconstructed school was sufficient for 454 pupils, and the cost worked out at £7 per pupil.  A.N. Malcolm was responsible for the plans and supervising the work.  The contractors were: masons and brick builders – Ramsay brothers, Laurieston; joiners – Peddie & Grosat, Grangemouth; slaters – Drummond & Crowe, Laurieston; plumbers – Adam Taylor & Son, Grangemouth; painters – Finlay Mitchell & Son, Grangemouth; heating engineers – Combe & Son, Glasgow; furnishers – J D Bennett & Co, Glasgow.

The classrooms were arranged along the north and south walls of the hall, there being five classrooms on the north for junior standards, and four on the south for senior standards.  The classrooms were all well lighted by three large windows in each, and there was also an opening louvre window between each classroom and the hall for the purposes of ventilation.  Fresh air was also admitted into the rooms by means of hopper ventilations in the windows.  A cleaner’s kitchen, apparatus room and a book store were also provided.  Corner fireplaces were placed in each classroom, and the building was heated throughout by a low-pressure hot-water system, the heating chamber being placed under the boys’ cloakroom. 

Illus 4: Zetland School looking north. The four classrooms with their piended dormerheads break the bracketed eaves and are readily distinguished with a cloakroom to the right.

In the 1920s the erosion of the bank of the river adjacent to the school worsened and required the dumping of rubble there to help to consolidate it.  From here the pupils obtained fine views of ship launches from the nearby shipyard.  As the Old Town was almost completely built up, the Education Authority agreed in 1928 to open the playground at Zetland School to children in the evenings.  Ironically this actually reduced the incidence of broken windows. 

Illus 5: 1914/15 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

During the Second World War gas masks were issued from Zetland School and it became the home of several youth movements as well as a Rest Centre.  By then the County Council had decided that the old town was inconveniently located and prone to flooding.  It encouraged the move of homes and businesses into the new town.  As buildings were vacated they were demolished and large gaps opened up in the urban fabric, further encouraging its desertion.  This depopulation inevitably led to the down-grading of Zetland School.  It became Zetland Primary School in 1948.  In 1955 Stirling County Education Committee decided not to appoint a replacement for the janitor there in view of the fact that the school roll had fallen below 300.  In 1966 the roll stood at just 128.  It continued to fall and with class numbers down to 12-20 each it was inevitable that the school would close.  The end came c1990 and the building was demolished in 2010.

George Ritchie1806
1806James Sinclair
(1823)Malcolm McLaren185070, 84
1850John Orphat WaunP1864170
1874Michael Gavin1875125
1875Mr Mathieson1879 (1882)
1879George Hastie1895365, 418
1895Henry Hogg1901310
1901John Drysdale1913260, 337
1913Mr John C Lowe1931384
1931Hugh Ferguson1935390
1935William Gardiner1937
1937John A Fyffe1947270
1947David Clark

Sites and Monuments Record

North Bridge StreetSMR 1870NS 9213 8244

G.B. Bailey, 2023