Stenhouse Parochial School

With the arrival of the Carron Company in 1759 and the opening up of trade and the local coalfields the population grew rapidly at the east end of the parish of Larbert.  Adventure schools were promptly established in the new communities at Kinnaird and Carronshore.    The Heritors took on the responsibility of a new school at the larger settlement of Stenhousemuir.  Due to its proximity to Stenhouse Mansion-house, it was often called Stenhouse School.  From the Heritors’ records of the year 1775 we learn that Stenhouse School too was a thatched building – one storey high – the one end being used as the school, and the other as the schoolmaster’s house.  The schoolmaster at that time was Archibald Porteous, who appears to have been a very successful teacher, and was held in high esteem by the Heritors as a teacher and the Heritors’ Clerk.  By 1791 it was known as the Parochial School of Larbert and had a roll of 60 pupils.  The master received an annual salary of 100 merks Scots (£66 13s 4d) or £5 sterling.  Porteous continued to hold his offices until his death in 1808.  An advert was placed in the Edinburgh newspapers for a replacement:

A schoolmaster wanted for the parish of Larbert, in the County of Stirling.  He must be qualified to teach the Latin and English languages, writing, arithmetic, book-keeping, and the practical branches of mathematics.  A knowledge of Church music will be an additional recommendation.  The salary is the maximum allowed by law.  The whole emoluments of the office will amount to £80 per annum.”

Mr Scott was appointed on 29 August 1808.  This was an opportune time to upgrade the buildings and the four Heritors who attended a meeting that November agreed that the school building was

neither central nor convenient for the parish and too narrow for the scholars.” 

They agreed unanimously to erect a new school and Sir Michael Bruce, the chairman, offered a parcel of land at a reasonable price.  All in all, it would cost £280 for the new building.  However, at the next Heritors’ meeting this was overturned and eventually it was decided to get a local tradesman to

give an estimate of what would be the sum requisite to raise the walls of the schoolhouse four feet and to put a slate roof and other necessary repairs on the whole tenements.”

Scott held office for only four years and resigned.  He was succeeded by William Young, the parish schoolmaster of Dunipace, who began his duties on 29 June 1812.  On 28 January 1814 it was reported that the Heritors

took under their consideration the state of the school and they were unanimously of the opinion that the present school is very insufficient very incommodious and very unhealthy: and that a new one ought to be built.” 

Robert Reid, mason in Torwood, and Alexander Gilchrist, wright or carpenter from Larbert, submitted detailed specifications for the new building.  It was two storeys high – the under flat being used as the school and the upper flat as the dwelling-house.  The building measured 37ft by 25ft 8ins over the walls and was 20ft high

from door of school to top of the walls.”  Special attention was given to the school floor which was

to be a compound of mine dust and lime well mixed and laid on two inches thick above a coat of danders 6 to 8 inches thick with a place on the floor laid with a pavement 5 feet square for the stove, the school floor to be 6 inches above the outside ground.

(Reid 1998, 56). 

Additional porches were proposed in 1816, as well as the laying of a wooden floor, but it is not known if this was undertaken.

William Young died in 1826 at the early age of 34 and was buried in Larbert churchyard, not far from Rev Robert Bruce.  The tombstone bears the following inscription – “Erected by a few of his scholars and private friends as a small tribute of their regard for him as an accomplished and most impartial teacher.”

The population had continued to grow and the new teacher, John Bell, complained that that the building was inadequate and that additional staff were required.  It was noted that

the inconvenience of the noise arising from the school being under the dwelling house, as well as the danger of fire from the kitchen being upstairs, it appeared that a new school-room should be built.” 

The Heritors agreed to build a new school room to the back of the existing building at a cost of £2,105 and to allow the schoolmaster the sole use of the 1814 structure.  However,

the schoolmaster shall go to the necessary expense of repairing and altering the present house as a dwelling house.”  

This being done, the schoolmaster was to take in a boarder who would be his assistant.  The details of the new school building are published by Reid (1998, 57-58) and the work was executed by Alexander Wright and James Brown.

Alexander Stuart was the next teacher.  He arrived in 1849 and again the arrival of a new teacher seems to have been used as an excuse to extend the school, for in 1850 it is said to have had a large and a small classroom.  This appears to have been when the belfry was erected over a new entranceway.  It created an interesting single-storey block with tall church-like windows flanking the advance feature doorway with oculus and belfry.  Stuart’s performance left something to be desired and in 1852 he was dismissed as the Heritors’ clerk for irregularities.  Then in 1854 he was also dismissed from the school for “notoriously discreditable behaviour” which appears to have been due to excessive consumption of alcohol.

Illus 2: 1859 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

At the time of the 1859 Ordnance Suvey map, the school was noted as:

a very commodious parochial school, one storey, school, dwellinghouse attached, two stories.    The usual branches taught including French, Greek and Latin.   Average attendance of scholars is 200.  The master’s salary is £34 from the parish, £20 from government, and the school fees which amount to £120 a year, in all £174.  He has also the legal accommodations.”

 In 1855 an outhouse was converted into an additional classroom for 50-60 children, probably for girls.  The presence of girls is confirmed in 1861 when Carswell’s salary was increased to £60 per annum in line with the new Parochial and Burgh Schoolmasters Act.  For this he had to “keep and pay a properly qualified female teacher.”  He also took in boarding pupils:

“BOARD and EDUCATION in the Country, at the rate of from £20 to £25 per annum.  All the branches usually taught in Parish Schools.  Particular attention devoted to the Education of Youth for General Business.  Excellent accommodation.  Healthy locality.  Most respectable references either in Town or Country.  Apply to Allan Carswell, teacher, Larbert Parochial School, by Falkirk, Stirlingshire.”

(Glasgow Herald 12 November 1859,1).
Illus 3 (a): Stenhouse Parochial School looking north, c1970.
(b) : Detail of the Belfry over the Doorway.
Illus 4: Isometric drawings by John Reid showing the site of Stenhouse Parochial School in c1826 and 1870.


The last parochial schoolmaster in Larbert was Allan Carswell.  Upon his taking up the post in 1854 further building work was undertaken.  Gifford states that the latest appearance of the building dates from 1862 when Alexander Black heightened the walls by c1.3m (Gifford & Walker 2002, 583).  The façade facing the road presented five bays of tall round-headed windows with projecting keystones.  Two of these were set close together to the south of the shallowly projecting entrance bay, the door having a similar arched top.  Above the door was a round window and a bellcote whose gablet had concave sides.


As the result of the publication of a prize list in the Falkirk Herald of 3 April 1862, we have a school roll for that year.  Mr Carswell was a very popular and successful teacher and during his 21 years’ tenure of office the numbers attending the school increased greatly.  When, in 1873, the first School Board for the Parish came into existence, it was found necessary to make another addition to the building.  This was done in 1875 at a cost of around £300 and the feu was transferred to the Board from Sir Michael Bruce.

After 1872 Mr Carswell was no longer styled “parochial schoolmaster,” his designation became “headmaster of Larbert Public School.”  Mr Carswell resigned in 1875 owing to his health failing.  He took to farming for some years, but afterwards returned to teaching, and acted as master of Auchingean School under Falkirk Parish Board until shortly before his death.  This occurred on 14 March 1902 and his remains were laid in Larbert Churchyard.

The opening of the Central School meant that the building at Stenhouse was no longer required and it was sold off:

“For sale by public roup, within the Crown Hotel, Falkirk, on Thursday, 25th April current, at 2pm. Larbert Public School Buildings, teacher’s house, and small house adjoining, with garden and playground, situated at the east end of Stenhousemuir. The ground, which extends to 3 roods 6 poles 24 yards, is a valuable site for building upon. Feu duty £7.8.4d. Entry at Whitsunday next. For further information apply to Morrison & Taylor, solicitors, Stirling, who will exhibit the titles and articles of roup.”

(Falkirk Herald 6 April 1895).

For some time the building fronting Muirhead Road was used as John McNicol’s confectionery.  The old parochial school building was demolished in 2005 to make way for a non-descript dwelling house.

1770sArchibald Porteous180860
1808Mr Scott1812
1812William Young1826
1826John Bell1849124
1849Alexander Stuart1854
1854Allan Carswell1872 (cont.)200

Sites and Monuments Record

Muirhead RoadSMR 1011NS 8742 8337

G.B. Bailey, 2023