Stenhousemuir Free Church School

The Free Church School in Stenhousemuir was built and opened in 1845.  It stood immediately to the north of the Free Church building and was more centrally located than any of the other schools at that time.  It was a large school with accommodation for 140-150 children and had two teachers, John Agnew and a female teacher.   It was examined in 1848 by Government inspectors and received a favourable report and a liberal grant to meet the debt of the school.  The Ordnance Survey in 1859 described it as:

A commodious school in the village of Stenhousemuir.   The usual branches taught.   The average attendance is 120 males and 90 females.  The master has £20 from government and the school fees which amount to £120 a year.  Property of the Free Church Congregation.”

Illus: 1859/61 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

Stenhousemuir Free Church School was delivered into the hands of the School Board by the Deacons’ Court of the Free Church at the passing of the Education Act in 1872 and became the Stenhousemuir Public School, much to the regret of some of the ratepayers.  One of them wrote into the local newspaper:

The infant department is crowded into two close unwholesome cells, which for years have ruined the health of many a promising child, as well as of all the female teachers who have had charge of it.  There is not ground space here for an extension.  The only conceivable way to improve it would be to convert the male teacher’s house adjoining into an infant school; but here the Board will be met with said male teacher’s vested interest in his house, which, if procurable at all, will have to be bought up (unfortunately his department is not such a success as to warrant any Board in furnishing a new dwelling-house for it).  The situation of this school, though central and so far desirable as an infant school, is not good, being surrounded nearly on all sides by high buildings quite near it, so that it suffers from a want of light, air and space.  Again, should the Board think of disposing of it and building a new infant school (which is the only want here) in a more desirable site, they will be met by the Free Church congregation’s right to the use of the school buildings for congregational purposes, an obligation to keep the teachers, & c, so that, taking all into account, I am convinced that the parish would have been cheaper and very much better served never to have had anything at all to do with it…

(Falkirk Herald 22 January 1876, 3).

In 1884 the inability to provide a large enough playground at the Stenhousemuir Public School led the Larbert School Board deciding to amalgamate it with the old Parochial School.   In 1886 the pupils moved to the Larbert Central School.  The first and only teacher of Stenhousemuir Free Church School was John Agnew, who retired in 1886 when the Central School opened.

In line with the conditions of the 1873 handover the old school building was handed back to the Free Church, but the small playground that had been added was not.  The Free Church used the old building as its halls and during the First World War it served as a canteen.  The halls were destroyed by fire in 1918 and rebuilt.

1845John Agnew1886210

National Grid Reference

King StreetNS 8713 8298

G.B. Bailey, 2023