Avonbridge Subscription School

This school first appears on William Forrest’s map of Slamannan parish in 1806.  The building was probably leased at that time.  Four of the local businessmen in Avonbridge took out the tack for a piece of ground in the name of the “Managers of Avonbridge School Society, for behoof of themselves and the other Members of the said Society, present and future, and to their assignees,” for the period of 999 years after Whitsunday 1837.  A school building was then erected on the land by public subscription.  It stood on the west side of the main road from Avonbridge to Shieldhill, nearly opposite to the junction with the Standburn road.  From the 1863 Ordnance Survey map we can see that it had a forestair on the street suggesting that the two-storey building would have been similar to the contemporary Clerkshall School at Slamannan.  The ground floor may have been used for the classroom and the upper as the teacher’s residence.  It was neither a church nor an industrial school.  William Bryce Garvie was then introduced as the teacher and the school performed well.

All was well until the Disruption of 1843 when a handful of the supporters of the Church of Scotland, which church was in the minority in the village, tried to remove Garvie due to his association with the Free Church.  Garvie had the support of the parents and the great majority of the subscribers to the school and survived these early attempts to displace him.  Undaunted, the Established Church’s preacher at Avonbridge called a meeting of those loyal to his cause and they appointed a successor to Garvie at Whitsunday 1843.  The new appointee was rejected by the community and left.  The church party then asked Garvie to subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith, which they knew he would not do and which they believed would condemn him in the eyes of the parents.  Then the process of selecting a new teacher was repeated the following year after a sham school committee meeting had been held and was backed by the minister at Slamannan.  This stirred up much opposition in the village and Garvie was retained (Stirling Observer 25 April 1844, 4).  It is thus with much incredulity that we should read the report submitted by the parish minister of Muiravonside to the New Statistical account in 1845.  He described it as “an excellent free house at Avonbridge, is under the control of the parents of the children attending; it is at present flourishing.”  It is notable that the lead on the attempt to snatch control had come from the Slamannan parish rather than Muiravonside where the school stood.

Illus: 1860/63 Ordnance Survey Map (National library of Scotland).

William Garvie only remained a short while and in the 1850s he set up a private school in Cumbernauld where he also acted as the local agent for the Safety Life Assurance Company.  He evidently learned a lesson from his time in Avonbridge and started to preach the gospel in the Kilsyth area.

In 1845 the post at Avonbridge was advertised:

“WANTED, for the Subscription School at Avonbridge, in the Parish of Muiravonside, a TEACHER qualified to Teach the usual Branches in a Country School. The number of Pupils attending average from 60 to 100. A School and Schoolhouse are provided to the teacher gratuitously.  Applications to be lodged with Mr Allan Bryce of Blackston; or Mr Matthew Anderson at Lintmill, Avonbridge…”

(Stirling Observer 13 November 1845, 1).

The post was advertised again in 1852 when Alexander Main, farmer at Bogo, acted for the school.  Four years later it was James Bell, the Preses of the School Society, who asked for an unmarried man to serve as a teacher in Avonbridge.  In 1865 it was James Kirkwood’s turn.  He was also then the farmer at Bogo.

When the Muiravonside School Board was established in 1873 the parochial school at Muiravonside was automatically handed over to it.  Before the same could be done with the Avonbridge School a meeting of its subscribers had to be held:

“Avonbridge.  Notice is hereby given, that a meeting of the subscribers to, and all Parties concerned in, SCHOOL PROPERTY, in the Parish of Muiravonside and County of Stirling, will be held in Avonbridge Schoolroom, on Friday the 22d August, at 7 o’clock p.m., for the purpose of considering whether said Property should be transferred to the Muiravonside School Board. By Order of the Committee. Avonbridge, 12th Aug., 1873.”  .

(Falkirk Herald 16 August 1873, 1)

The Avonbridge Subscription School was given to the Muiravonside School Board which soon realised that the building was inappropriate and that old antagonisms still existed.  Fortunately for that Board the Slamannan School Board intended to build a new school in Slamannan parish on the south side of the River Avon where the bulk of the population lived.    The office bearers at Slamannan approached the Muiravonside Board for co-operation in erecting a combination school and must have been surprised at the positive response.  That story will be found under the Avonbridge Public School in Slamannan Parish.  The new school having been opened, in December 1877 the old school and schoolhouse were put up for sale.

1838William Bruce Garvie184560-100
1857Mr Dick1861
1862Mr Abercrombie1865
Mr Wood
David K Convery
George Hastie1877?

National Grid Reference

Main StreetNS 9105 7292

G.B. Bailey, 2023