Polmont Female School

Sometime around 1852 Miss Joanna Speirs of Polmont Park created a deed of mortification by which she conveyed a piece of land for the education of boys and little girls at a moderate expense in Polmont parish.  The schoolhouse was erected by Miss Speirs at the west end of Polmont village, utilising her own money and funds from her deceased sister that had been left for pious and charitable purposes.

Illus 2: The Dwellinghouse end of the Polmont Female School looking north-west.

The narrow strip of land on which it was built fronted the main road and was part of the Polmont Park estate.  The Speirs family remained as the superiors of the land and it was handed over to a management trust so long as it was used for educational purposes.  In the event of that function ceasing it would revert to the superior.  The new building was a substantial stone-built school with a hall-type classroom on the west and a two storey house on the east.  The classroom was aligned west/east and has a tall three-light window in the west gable, a Gothic entrance porch on the south wall and a stubby chimney stack on its east gable.  The roof line extends beyond the latter to meet the north/south roof ridge of the house.

 The south gable of the house is slightly advanced from the classroom wall and in the re-entrant angle is a tall and prominent stepped belfry. The house faces east and has its own small porch. This is set in the angle between the main block and a northern jamb.  The dormer window in the east façade was matched by a louvred ventilation dormer in the classroom roof.  The house contained three small rooms and a kitchen.

Subscriptions were raised to help with the running and management of the school.  There were several small estates in and around the village at the time and they all contributed.  Miss Hope of Carriden also took an interest and set up her own girls’ school beside her own estate.  The staff consisted of one female teacher and a pupil teacher and was very popular, reaching 90 pupils in 1867.

In 1860 the Ordnance Surveyors described it as:

A neat private school situated to the west of the village of Polmont.  It was built a few years ago by subscription and designed as a female school.  The ordinary branches taught, including sewing, and knitting.  The schoolmistress receives the fees and £8 from government, in all £35 a year.   The building is one storey, slated and in good repair.  Property of various persons.”

Illus 3: 1860/62 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

The Spiers Mortification and Clark Endowment Fund had been set up to help with bursaries for the school and after the passing of the Educational Endowments (Scotland) Act in 1882 it was administered by the Polmont School Board.  The money was invested and produced a small return sufficient to cover the bursaries.  At about the same time the Polmont School Board started to manage the school.  In the February 1888 meeting of the Board it was resolved that the Female School should be let to the School Board on condition of the Board keeping up the school, paying all of the burdens, and relieving the governing body of all accounts outstanding at 31 December last, from which date the transfer was held to have taken place.  In the event the act was delayed by a year.  Essentially, the management trust as governing body for the school let the school to the School Board at an annual rental of about £12, and that this money was applied in the award of free scholarships as incentives to regular attendance. 

Illus 4 (a): Polmont Female School looking south.
Illus 4(b): Schoolhouse looking south-west.

The acquisition of the Polmont Female School meant that the village now had two Board-run schools which were relatively close together.  A review in 1889 noted that Polmont School, Polmont Female School and Redding School were all overcrowded.  It was decided to extend Polmont Public School and close the Female School despite possible objections from parents.  The Department of Education suggested that the Female School could be sold and to that end an independent valuator should be appointed.  Mr Black, Falkirk, was given that task and in June 1890 reported that £300 was a fair valuation for the Polmont Female School and schoolhouse.  If the buildings were let they would probably bring no more than £15 per annum.  Instead, the buildings were converted in an infant school to be known as the Polmont Infant School, though it still appeared as the Polmont Female School in most of the documents.

It was, however, only a matter of time before it closed.  In 1894 the Polmont School Board proposed erecting a new school at Brightons and closing the Infant School at Polmont.  Such decisions were more or less frozen by plans to incorporate the Polmont Board into that of Grangemouth as part of the erection of a large parish for Grangemouth.  It was 1900 before that had been completed and in 1903 representatives from Grangemouth School Board visited Mr McKillop at Polmont Park to ask his consent to sell the Polmont Infant School.  This was needed as by the act of mortification the property would revert to him as the new feudal superior.  He was unwilling to have his frontage destroyed as it would lessen the value of his property.  The school was closed and the property lay empty for a number of years.

In 1906 the newly formed Polmont Village Reading and Recreation Room committee approached Grangemouth School Board for the use of the Polmont Female School and this was readily agreed to.  The reading room formally opened on 27 November with 40-50 regular users.  It was supplied with daily and weekly newspapers, as well as magazines.  It also housed a shooting range, chess and draughts boards, and the like.  The Polmont Reading and Recreation Club continued until at least 1910.  Latterly the building was used as a community centre which only closed around 2010.  It was then sold as a private dwelling.  Renovation work was undertaken between 2017 and 2019 and the building is now in good shape.

1864Miss ColtartP187690
Miss Allan
(1887)Miss Birnie189360
1893Miss Mary W WhiteP190265

Sites and Monuments Record

Main St, PolmontSMR 1740NS 9339 7889
G.B. Bailey, 2023