Reddingmuirhead School

Reddingmuirhead Institute (Community Centre)

The completion of the Union Canal in 1822 opened up the area to the east of Falkirk to the markets in Edinburgh but it was only in 1844 that the Redding coalfield was discovered and the Duke of Hamilton commenced his works.  The Redding Coal Company soon became a large concern and around 1847 it set up a school for the children of its workforce.  Money was deducted at source to pay for the teacher and the upkeep of the building.  The location of the first colliery school is not known but in 1856 the Duke of Hamilton built a substantial stone building to the south on the road to Shieldhill.  The teacher who moved into the new building with the pupils was William Liddle.  He was still the headmaster in 1894 when he died at the age of 73 years.  He was an extraordinary teacher and in 1850 it was noted that as well as teaching the ordinary branches of a private school (English, scripture history, grammar, geography, writing, arithmetic and natural philosophy) he also gave instruction in mathematics and classical languages.  Many of his pupils became teachers.  His brother, George, had an equally remarkable career at the Falkirk Parochial School.

The 1856 building was designed to be picturesque, contrasting sharply with the colliers’ rows immediately to its east.  It still stands and is single storey with walls of sandstone and a steep-pitched slate roof.  The front elevation faces south and here the masonry is squared and snecked with polished margins.   It has three bays – that to the west presenting an advanced gable with two windows and barge-boarded apex; the central bay contains three windows under the projecting bracketed eaves; the eastern bay takes the form of a gabled advanced porch with a central window under a blind plaque above (now painted “IR”), topped with a birdcage bellcote surmounted with an obelisk finial.  A gabled porch is placed in the re-entrant angle between the west wing and the central bay and contains a central window and a boarded timber door in the right return.

In 1860 the Ordnance Surveyors wrote the following details:

A neat private school situated in the middle of the Redding Moor, where the ordinary branches are taught.  Average attendance of scholars nearly two hundred.   The master’s salary is composed of the school fees which generally amount to £40, the government allowance of £15, and £40 by subscription and other sources, he has also a free house and garden.  The school which is of recent erection is commodious, one storey, slated and in repair.  Property of the Duke of Hamilton.  Hamilton Palace, Hamilton.”

Illus 2: 1860/62 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

Reddingmuirhead School continued long after the setting up of the Polmont School Board and even took in some 70 or so pupils whose parents had no connection with Redding Colliery.  Part of the reason for this was that they paid fees, making the school sustainable.  When the Truck Act was passed in 1887 the miners decided that the 3d a week they had formerly paid was not to be kept off their wages for school fees.  In February 1888 the Duke of Hamilton’s agent intimated that he was prepared to hand over the Reddingmuirhead School to the Board on condition (1) that the Board pay £250 as the value of the buildings (said to have been about half of what it had cost to built it) and ground, and 5s annually as feu duty; (2) all minerals, stone, &c under the ground to be reserved to the Duke; (3) possession to be from date of entry; and (4) that Mr Liddle, schoolmaster, be retained.  At first sight this looked like a generous offer that should not be refused.  Further investigation revealed a number of problems.  The building would cost in the region of £400 to bring it up to the standards required by the Government.  There were burdens placed on the property, and the extent of these was unknown and might carry significant risk.  There was even a doubt as to whether the property belonged to the Duke.  Mr Liddle was already old and could, once taken onto the staff of the Board, claim a pension.  The final piece in the Board’s decision not to accept the school was that there were still plenty of free places at its own school in Shieldhill.  One Board member even suggested that the reason for the proposal had not been made in the interests of the children but rather that the Duke’s agent thought that it would be as well to get £250 for the school as let it remain an empty barn.  The Polmont School Board politely thanked the Duke of Hamilton for his generous off and declined accepting it.

Illus 3: Reddingmuirhead Community Centre with the new wing of 2010 on the left.

The following year, September 1889, one of the commissioners for the Duke of Hamilton offered to lease Reddingmuirhead School to the Board free of charge with only one condition, – that Mr Liddle, who had been there for some time, be placed on the teaching staff of the Board, and that the free lease was only for as long as Liddle was teaching.  In conversation it quickly became apparent that if this was not done the school would close and the Board would need to provide for around 200 additional children.  The Board agreed to take over the management from the existing trustees. The feu-disposition was accordingly adjusted and in March 1890 the Education Department approved of the terms of the lease.  The Duke of Hamilton agreed to contribute £15 a year towards repairs to the exterior of the building and to keep the roof wind and watertight.  Over the summer Mr Scott, joiner, Polmont, was awarded the contract to re-floor the whole school.  Other necessary work was deferred as the Board was only leasing the building.  This included levelling and enclosing the playground, screening the ashpit in the office and inserting a urinal there, putting gratings on the air vents, providing basins and pegs in the porches, and inserting a full-height partition in the main room. 

William Liddle died on 18 August 1894 and with that the free lease of the building was due to end at the termination of the school year the following March.  Once again there was an exchange of correspondence over the possibility of the Board purchasing the property.  The Duke of Hamilton was still prepared to accept £250 for the school buildings and the existing feu which extended to about half an acre.  He was also willing to feu additional land adjacent to it at the rate of £8 an acre so that the Board could extend the buildings.  However, he did not agree to restrict or discharge the burdens affecting the subjects, nor to be bound to produce any search of encumbrance.  He also intended to retain the mineral rights.

Once again the School Board voted not to acquire Reddingmuirhead School.  Instead, it opened negotiations with Mr Cameron of Crossgatehead with regard to a site for a new school there.  This site was on the old wagon road which ran from Brightons to Wallacestone and would suit that southern district.  Cameron was prepared to compensate against any damage due to underground workings and agreed to a price of £7 per acre.  He was also willing to provide a free strip of land for a pavement to the east.  The Board ensured that it would have free issue and entry from the property onto the old waggon road which was to be upgraded into a standard roadway by Cameron with only a minor contribution from the Board.  Building a school and forming the road would take time and in the meanwhile the Board agreed to rent Reddingmuirhead School for another year for £30.  In April 1896 the Education Board approved of the site of the new school and James Strange prepared plans.

Illus 4: The Official Party at the 1910 Hand-Over with the Duke of Hamilton, in white on the right and his son, also in white, in the centre next to his mother.

The new school, known as Wallacestone School, was officially opened on 1 November 1898, and finally the lease of Reddingmuirhead was terminated.  The staff, consisting of Mr Loudon (headmaster), Miss Hamilton and Miss Tripney, were transferred to Redding Village School. The Reddingmuirhead building was now in a relatively poor condition and seems to have stood empty until September 1905 when the manager of Redding Colliery, together with other local gentlemen, established the Redding and District Reading and Recreation Club and were given the use of one of the rooms there.  Late in 1909 the new Duchess of Hamilton took a keen interest in the welfare of the men at Redding and Mr Croombe, architect, was commissioned to undertake a thorough renovation of the old school. 

The building was gutted and the roof replaced.  The inside accommodation now included a reading room, a billiard room, and a recreation room, together with a hall which could be used for meetings or games.  The hall was furnished with a piano.  A diminutive bowling green was laid out behind the club and a flag post at the front, along with a cannon gifted by Alex Robertson of the Redding Coal Company.  Part of the grounds were also laid out with garden plots.  New boundary walls were provided and it was at this time that the over-sized drum gate piers with their massive caps appeared.  It re-opened in October 1909.  The Duke and Duchess of Hamilton appeared in person on 18 June 1910 to hand over the title deeds to representatives of the Recreation club.  Today it is a community centre.  For the later history of the building see Scott 2014.

Before 1848William Liddle1894170, 132, 210
1894John Louden1898208

Sites and Monuments Record

Shieldhill RdSMR 1914NS 9148 7780
G.B. Bailey, 2023