Glasgow School Board - Sep 2020

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Glasgow School Board


The Education Act of 1872 in Scotland laid the basis for the modern education system. The most immediate thing it did was to take control of education out of the hands of the churches, with the exception of the Catholic and Episcopalian churches, and place it in the hands of popularly elected school boards. A nonsectarian system of public schooling was established and subject to the general control of the Scotch Education Department (SED), based in Whitehall, London. It was not until the Scottish Office was created in 1885 that the SED had a measure of independence from the English Department. A second consequence of the Act was to make schooling compulsory for children in the age group 5-13, although exemption was made for children ten and over who could prove that they had achieved proficiency in grade five of the curriculum.

The leaving age was raised to fourteen in 1883 and education was free. By 1908 the system of exemptions was abandoned and precise entry and leaving dates were introduced. The 1872 Act was successful in providing a broad framework for a national system of education. Within thirty years of its passing illiteracy had been eliminated in both the Highlands and the Lowlands, and much was done to improve attendance rates. In Glasgow, prior to the 1872 Act, only 60% of children ever attended school, and of these 10,000 were regular absentees; however, by the end of the 19th century schooling was universal with places for all children. From the outset an urgent task for Glasgow School Board was to provide places for around an extra 35,000 children of compulsory school age – around 40% of the school-aged population – who at that time received no schooling. Between 1873 and 1918, Glasgow School Board built over 75 schools, each accommodating 800 to 1000 children for reasons of efficiency and economy.

The SED provided loans for their construction and imposed strict regulations pertaining to design: for example, separate entrances and stairs for girls and boys, the provision of a hall, the location of toilets, or ‘offices’, outwith the main building, space per pupil, etc. While the SED regulations, a tight budget and a frequently confined site did not offer a great deal of scope for architectural originality, unlike other Boards, Glasgow appointed a range of architects thus bringing a variety of character to the three-storey utilitarian school buildings. Developments in classroom layout and desk design were led by teachers’ experience. The last school built by Glasgow School Board opened in 1916. Many of the structures lay abandoned today due to maintenance fees and low attendance, as the buildings, although incredible, are very outdated.

I became fascinated by these buildings that are dotted around Glasgow in the Summer: their towering presence usually surrounded by the residential areas that they would serve, detailed Victorian design that differentiates from most UK schools and Glasgow's typical tight sealing of anything disused made them very rewarding to me. The way that education was transformed through their creation makes them historic in my opinion, as well as the fact that they contain rare Victorian architecture that is overlooked nowadays. In addition, despite some of the main Scottish explorers having probably covered the lot of them, on the forum they have hardly been looked at. We had wanted to spend a good amount of time surveying them but in the end, there was so much available in Scotland that it was cut down to a full day. Still, in the future we plan to go back and hopefully uncover what remains in some of the others.

On the day, we tactically moved around Glasgow to cram intensive looks over as many as we could. As expected, a lot were sealed but with difficulty, we managed to enter two. Due to the way we wanted to go about filming the video showcasing these, I decided to make this report like the 'roundup' reports I have seen in the past, with various notes beneath each one.

Sir John Maxwell School


One of the only schools that has internal photographs online. It was sealed tight sadly, but a promising start to the day as it showed a lot of 'nearly' access points.

Greenfield Primary School



More 'nearly' access points. This one seemed more vandalised than the prior, but still boasted a lot of potential, as they all do.

Allan Glen Secondary School



Was very excited for this one, with it's city central position and what appeared to be minimal vandalism. Sadly it was sealed tight.

St James' Primary School



Finally, one of the schools paid off and we were inside one of the most imposing of the lot. St James was built in 1895 in the middle of the construction period allotted by the Glasgow School Board. The building became B-listed in the 1990s before closure in 2009 due to it's beautiful stonework.

Inside, the huge, central atrium that many of these properties boast was stunning to see, reaching the peak of the three storey school. Identical staircases on either side of the building took students up to the classrooms surrounding the middle.





Wall art showing a mural of the school's exterior. More of this survived on the wall besides the staircases.






The only classroom with desks remaining. With the badly damaged roof, water had swept inside meaning most spaces were totally out of bounds with soft floors.



Signs of the extensive natural decay that made this school so special to me. However, this was nothing in comparison to the top floor.




At the top floor. The Greek inspired architecture was very impressive.


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Plans have been made to change the structure into a new learning environment. It would feature twelve teaching spaces, a three court sports hall and a drama room with a stage. Nothing has come into fruition yet.

Queen Mary Street Nursery School


Tureen Street School




A bit of a different one. Rather than the iconic, red sandstone, three storey design, Tureen St boasts three separate buildings made with stone-cleaned, yellow ashlar.

Golfhill Public School




Our second success came at Golfhill Public School, after what was an awkward, challenging entry that we tried quite spontaneously. It was built in 1902 with typical red sandstone brick and closed in the early 2000s. Without window boarding, the natural light inside was great especially on the bright red, wooden beamed ceiling that is suspended above this school's atrium. We triggered a motion sensor upon entry and didn't spend too long inside, which was the right decision we found out shortly after leaving.


Compared to St James', Golfhill's atrium was much longer and ended with a double staircase beside a huge window. It almost felt like an optical illusion at first, but we were convinced by the time that we left that the building was slightly lopsided and tilted, due to deterioration. You might be able to notice it in some of the photographs.



The separating bannister would divide boys and girls up, which was a strict regulation utilised by the S.E.D. at the time. It is one of the characteristics that showcases the date of the school's construction.



Canteen. It was very interesting to see the exact same 'fuel zone' layout despite the schools being miles apart. It intrigues me to whether more of them feature the same signs making it a repetitive aspect.




Although it is less decayed than St James' school, this one seemed to have more vandalism inside. We can assume this was done in earlier years of abandonment, which might be why the building is so tight these days.




At the summit of the building, you could really appreciate the ceiling and in particular, how salvageable it is. From building equipment dotted around and the usual yellow bulb lighting, it appears that work is going on inside Golfhill and it has been altered on the Buildings At Risk site to 'restoration in progress,' so maybe there is hope for it. As far as I can tell, it's potential future use would be for housing.

Here is the link to our documentary styled video filmed at all of these schools shown. We cover the past, present and future of the Glasgow School Board through cinematics and narration:​​​

Thanks for reading :)


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Jan 17, 2008
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Nice shots, that must have involved lots of driving. Access is a lottery … Sir John Maxwell seems to be sealed most of the time, though.


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Aug 24, 2020
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thanks for the pics and the history, great buildings which should be preserved.

Kilted Mac

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Nov 30, 2018
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Aberdeenshire, Scotland
What a shame these lovely old buildings going to waste, I suppose the cost would be out of the window now to do them up. The sandstone blocks would be valuable I would guess if they had sympathetic demolishing rather than a wrecking ball.


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East Devon's Jurassic Park!
This is really interesting. I absolutely adore the top floor of St James - all that greenery is amazing - and the red ceiling of Golfhill Public School. Beautiful buildings; it would be great if they were eventually restored. Cheers. :)

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