History of the school

The earliest records of our school are held in a Report Book of George Heriot’s Hospital School, Abbeyhill, 1873.

The first entry in this book is dated 31st July 1874 when the Rev. Walter Scott, assistant in Greenside Parish, on request of the Rev. Archibald Scott of Greenside presided at the examination of the Abbeyhill Heriot School in the absence of the Governors of George Heriot’s Hospital School.

At that time the school building was not suitable and a new school was expected to be ready the following session at Norton Place. The new Abbeyhill School opened in May 1875 at the cost of £4,200; this would appear to be the building that is situated at Regent Road. The first school inspection took place in 1880. The headmaster of that time, Mr John Marshall, had to medically retire in 1881.

The present Abbeyhill school building was erected in 1881 and the Infant Building, sewing room and swimming pool in 1895 at the cost of £11,295. It seems there was a temporary school building on the site of our Main Building even before 1873.

In 1896, the headmaster requested an investigation at the school due to the large number of staff and pupils who were ill. The school roll in 1897 was 681 pupils in the Main building and 696 in the Infant building; 1377 pupils in total compared to our 250 pupils today.

Royal occasions were celebrated at the school. In 1897 the school celebrated the Diamond Jubillee of Queen Victoria with special lessons about the life and reign of the Queen.

In 1902 the school was closed for one week to celebrate the coronation of Edward VII. On 20th July 1911, the pupils of Abbeyhill took part in a parade through Holyrood Park to welcome George V and Queen Mary to Edinburgh. The pupils held a brightly coloured school banner in the parade and were given water, chocolate, buns and biscuits for taking part. The public were excluded from the route but 18,000 pupils and 700 staff from Edinburgh schools were allowed to greet the Royals. The music was provided by the Edinburgh and Leith Postal Workers Band. Queen Mary remarked that she would never forget the sight of all the children in the park. Holidays were also given for the coronations of George VI and Elizabeth II.

School sports were held at Lochend Road Park and 1,100 pupils took part in the 1911 Sports Day. There was a change to the curriculum in March 1900. Religious Education which had been previously taught at the school for 40 minutes each day was now to be taught for only 30 minutes each week.

In 1907 the Headmaster requested the permission of the school board to allow cookery lessons for all boys aged over 13 years. However his request was refused by Canon Stuart as “…boys have a number of things to learn at this age without doing any cooking”.

During the First World War (1914-1918) the Military Authorities took possession of the school for accommodation of troops. The school was occupied for 3 years and 8 months. The pupils from the Infant Building attended school at the Regent Road School and the Upper pupils attended classes at Parsons Green School. Hooks for army camping hammocks can still be seen today in one of our classrooms!

We have a fascinating 45 minute immersive audio tour of the school which was produced by our P5 class and the Citadel Arts Group in 2019. This is available to listen to with prior booking at the main school office.