Church Street School - Times Past

Posted on 16 August 2023
Black and white photo of Govan Parish Church Street Public School with bare tree branches coming in from the sides and children playing in the playground.

In partnership with the Glasgow Times, our archivists are exploring Glasgow's fascinating history. This week, Barbara McLean writes about Church Street School.

The history of Church Street School in Partick really appeals to me, not only because I used its swimming baths as a child but also because it’s well represented in our collections here in the City Archives.

These former Govan Parish School Board buildings are located on a triangular piece of land between Byres Road, Church Street and Torness Street. The school is the second of two to have stood on this site. The first was the “large and handsome” Partick Academy, a private school which taught both boys and girls and which aimed to provide a Classical, English and general education for the children of the area. Its subjects ranged from Geography, History and Greek to drawing, the piano-forte and needlework.

We hold some records of the Partick Academy Company Ltd, a body incorporated in 1877 to build a new school to replace its old premises in Church Street. These include a minute book with a Memorandum of Association, the directors’ annual reports and printed balance sheets as well as a photo of the Academy and a plan of its ground.

After the 1872 Education (Scotland) Act which created the school boards system, the burgh of Partick fell within Govan Parish for the purposes of education. In 1878, Govan Parish School Board purchased Partick Academy for £3,000. It enlarged and improved both the buildings and grounds before opening it as Church Street Public School.

By the mid-1890s, the school provided accommodation for 683 pupils. Several years later, the Board took the decision to demolish the existing school building and construct a new one in its place. They commissioned the architectural practice of Bruce & Hay to undertake the work. This partnership, between Donald Bruce and Edward Hay, was known not only for its schools but for its banks, churches and warehouses.

In our collections, we hold the beautiful plans Bruce & Hay submitted for the main school building (1903) and the separate block containing the school’s swimming pool and workshops (1904). The swimming pool was one of the school’s most unusual features: not many were built and still fewer survive. We also hold some lovely images of the school taken in around 1970 including this one pictured above.

Church Street School and its ancillary buildings were designed to accommodate 1,308 pupils. Like many other board schools of the period, the school was designed to keep girls and boys separate outwith their classrooms. Each had their own entrance, stairwell and playground.

Although the school itself closed in 1976, the swimming pool block continued to be used by pupils in nearby schools until its own closure in the late 1990s. It still survives although it’s not currently in use. The main school building is now used by Glasgow City Council’s Social Work Services.

Yet, Church Street School still survives in a way. We hold its log books and admission registers dating back to 1878. These archives allow us all to discover and learn about school days now long gone.