Glasgow Grammar School - Times Past

Posted on 17 May 2023

In partnership with the Glasgow Times, our archivists are exploring Glasgow's fascinating history. This week, Irene O'Brien writes about the Grammar School.

Originally founded as the Choir School of Glasgow Cathedral in around 1124, Glasgow Grammar School was the city’s first school.

Erected by 1460 in Grey Friar’s Wynd or ‘Grammar School Wynd’, behind the west front of High Street opposite Blackfriars Church, by 1577 burgh records show it was dilapidated and the Master of Works was instructed to make it ‘watter fast.’

It was in ruins by 1600 and the students attended the High Kirk (Cathedral) while a new building was erected in its place. The funds for this included four hundred marks bequeathed to the University of Glasgow by ‘Hary the porter of the College.’

It remained in Greyfriar’s Wynd until 1782, when it moved to new purpose-built accommodation in George Street. It moved again in 1821 to new premises between John Street and Montrose Street and its name changed in 1834 to the High School of Glasgow.

Initially specialising in teaching Latin and Greek grammar, prose and composition, during the 1800s the curriculum was expanded to include English, mathematics and chemistry, among other subjects.

It was the first school to come under the authority of the Glasgow School Board, established under the Education Scotland Act of 1872, which introduced compulsory education.

When Glasgow Town Council handed over what was then Glasgow High to the new authority, there were serious problems, mainly that the ‘premises were considered far from suitable for the Grammar School of so great a city.’

The Town Council were long aware of the need for new premises, but nothing had been done. The School Board could not think about building a new school as they had to concentrate their efforts on providing schools for those who had none. The John Street premises were patched up and it looked likely the High School would have had to make do and mend, but for a fortuitous event.

In 1878 Glasgow Academy moved from its building in Elmbank Street to Kelvinbridge in the west-end of the city. Following its departure, Glasgow School Board negotiated its purchase for £32,000 and made it the new home of the High School

In 1976 Strathclyde Regional Council reorganised education in Glasgow as comprehensive schools, leading to the closure of the Boy’s High. The Girls’ High School, which was founded in 1894, began admitting boys and was renamed as Cleveden Secondary School. The day after the closure of the Boys’ High School, a new, independent, co-educational high school was created. This followed a merger involving the former pupils’ association, the Glasgow High School Club, and Drewsteignton School in Bearsden, which effectively became the new High School.