James Gillespies High School


J.G.H.S. A Potted History
Researched by our Librarian, Mrs. Anne Inglis

In 1803, as a result of a legacy left by James Gillespie, a wealthy Edinburgh manufacturer of snuff and tobacco, James Gillespie's school was founded for 65 boys and one master!

The school moved to a larger building in Gillespie Crescent ( see old pix ) and as the school developed, girls were admitted as well as boys. 1908 the Edinburgh School Board took over responsibility for the school and it moved to a building in Bruntsfield links. In 1966 the current school buildings were built around Bruntsfield House and it continued as a school for girls. In 1973 the school became a co-educational comprehensive school taking in boys and girls.
James Gillespie

James Gillespie’s school : A History

in brief :
1803-70 First school + Hospital (Gillespie Crescent)
1870-1914 School only (Gillespie Crescent.)
1914-36 New site/old Boroughmuir school (Warrender Park Crescent)
1936 New build school proposed
1939 Bruntsfield House grounds bought
1939-45 War
1958 Plans for new school accepted
1966 New school opened by Queen Mother
1987- £ multi-million refurbishment and re-build programme started
1991 Re-furbished school (no annexes) re-opened

Detailed dates:

1726 28 April James Gillespie born

1797 April 8 James Gillespie died.
His will funded ‘a charitable or free school within the city of Edinburgh or suburbs thereof’ for education of 100 boys i.e. £12000 for Hospital and £2700 for school. these boys to be under 12, but over 6.... Merchant Compant appointed as trustees of school

1798 site bought for hospital and school
Site of Wrichtis-House,ancient mansion of Napiers on Western side of Bruntsfield Links (now Gillespie Crescent)

1801 King’s charter forming "governors of James Gillespie’s Hospital and Free School"

1802 Hospital opened

1803 James Gillespie’s School in one corner of hospital grounds, near turnpike road (now Bruntsfield Place)

1870 Pension granted to Gillespie Hospital pensioners
Hospital converted to (fee-paying) school for boys and girls... generous yearly allowance of bursaries; some for school , but others to enable children to continue their education at higher schools of Merchant Company.1,000 pupils selected.

1874 School management transferred to Edinburgh School Board because of shortage of funds for improvements. Site of hospital bought by School Board.

1882 Warrender Park School Board acquired Marchmont Crescent site for school, despite much opposition. By 1889- c.900 pupils (boys and girls). Fees paid.

1904/5 Warrender Park Crescent building opened (Boroughmuir school). Officially opened 1905 with suffragette protests
(see "History of South Edinburgh" : Smith)

1908 Merchant Company management of the school passed to
Edinburgh School Board

1910 Hospital building in such poor repair that JG should transfer to old Boroughmuir building when their new school completed at Viewforth.

1911 first school magazine published

1913 James Gillespie’s name confirmed for school

1914 School transferred to Warrender Park Crescent . Hospital building taken over by military. During 1st WW,

1922 Hospital building sold to Royal Blind Asylum.

1923 James Gillespie’s Junior School opened /combined with Warrendar Park School (boys and girls) became James Gillespie’s Secondary School eventually Marchmont Crescent site

1926 House system introduced (Gilmore, Roslin,Spylaw and Warrender) Blazer badge and crest adopted

1927 bust of James Gillespie unveiled. Founders day established with custom of passing snuff to platform party -c.1938.

1928 James Gillespie’s recognised by SED as complete secondary school

1929 Overcrowding led to girls only proposal.
Junior school (Marchmont Crescent) therefore restricted to boys only.

1930 James Gillespie’s High School for girls established.

1932 unicorn monogram adopted with abbreviated motto "Fidelis et (in bello) fortis" (Gillespie family ‘non-armorial device/crest)

1937 Warrender park Crescent building considered inadequate. Fees increased to £15 (c.1940s)

1939 Part of *Bruntsfield House grounds bought.

1939-45 War delayed any further development

1948 Primary school huts completed

1953-4 Fire at Bruntsfield House.

1958 Education Committee accepted new school plans.by Rowland Anderson, Kininmonth and Paul. School for 700 to incorporate Bruntsfield House.

1966 New school opened by Queen Mother.

1972 School reorganised on non-selective, local intake basis (as per legislative changes towards comprehensive system)

1973/5? James Gillespie’s Boys School (primary) closed since functions now incorporated into James Gillespie"s Primary School.

1987- major refurbishment/re-build program started..Lauder House and new Games Hall

1991 Refurbished High School re-opened

2003 Bi-cenennary of opening of first James Gillespie’s school (1803)

Further Reading:

Smith,Charles :Historic South Edinburgh, 4 vols.
Cant,Malcolm : Marchmont in Edinburgh
Cant, Malcolm : Marchmont, Sciennes and the Grange
Spark,Muriel : School on the Links in The New Yorker,25 March 1991

two un-published histories of the school by former pupils
Elaine C.J.Cochrane (1953)
Kathryn Thompkins (c.1956)

Bruntsfield House.

Bruntsfield House
: a history -

Manor house on the site for centuries. By 16th century estate extended to 50 acres.16th century owned by ‘de Lawdre (Lauder)’ family-1603.
House destroyed c.1540s.New house built 1550s-1600s (?)

1605 Substantial alterations to the house by John Fairlie (see monogram aboveBH windows)

1695 House acquired by Warrender famil (although knowmn by this name for many years)

1869 Sir George Warrender exploited feuing possibilities for lands: high tenement developments around Marchmont (many streets with Warrender family-connected names)
Early 20th century House unoccupied for several years..cause for concern. Many suggestions for use e.g. educational

1935 Estate acquired by Edinburgh Corporation (£22,000) with proviso: House and immediate surroundings to be used for public purposes and with strict preservation of local amenities. many suggestions for uses.

1937 Edinburgh Corporation agreed to use site for new High School

1939 Delay because of war. Used for ARP and First aid rescue centre.

1945 House adapted to flats for homeless

1945 preparatory Dept.of JGHS moved to Bruntsfield House

1953 Fire confined to attics

1963 Agreement that Bruntsfield House should feature as centre piece for new High School

1966 School completed with original building connected to new school building.



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