Travelled up to Glasgow last Friday to visit friends with the idea of a “photography weekend” and a chance to get out into the wonderful Scottish countryside around Loch Lomond.
Well, as they say “the best laid plans of mice and men” I was in for a massive disappointment as we had two days of virtual non stop rain and Glasgow on a filthy wet grey day can be a depressing place.
Gazing out of the window on Sunday morning we saw that it was still raining so decided that an “indoor visit” would be appropriate we decided to visit Scotland Street Public School designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and now preserved as a museum.
Scotland Street Public School was designed by the celebrated Glasgow architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, between 1903 and 1906 for the School Board of Glasgow. Since 1873, the School Board of Glasgow had been responsible for providing education and school buildings for all children in the city between the ages of five and thirteen. Scotland Street was Mackintosh’s second public school – his first was The Martyrs’ Public School in Townhead, 1895.
Mackintosh had to include the standard school requirements of the time into his design: separate playgrounds, outside toilets, entrances and staircases for girls, boys and infants; teachers’ rooms on each floor; a drill hall and electric lighting. He had to allow accommodation for 1250 pupils and include a cookery room in his design. Classrooms were to be stepped and allow for a maximum of 66 pupils. Infant classrooms were to be located on the ground floor and senior years on the top floor. Mackintosh designed the school around a corridor system, allowing the rear – south facing – wall to be a bank of windows, letting maximum sunlight and solar heat into the classrooms.
Mackintosh produced two sets of drawings for the school. The first set he passed for approval by the School Board. The second set – with a more elaborate decorative scheme – he issued direct to the Clerk of Works for building work to start in December 1904. It was not until November 1905 that the Board discovered that significant changes in the design of the tiling scheme, windows, doors, stair railings and drill hall were being made.
After much heated correspondence, Mackintosh revised his designs and the school was completed to the Board’s wishes, in the summer of 1906. The school cost a total of £34,219 1s 1d – Mackintosh was £1,500 over budget!
The entrance to the building is quite magnificent with the two imposing towers and once inside you are transported back over 100 years to see how a school was then.
What struck me (and reminded me of my own early school days) was the use of tiles on many of the walls in the school, which gave it a very cold and impersonal feel.
There are classrooms with all in one desks / seating, blackboards and in one classroom a dunces cap (my, how the PC brigade would have a field day with that!).
There was a also a very large room where the girls learned how to cook and bake as well as receiving instructions on how to wash clothes and iron them (that’s when men were men and women did as they were told……….he says tongue in cheek).
What is really interesting is that the museum has recorded the experiences of former pupils of the school and it is possible to sit and listen to the memories of pupils who attended over 50 years ago. There is also a catalogue of photographs of school groups going back many years and people are invited to identify themselves and record and memories they have of their experience at the school.
It is an absolute pleasure to wander around the school and reflect how education has changed over the years (and not necessarily in some cases for the better!). Education is the foundation of any progressive modern society and we should cherish educational opportunities, no doubt as many of the young children from impoverished backgrounds did so many years ago at this school.
If you are visiting Glasgow and have a spare hour or so I do urge you to go and visit the school, details can be found here: http://www.museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk/member/scotland-street-school-museum