A view of the George Heriot's School  Edinburgh Tercentenary Ceremony in June 1959.
A view of the George Heriot's School Edinburgh Tercentenary Ceremony in June 1959.

Edinburgh's George Heriot's School Heritage in Pictures: These 23 pictures show life in the Capital school in the 1950s and 1960s

It’s been educating pupils for over 350 years, and there was plenty going on at George Heriot’s School over half a century ago.

Thursday, 5th May 2022, 4:30 pm

The school was established in 1628 by bequest of royal goldsmith and philanthropist George Heriot, who Heriot-Watt Univerity is also named after, and opened in 1659.

Heriot left around £23,625 to found a charitable school, which was at that time called a ‘hospital’ to care for the "puire, fatherless bairnes" and children of "decayit" burgesses and freemen of Edinburgh – orphans and poor local children in modern parlance.

Construction of the school began in 1628 and the first 30 children arrived in 1659, with George Heriot's Hospital soon taking in a far greater roll as its finances improved.

By the end of the 18th century, the Governors of the Hospital Trust had purchased the lands of the surrounding Barony of Broughton meaning they were able to lease sections of it to generate even more cash.

The 19th century was a turbulent time for the school, with an insurrection in 1846 seeing 52 boys dismissed and wider criticism of the value of the hospital education system.

At the same time the Trust was expanding setting up a network of 13 juvenile and eight infant outdoor schools across Edinburgh that at its height was educating almost 5,000 pupils before being wound up in 1885 as part of reforms to the Trust.

At this point the Education (Scotland) Act had brought in compulsory elementary education and George Heriot’s became a day school, charging a small fee, for boys of 10 and above, with a further 120 ‘foundationers’ no younger than seven years of age, enjoying preferential admission.

Provision was also made for pupils to extend their education after school, with the creation of a college that would later separate from the school in 1927 and become Heriot-Watt Collage (and, later still, Heriot-Watt University).

The school started admitting girls in 1979 and today is ranked as Edinburgh’s best performing school by Higher exam results, educating around 1,600 pupils.

And the independent primary and secondary school still serves its original charitable goal, providing free education to a number of pupils known as ‘foundationers’.

Here are 23 pictures to take you back to life at George Heriot’s in the 1950s and 1960s.

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