Victoria School

Route Stop 10

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Victoria School 1844 — 2022

Until 2022, this building was the oldest state primary school in Edinburgh still functioning, its foundation stone having been laid in 1843.  The children have now moved over the road to a new purpose-built building.  However, the history of the school, not just this building, goes back a long way.

In the old playground, you see a modern annexe for early years primary school children.  There had been one before.  In 1935, an annexe was built as an Infants Department but was demolished on the 1980s as a consequence of  the redevelopment in the 60s and over the next two decades, which caused the school roll to fall.  Substantial cracks appeared in the walls of the Infants Department caused by the heavy traffic on the newly-aligned Lindsay Road.  It is ironic to consider the school was under threat of closure in the 1980s due to pupil numbers.

A new school

For centuries, The Free Fishermen’s Society of Newhaven had provided for education in the village.   

The decision to build a new school was taken by a committee headed by Dr James Buchanan of North Leith Church, the foundation stone being laid in 1843.  The architect, John Lessels, built the first part of the building which has the date plaques on it and now houses the school hall and classrooms above.  This was originally all classrooms.

At the time there appears to have been five schools in the village but, bit by bit, the Victoria School was extended until eventually all the local children could be accommodated in one place.  The building was further extended in 1874–75.

6_3030 Victoria School after the 1874 alterations, the third extension in 30 years, such was the growth of Newhaven.

The many changes of Victoria

Victoria School, which eventually was a composite of three developments, opened to take boys only in 1844 eventaully taking in girls, too, in 1845,  such was the demand.  At first, it was a one storey building and extended again by architect, John Lessels, in 1861 with an additional two storeys.   The school was once more extended in 1874 by building outwards to the east. This three storey high building is quite clearly defined, becoming obvious when you stand in the centre of the atrium and notice the decorative wrought-iron brackets which support the balcony that circumferences it.  A further extension to the rear was undertaken in 1896.

At the time of its closure, many period pieces could be found throughout the building as can be seen in the images below, features such as the old telephone system used for intercommunication within the building, a rare example of a wrought-iron staircase, original Victorian radiators and wainscotting, a fire-alarm bell from the 30s that was used as a signalling system, too.  Windows from the 1861 period on what was once then the east facing exterior are still in place over-looking the airy central hall.  These windows were lost to within the building when the 1874 extension took place.

8_3400 The school at the time of its closure with the new annexe showing. Out of shot is a further complex of portacabins, such was the increasing demand for classooms since 2019.
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