The Nursery School
For many years Moray House ran a nursery for children in various parts of the city as well as at Holyrood itself.
Beginnings: The Gilmore Place Kindergarten
The first Moray House Nursery School was opened on 13 October 1908 at 46 Gilmore Place. It was founded by the Provincial College for the Training of Teachers. Professor Darroch, the then Director of Studies at Moray House, was largely responsible for its establishment.
The school aimed to provide a practical application of Froebel principles, in which the "Women students under the Provincial Committee who wished to study the methods of the Kindergarten might gain some practical training..."
Edith Hodsman was the first headmistress. The school started with six children, aged between three and five, and rose to the maximum of 25. It was based in a poor and densely populated part of the City so as to provide help in solving some of the problems of children who were "exposed... to the evil influence of the streets".
To secure "a happy, occupied existence" for the children they were kept busy "doing what is right":
" Indoors and outdoors they are occupied in a manner suited to their age, e.g., in very simple handwork, sweeping and dusting their class - room, washing up some of the dinner dishes, singing and acting simple rhymes, digging in the sand pit in the garden, attending to the flowers and plants."
This first school was closed after ten years and transferred to the basement of the Main Building (Paterson's Land) at Holyrood.
The Moray House Nursery School
Following the demolition of the buildings housing the women's hostels in St John Street in 1929, plans were developed for a purpose built Nursery School on this site.
Frank Wood was appointed the project architect. He had worked with A K Robertson, the architect for the later phase of the Newington (East Suffolk Road) hostels development.
The School was planned by Miss MacKenzie, Infant Mistress in the Moray House Demonstration School. She was supported by a Special Sub - Committee (December 1930). Research into the specialist area of Kindergarten architecture had been carried out by the College in Lubeck and elsewhere in Germany in the 1920s. The layout was also influenced by the work of Margaret and Rachel McMillan who opened a similar school in Peckham, London, in 1914. It was designed on Montessori principles. This child-centred approach required furniture, toilets, and even coat pegs to be designed specifically for small children.
The specially designed interior included glazed panels in sliding timber frames. These south and west glazed walls could be pushed back so that the indoors and outdoors merged into an 'open air' environment. A verandah led onto the school play area which included the small playhouse. The two large classrooms were fitted out with child-sized furnishings.
In 1931 the SED provisionally approved draft plans for the Nursery School. The original cost of the school for 40 children was estimated at £2,700. Tenders for building, joinery, plumbing, slater, plasterer and heating works were agreed by the Edinburgh Provincial Committee and totalling £2,730/17s/2d (6 June). The Building Warrant drawings are dated May 1931.
The building stands on the east side of St John Street where previously traditional tenement buildings existed. When these were demolished down to ground level the original basements were infilled with the demolition rubble.
The building was opened in 1932.
In 1935 The Weekly Scotsman (11 May 1935) records,
"... a beautifully planned new practising school...was opened in the grounds of Moray House some three years ago...In the following year, a most attractive nursery school for children from 2 and a half years upwards, was opened at Moray House under the devoted care of Miss A. F. MacKenzie."
The school had four Headmistresses between 1929 and 1988.
In 1988 the School was listed (Category B, 28 March) for 'historic interest and for unaltered condition.'
Following the retirement of Margaret Cameron in 1989 the Nursery School was closed. This was mainly because of the loss of specific funding from the SED for the continuation of the school. Thereafter it was used as a store.
The College looked at the possibility of removing this building as part of its 1967 Estates report to enable the site to be developed.
The recent refurbishment
Consultants were employed in 1993 to undertake a ground survey. This appeared to show voids on the site and under the building. These were associated with the cellars of the original tenement buildings on the site. It was initially concluded that major works would be required to enable the building to be safely brought back into use.
However, in 1997 a further survey was carried out which showed that the required ground works were not as extensive as first thought, since the building rested securely on its original concrete platform. It was agreed to include the project, with its necessary buildings works and landscaping, in Moray House's 1997/98 minor works programme.
The project's plans involved the adaptation of the Nursery School building to provide: the Holyrood Campus with a formal Reception point. An Exhibition room would also be created, accessible to the public; together with an Archive store which would enable the Institute to bring together all its archive materials into a single secure area. Internal works were designed to retain as many as possible of the original fittings. However, the original veranda and canopy had to be demolished although these were replaced with facilities of a similar design.
Lewis & Hickey DJP were appointed architects and project managers, with Hugh Perfect acting as Project Controller. Barry Trenthams was appointed as main contractors.
The first exhibition was opened on 25 May 1998 as part of the Institute's 150 year celebrations.
Landscaping of the surrounding area was undertaken with a linked path created to the entrance to Paterson's Land.
Material compiled and edited in 2002 by Hugh Perfect (Dupute Head of Moray House School of Education /Honorary Archivist of Moray House Archive)