Thomson's Land began its history as the Demonstration School, providing primary and secondary education as well as opportunities for Moray House student teachers to practise.
The history of Thomson's Land
It was built in 1929/30 to the design of architect Frank Wood. It necessitated the demolition of the very early buildings that had been erected to the south east of Old Moray House soon after the establishment of the Normal School in 1848.
The School had both primary and secondary departments and also acted as a practising demonstration school for the student teachers of Moray House.
The Penguin Guide to Edinburgh's buildings describes this building as 'The Practice School, plainest neo-Georgian'. While there are Georgian echoes in pillars and architrave there are other decorative elements which show some Egyptian influences. More critically, the northern end of this building obstructs the view of the east side of Old Moray House.
The Demonstration School
This building provided the Moray House School with some 15 roomy and airy classrooms/teaching rooms with large sash windows. The School Hall was panelled and had a stage: both features still surviving today.
The Demonstration School was opened by Sir Thomas Mulholland, Principal of the University of Edinburgh, in 1931.
The time has long passed when student teachers only had the opportunity to practice the skills of teaching with the pupils of the Moray House Demonstration School. With the number of students training to be teachers rising from 400 pre-war to almost 3,000 in 1968 placement schools had to be found throughout the East of Scotland.
With this pressure to train more teachers came the need for additional teaching accommodation at Moray House. Consequently, closure of the secondary department of the school was first proposed in 1959 but because of parental pressure was not agreed until 1961. The last secondary pupils left in July 1963.
During the discussions about the secondary department the continuation of the primary department was supported. However, in 1968 the accommodation needs became so great that the closure of the Demonstration School was finally agreed. The last primary pupils completed their courses in July 1968. In the Archive is the School log signed by the last headmaster, William Pickard. Thus ended the original reason why the training college was called into existence in 1835 as the Edinburgh Sessional and Normal School.
Memorabilia and photographs in the Moray House Archive bear witness to the great pride former Moray House Demonstration School Scholars took in their alma mater. The brass war memorial in the main vestibule, and the varnished panels in the hall listing the Dux of the School for each year 1929/68 also reflect a healthy corporate life. It was some of these pupils who worked with Professor Godfrey Thomson in the development of the Moray House Tests. The tests were used successfully, although sometimes controversially, by education authorities all over Britain to gauge which of their eleven year old pupils would benefit from a Grammar School education in the post-war education boom.
The Demonstration School has been subsequently used for teaching a variety of subjects, including homecraft, needlework, speech and latterly mathematics and computing. The core of Moray House's computing support has been based in this building including its Open Access Computer Laboratories.
The building was renamed Thomson's Land in 1994/5, after Sir Godfrey Thomson, Principal of Moray House from 1925 to 1951.
In 1995 the School Hall was refurbished and during the building works the original panelling and paintings were revealed. These were restored and the Hall refurbished as a lecture/function room.
Material compiled and edited in 2002 by Hugh Perfect (Dupute Head of Moray House School of Education) and David Starsmeare (Senior Lecturer at Moray House School of Education)