THE collections at Glasgow City Archives are vast and, while it is impossible to know them all, there are certain items which stand out.

One such for me is the series of Glasgow Corporation school opening files we hold covering 1952 to 1973. There are 134 files in this series, a testament to the scale of school building being undertaken during this period.

This was because, after the end of the Second World War in 1945, there were renewed efforts to rehouse those displaced by slum clearances.

Housing schemes were developed at Drumchapel, Easterhouse, Pollok and Castlemilk. Families with young children who moved there needed local schools and the Corporation’s programme of school building began in earnest.

Not since the Victorian and Edwardian days of the School Board of Glasgow had such a significant investment in the city’s schools been undertaken.

Between 1945 and 1960, the Corporation spent £17,500,000 to provide 63 full primary schools, 14 full secondary schools and 76 small units of four or six classrooms.

In an Evening Times article of September 1960, it was reported that a further £15,000,000 programme involving 189 separate projects including new schools had been authorised. The focus for this new programme was to provide schools for the city’s redevelopment areas.

On September 28, 1960, the latest Glasgow school to be formally opened was Barmulloch Primary School. It had already been in operation for eight months by the time of its official opening ceremony. The abovementioned Evening Times article reported that the school was “typical of the new look in educational buildings. Bright, airy, spacious”.

Delving into Barmulloch’s opening file reveals this Glasgow Corporation-issued invitation to the ceremony.

Yet what makes these files so memorable are the inclusion of each school’s opening brochure.

There’s one for nearly every school in the series. They’re a beautifully printed summary of the day and usually include photographs of the newly-built school. For example, this image of Knightswood Secondary is taken from its brochure, the front cover of which is also pictured.

Glasgow Times: Knightswood SecondaryKnightswood Secondary (Image: Glasgow City Archives)

The school was formally opened on Friday October 10, 1958 by the Secretary of State for Scotland. The ceremony also featured a vote of thanks by James R. D. Christie, the Headmaster.

Glasgow Times: The opening day brochure of Knightswood SecondaryThe opening day brochure of Knightswood Secondary (Image: Glasgow City Archives)

The new school had been a long time coming for the people of Knightswood. All preparations to build a new secondary school had been completed by 1939 but were abandoned due to the outbreak of the Second World War.

When preparations began again, it was to accommodate a comprehensive school of 1350 pupils, both boys and girls. The completed school was occupied in April 1958 and had been designed by notable Glasgow architects Gillespie, Kidd & Coia.  

The architecture of these mid-century schools is typically not as celebrated as their Victorian and Edwardian counterparts. One architectural history of Glasgow dismisses St Bartholomew’s School of Croftfoot Drive (pictured in around 1970) as “unmemorable”.

Glasgow Times: St Bartholomew'sSt Bartholomew's (Image: Glasgow City Archives)

Of course, this was the period of Brutalism, an architectural style which featured the heavy use of concrete and other rough surfaces in the construction of buildings. Our Lady and St Francis Secondary School for Girls (Charlotte Street) is an example of this style and was a building also designed by Gillespie, Kidd & Coia. It opened in 1964.

Glasgow Times: Ogilvie PrimaryOgilvie Primary (Image: Glasgow City Archives)

Indeed, the evolution of Glasgow Corporation’s school building design can be seen in these three photographs of schools built in succeeding decades. Ogilvie Primary School, Wellhouse (1959); Hawthorn Primary School, Hamiltonhill (1963) and St Vincent’s Primary School, Carnwadric (1974).

Glasgow Times: St Vincent's PrimarySt Vincent's Primary (Image: Glasgow City Archives)

There are some schools, sadly, that we don’t hold the opening brochures for as they post-date the series. One of these is Smithycroft Secondary School in Riddrie, unusual for its circular design.

The Assembly Hall was built at the centre of a round with the classrooms encircling it, in an outer ring.

Glasgow Times: Smithycroft Secondary ground floor plan

Pictured is one of the architectural plans we hold for the school, designed by Archibald G. Jury (City Architect). This Colosseum of Glasgow schools had a one-way system in operation to ensure a smooth flow of pedestrian traffic.

Of course, many of the schools built during this period are now demolished. But they live on, not only in the plans, photographs and opening files held in the City Archives collections, but also in the precious childhood memories of many Glaswegians.