Dr. Bell’s School in Leith (Edinburgh) Scotland

Dr. Bell’s School Built in 1835

Dr. Bell’s School at 101 Great Junction Street is almost next door to our favourite cafe Up the Junction in Leith (Edinburgh) Scotland. I can’t find too much information about it other than it was built in 1835 two years after Dr. Bell’s death in 1832. From the street it seems to be constructed of dark stone (like so many buildings in Edinburgh) but upon closer inspection it is actually made of wood blocks. Walking right up to it you can see the grain on the end of the blocks. Over the years it has apparently weathered to look like stone—that its survived all these years is a wee bit amazing.

April 21st: This is an update to this post after revisiting Dr. Bell’s School. I was tipped off by a “local” that it was probably made of sandstone (a typical building material in Edinburgh that often looks like it has wood-like grain visible). He was absolutely right—I gave the structure a good rap with my knuckles and it’s solid stone. It’s amazing how much stone can look like wood at times. In Arizona (USA) there is a National Park called the Petrified Forest with fossilised wood and you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between wood and stone. Thank you Scott. SFD 

Dr. Andrew Bell (1753-1832) was a Scottish Educator of some repute. He was educated at St Andrews University where he distinguished himself in Maths.  At the age of 21 he decided to seek his fortune further afield and emigrated to America. From 1774 – 84, he was tutor to the children of plantation owners in Virginia. He saved £800, returned to Scotland, and decided to enter the church. He lived in Leith from 1784 – 1787, and then set off for India, in the service of the East India Company. Dr Bell returned to Britain in 1797, because of poor health.  He founded schools in Leith and elsewhere.

Dr Bell’s School in Leith was taken over by Leith School Board, and became a primary school in 1892.  The building now houses Dr Bell’s Family Centre, Stanwell Nursery as well as private flats. It’s an interesting building and I wish that I could find more information about its construction. I might go back to get a closer look to confirm that it’s really made of wood blocks—I’m 99% sure but that remaining 1% kind of bugs me. Anyway, we see really interesting stuff like this all over Scotland during our daily walkabout. In the next day or two we will probably walk down to the port to tour Her Majesty’s Royal Yacht Britannia.

Stephen F. Dennstedt


5 responses to “Dr. Bell’s School in Leith (Edinburgh) Scotland

      • I’m not 100% sure, but its probably sandstone – most of Edinburgh is. Craigleith sandstone built most of the new town and many tenements. It can age with what looks like a horizontal grain.

        It great seeing your Leith photos. Seeing a visitors take on things you pass everyday is really refreshing.

        • Thank you Scott. We’re having fun here and the weather the last couple of days has been spectacular. We should be visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia in a day or two and then we have a full day tour scheduled out of town on Monday.

        • Hi Scott, went back and double-checked the building material … you’re right it is definitely sandstone. Even up close it looks like wood but if you give it a rap with your knuckles you quickly learn that it’s stone. Thanks, Steve

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