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Balrossie School: Main Building, Kilmacolm

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Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved. © Copyright and database right 2019.

General Details and Location

Name of Building
Balrossie School: Main Building
Other Name(s)
Balrossie Orphanage; List D School for Boys
Planning Authority
Divisional Area
Reference No
Listing Category
OS Grid Ref
NS 34260 69238
Location Type
HS Reference No


2-storey, roughly rectangular, Scottish Renaissance orphanage with gothic details. Piended roof with prominent gabled section to centre. Stepped principal frontage with towers, gable, oriel window and buttresses; 2 single-storey service wings extending from rear; bay windows to side elevations. Roughcast render over whinstone rubble with painted red sandstone ashlar dressings. Base course; deep bracketed eaves. Raised long and short quoins and window margins; predominantly stone-mullioned bipartite windows.

Built as an orphanage by the Sailors´ Orphans Society of Scotland. This was the first orphanage to be built by the society, and previous to its completion the society had housed its orphans in rented accommodation. Money for the building was donated by ´several donors´, including one anonymous benefactor who gave £3500: the deliberately obscure inscriptions on the Girls´ Villa and garden building are probably the monogram of this person. The architect of the building is given in the Glasgow Advertiser article as H and D Barclay, but as Hugh Barclay died in 1892, this is probably the sole work of his younger brother David. The Barclay brothers specialised in school design, and were responsible for a large number of schools in and around Glasgow, including Glasgow Academy; their most prominent building, however, was Greenock Municipal Buildings.

The orphanage was designed to house 82 boys and 32 girls. The principle building contained accommodation for 50 boys in the left wing and 32 boys in the right wing, each wing forming a separate house with its own dormitories, dining room, playshed and other accommodation. The central tower contained administrative offices, with stores on the ground floor and a water tank at the top. The large gabled section that runs through the centre of the block contained a large hall for assemblies, services, teaching, and other similar activities. Girls were housed separately in the villa to the North of the main building. (Historic Environement Scotland List Entry)

The site is understood to have been purchased by Glasgow Corporation in 1962 and converted for use as a residential care home (The Herald) for children.
Building Dates
David Barclay

Category of Risk and Development History

Very Poor
Category of Risk
Exemptions to State of Risk
Field Visits
16/12/2008, 27/01/2010, 13/8/2014
Development History
22 July 2004: The Herald reports that the school is vacant and is being offered for sale by Inverclyde Council. Originally built as a home for the orphans of sailors, the building was purchased by Glasgow Corporation in 1962 and was converted into a residential school. The building has now lain vacant for about 8 years. The school lies within the greenbelt and development is therefore restricted to that which meets rural, agricultural, forestry or leisure needs. However, Inverclyde Council will consider any proposal which complies with the issued development brief and is willing to accept a residential development of up to 40 units through the conversion of existing buildings and a small new build element. The building is currently proposed for listing. 3 August 2004: The Greenock Telegraph reports on the building. 11 August 2004: The Paisley Gazette reports on the building. 24 April 2005: The Herald carries notice that the school is being marketed for sale as a development opportunity.
December 2008: External inspection finds the building vacant and unsecured. There is damage to roofs, blocked gutters and boarded openings to ground floor.
April 2009: Planning permission was granted in Sept 2006 for conversion to residential use with erection of dwellinghouses in an enabling development scheme. No works have started to date.
January 2010: External inspection from the roadside suggests that the condition of the school building has altered little since the last visit by SCT. The upper floor windows are now boarded over.
4 December 2012: A member of the public draws attention to a new application being sought for the site. Full Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent for restoration and conversion of the former childrens' home into residential use and for the establishment of the principle of enabling development (new build) within the grounds ref: 12/0252/IC & 12/0022/LB & 12/0254/IC.
The site is currently being marketed for sale, on instructions of the joint administrators of GWM Balrossie Limited, through agent Lambert Smith Hampton.
16 July 2013: STV News report on a fire at the Balrossie School site. Inverclyde Council confirm the fire was isolated to the annex to the main school.
13 August 2014: External inspection finds the building has signficantly deteriorated since the previous site visit with badly damaged roofs, decayed windows, clogged gutters, leaking downpipes amongst other defects. Though largely secured the building is not weathertight and is subject to ongoing vandalism.
24 March 2015: Listed Building Consent for redevelopment and conversion to residential use of the former school site was conditionally granted Feb 2015 ref: 12/0022/LB. The former school remains under marketing for sale or lease through agents Lambert Smith Hampton.
17 November 2017: Listed Building Consent for the conversion of the complex to dwellings is being sought ref: 17/0038/LB and 17/0351/IC. The main building is proposed as a facade retention.
21 May 2019: A member of the public notes the deterioration at the building - a number of collapses have occurred, exposing the interior to the elements.

Guides to Development

Conservation Area
Planning Authority Contact
PAC Telephone Number
01475 712418


Current Availability
Not Available
Appointed Agents
Occupancy Type
Present/Former Uses
Building Uses Information:
Present Use 1: N/A Former Use 1: School/College/University
Present Use 2: N/A Former Use 2: Care Home
Name of Owners
Unverified see FAQ on ascertaining ownership
Type of Ownership

Information Services

Additional Contacts/Information Source
Article in GLASGOW ADVERTISER AND PROPERTY CIRCULAR 30 August 1898, with illustration. Appears on 3rd Edition OS map (1911). James Murray, KILMACOLM (1907), p190. Frank Arneil Walker, THE SOUTH CLYDE ESTUARY (RIAS Guide) (1986) p88.
New Lease of Life for historic home (22/7/2004) The Herald. p 37.
Online Resources
Original Entry Date
Date of Last Edit