James Gillespie's High School

James Gillespie's High School is a state secondary school in Marchmont, Edinburgh. The school is a comprehensive High School, educating pupils aged 11 to 18 years of age. It has recently celebrated its 200th anniversary, and its campus consists of primarily 1960s buildings alongside the 16th century Bruntsfield House. The catchment area is in the centre of the city.


1803 the result of the legacy of James Gillespie, an Edinburgh Merchant, a school for 65 students and one master was opened in Bruntsfield Place and administered by the Merchant Company of Edinburgh.

1870 the school moved into a larger building where the Royal Blind Asylum now stands at Gillespie Crescent. As the school developed, girls were admitted as well as boys and the number of students exceeded 1,000.

1908 the Edinburgh School Board took over the responsibility for the school from the Merchant Company of Edinburgh Education Board; James Gillespie's legacy having run out many years before.

1914 the school moved into the building at Bruntsfield Links, until recently used by Boroughmuir High School as an Annexe.

1935 Edinburgh Corporation acquired Bruntsfield House and its grounds from the Warrender family. The building of the present school commenced in 1964 and was completed in 1966. The school became a secondary school for 800 girls.

1966 Massive revamp for the then girls school. New buildings, swimming pool and gymnasium were part of the regeneration of the school.

1989 the school moved to one site on the completion of an extensive building and modernisation programme.

1980s Formerly the High School divided the student population into four 'houses' - Warrender, Roslin, Spylaw, and Gilmore. The houses would compete in intramural sports events, etc. The house system lasted into the early 1980s. Since then the buildings of the High School campus adopted the names of the houses with the addition of a new name, Bruntsfield. Each of the house (now building) names reflects a connection to the name of a locality in, or a historic family from, south Edinburgh.

2007 improvements were made to the fabric of the school's buildings after a state inspection found significant deficiencies in several of the 1966 structures. There is currently a campaign to build a new school.

2010 The designs for James Gillespie's High School's new building are currently in the works.


Diversecity is considered one of the highlights within the school calendar.It highlights and emphasises the schools ethos, which is "We value and respect the diversity that exists amongst us". Diversecity could be considered a variety show as it showcases a wide range of pupils talents. It has everything from dance to singing, live music to poetry. A huge amount of work is put into this 2 day show with the majority or the acts and routines put together by the pupils themselves. The South African Project which the school supports, now plays a large part in the theme of the overall show, having an increasing amount of understanding and support for the project as a whole. As well as the acts and routines, the stage management and all the work behind the scenes is again arranged and carried out by the pupils. Diversecity is a school production with extremely high and professional quality which is recognised as a major event in the school calender.

Notable former pupils
  • Muriel Spark - Scottish novelist. Attended what was then James Gillespie's High School for Girls and later set what is perhaps her most famous novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in "Marcia Blane's School for Girls" - a school resembling Gillespie's.
  • Dorothy Dunnett - Scottish novelist and painter. Acclaimed author of the Lymond Chronicles, House of Niccolo and King Hereafter.
  • John Leslie - ex television presenter on Blue Peter, Wheel of Fortune and This Morning.

Building Activity

  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings updated 100 media
    about 6 years ago via OpenBuildings.com