When the Dick-Lauders feued the Grange in 1851, some of the first villas appeared north of the inter- section of Lauder Road with Dick Place and, between 1852 and 1853, a further cluster was built to the south-west. These include the variously spelled Asberry and Albany Villas (respectively Nos 28 Dick Place and 17 Lauder Road), St Andrews Cottage (No 15 Lauder Road) and Nos 13 and 11 Lauder Road. From the back of Grange House (demolished in 1936), the stable road, now Lauder Loan, originally continued north-east crossing Lauder Road through the present St Andrews Cottage. (Maps of the Grange in Edinburgh. Ed. Robt. Bartholomew, Grange Association, 1995).
The house was built in 1852 as attested by the stone lintel above the gate. The first owner was John Baron Bell, a teacher of writing, arithmetic and book-keeping who had run a successful school in various parts of the city since 1831 (Malcolm Cant, Sciennes and the Grange, 1990). Research so far has failed to connect him with either James Bell of Dr Bell’s School in Greenside, or with Andrew Bell, the educationalist who founded Madras College in St Andrews.
From 1861 until 1922, when yet another teacher, Catherine McDonald bought the house, St Andrews Cottage was known as Miss Bell’s Academy. John Baron Bell’s two daughters, Miss Jessie and Miss Maggie, together ran it as a dame-school until Jessie died in 1913, followed by Maggie in 1922.
The 20-30 pupils, aged between 5 and 12 years, were taught writing, spelling, grammar, arithmetic, singing and gymnastics. The senior ones started French. Every morning each child reported to Miss Jessie to ensure their proper deportment and dress – a hat and clean handkerchief being de rigeur for the girls; any boy not sporting a neatly folded white hanky in his breast-pocket had to wear a scarlet one all day to remind him of his misdemeanour. A carrot and stick regimen held sway, with Miss Jessie re- warding good conduct with a pan drop or small bunch of flowers, whilst Miss Maggie would administer ‘palmies’ for minor offences or occasionally ‘bare bottom spankies’ in the bathroom for really naughty boys. Both boys and girls wore tapestry samplers bearing their name, the date, alphabet, numerals 1-10 and at the foot ‘St Andrews Cottage’.
Well kent Edinburgh families sent their children to ‘Miss Bell’s’ – Thins, Ushers, Washington Brownes – before proceeding to senior school elsewhere. Former pupils still visit although, inevitably, there are fewer nowadays.
Since 1934, three doctors have successively owned St Andrews Cottage. Apart from the addition of a garage, the saltire patterned front garden and the weathering of the pickelhaube spikes on top of the stone balls surmounting the gables, little has changed structurally. It is now a ‘C’ listed property.
Dr James A Gray FRCPEd. – Newsletter No 68 – Spring 2000