The image above, which appears in the book 'Seatoun of Largo' by Ivy Jardine, shows what is now the Temple Car Park. The Cardy Net Factory can be seen behind the many boats pulled up from the beach (including what might be the Semiquaver - the largest boat, resting adjacent to the factory). To the right and slightly elevated is a roofless old building - a former school. The 1853 Ordnance Survey name book helpfully describes the school as follows:
"Durham's School: A school in the hamlet of Temple, erected by subscription in 1836. The teacher is a female who receives a salary from Mrs Durham of £20 per ann. also school fees. It is attended by about 60 scholars."
This provides a definite date of 1836 for the origin of the school and tells us that this was a 'subscription school' i.e. the school was organised and governed locally and parents paid a fee for children's attendance. Like many village schools of the time, it was single roomed and had only one teacher (in 1853 this was Miss Caroline Spence). Also mentioned in the 1853 name book are the other local schools, namely: the Emsdorf School (built 1821 and also attended by around 60 pupils) and the old Kirkton School (which was attended by around 150 scholars at the time).
The newspaper item below from the 18 May 1837 Fifeshire Journal confirms the 1836 origin and tells us that General Durham was actively involved in the school's establishment. This is General James Durham of Largo House (1754-1840). It also mentions that the teacher in 1837 was a Mr Wilson. Interestingly, the piece notes that the establishment of the school had been resisted by many.
Unsurprisingly, as decades passed, the small subscription school became inadequate for the needs of Lower Largo. A site on Donaldson's Wynd was selected for a bigger, more substantially-built school (see map below from 1866 which features both schools). The 1861 census for Lower Largo lists two school buildings: a 'subscription school (empty)' and a 'female school'. A newspaper piece (see further below) from 15 June 1910 Leven Advertiser states that "the Durham school was founded in 1859 by Mrs L. D. C. Durham". Mrs Durham spent time at Largo House between 1845 and 1868 and took a great interest in the local community and especially in education. In her later years, she sold the Largo estate to William Johnson of Lathrisk in 1868 and settled at Polton. She died in 1883 in Lanzo, Italy.
"There is yet another school in Donaldson's Wynd. This is just above Lower Largo, known as the Durham School. This did not pass out of the Church's hands nearly as soon but remained under the management of the Kirk Session till after 1892. A lot of children used to go to the Durham School. There was always a school-mistress there and latterly the younger children went. A few years ago, however, it was closed as a regular school and has now been fitted up for classes, and here the Continuation Classes are held."
A footnote further explains that it was 1895 that the Kirk Session ceased to manage this school. The reason that it did so was due to the need for extensive repairs and improvements for which the Kirk Session had no funds. The Largo Village Book also tells us that the school evolved from a regular school into a continuation school earlier in the twentieth century. The newspaper archives tell us that the building was altered in 1911 to improve heating, lighting and use of space, plus fit it up for cookery and laundry lessons. The advert above from the 28 September 1911 Leven Advertiser lists some of the continuation classes available following the building's refurbishment.
Below is a photograph of the Durham school (now Durham Hall) in the mid-1970s. Now 160 years old, the building is still serving the local community well.