Stewart's Melville College

Stewart's Melville College (SMC) is an independent day and boarding school in Edinburgh, Scotland. Classes are all boys in the 1st to 5th years and co-educational in Sixth (final) year. It has a roll of about 750 pupils.[2][4]

Stewart’s Melville College
Crest stewartsmelville.gif
Stewart's Melville College, Edinburgh.JPG
Queensferry Road


TypeIndependent day and boarding school
MottoNever unprepared[1]
Established1832 (Melville College)
1855 (Daniel Stewart's College)
1972 (merger)
PrincipalLinda Moule
Age11 to 18
Enrolment756[2] (2015)
Red, black, and gold
School fees
  • Day: from £9000 for nursery to £12,423[3] for senior school;
  • Boarding: £24,291–29,162 per annum (2015)[2]
Junior school1254 students (2015)[2]

The school is twinned with the Mary Erskine School (MES), an all-girls independent school approximately one mile (1.6 km) from Stewart's Melville College. Together the combined Erskine Stewart's Melville Schools (ESMS) have a co-educational Sixth Year and Junior School, the latter of which is split between the two campuses and caters for pupils from 3 to 12 years old. The two schools share a Principal, and most extra-curricular activities, such as performing arts, are run jointly. Both SMC and MES are managed by the Merchant Company of Edinburgh, which is also responsible for the co-educational George Watson's College.


Front of David Rhind's building of 1855 for Daniel Stewart's Hospital

Stewart's Melville College originated from the merger of two schools — Daniel Stewart's College and Melville College — in 1972 to become Daniel Stewart's and Melville College. After the merger Melville's bright red trim replaced the dark red trim on the black Daniel Stewart's blazer for general use and the red blazer of Melville College was adopted for those awarded colours (for sporting and other achievements);[5] recently use of the red blazer was limited to the head boy and his deputies, with colours being signified with a particular tie.

Melville College was founded in 1832 by the Rev. Robert Cunningham[6][7] in George Street but soon moved to Hill Street in the centre of Edinburgh[8] with a teaching emphasis on modern subjects, such as science, rather than classical subjects – unusual at that time.[9] The school moved a short distance to 8 Queen Street which was purchased in 1853[8] and then to Melville Street in the city's West End in 1920.[10] Originally named "The Edinburgh Institution for Languages and Mathematics", its name changed to Melville College in 1936[9] about the same time as the caps and blazers of the boys were changed to bright red.[5]

Library of Stewart's Melville College

Daniel Stewart's Hospital was opened in 1855 by the Merchant Company of Edinburgh. Daniel Stewart (whose wealth came from India and was Macer to the Court of the Exchequer), upon his death in 1814, left a sum of money and instructions that, once it had reached £40,000 it should be used to create a hospital for needy boys within the city.[11] The hospital was located on the current Queensferry Road campus (designed by David Rhind).[11] The hospital was transformed into "Daniel Stewart's College" in 1870. The school uniform from 1924 onwards was a cap with red and black stripes and a black blazer with red trim.[5]

In 1974 the link with another nearby Merchant Company school, the all-girls Mary Erskine School, was formalised and The Mary Erskine and Stewart's Melville Junior School was formed. Nursery to Primary 3 are housed on the Mary Erskine campus, with Primary 4 to 7 on the Stewart's Melville campus. The sixth (final) form of both senior schools is coeducational.[12]

In 2013, Stewart's Melville was voted the Scottish Independent School of the year by the Sunday Times newspaper[13][14] and Mary Erskine School was voted the Scottish Independent School of the year in 2012.[15] In 2014 the combined Erskine Stewarts Melville school, with over 2,700 pupils,[16] claimed to be the largest independent school in Europe.[17]

In 2014, a programme of improvement work on buildings of the junior school was announced,[18] and as of 2018, work has begun.


Stewart's Melville College has won the Scottish Rugby Schools Under 18 Cup five times: in 1999 (in their first year of entering), 2006, 2011, 2016 and 2019.[19] Stewart's Melville RFC, the successor to the Former Pupils Rugby club, play in the Scottish League Championship.[20]

"Ravelston Sports Club", a large on-site sports centre opened in 2000. The sports centre is mainly used by pupils for physical education lessons and sports training (such as swimming, basketball, badminton, short tennis and table tennis) but is also open to members of the public for a monthly membership fee.[21] There is also a school shooting range located at the Ravelston campus.[22] Extensive rugby, cricket, hockey pitches and athletics facilities are also located at the school's sports grounds in Inverleith, two miles north of the school. The main stadium at Inverleith dates back to the 1890s and was the main ground of the Scotland national rugby union team until 1925.[23][24]

In 2019 Stewart's Melville College won the Mitsubishi U18 cup - played at Murrayfield Stadium - against local rivals George Watson's College.[25]

Tom Fleming Centre for Performing Arts (Formerly "Performing Arts Centre")Edit

Tom Fleming Centre for Performing Arts in 2015

The school's main Victorian assembly hall was converted to the "Performing Arts Centre" between 2005 and 2007. This £3.5 million project,[26] was paid for in part by donations from the parents of the schools current pupils and former pupils (some of the chairs have names of people who have donated in gold). The Centre has 800 seats that fold back into the wall, providing a variety of possible configurations and was officially opened in 2007. It is also available for use by the public and is used as a venue for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[27]

In 2011 actor John Cairney unveiled the new name for the centre, "Tom Fleming Centre for Performing Arts", named after former pupil Tom Fleming, one of Scotland's leading broadcasters.[28]


Since 1965, the school has organised an outdoor education programme for the boys of SMC and the girls from MES in the third year. It takes place in the north of Scotland, based for over forty years at Carbisdale Castle Youth Hostel, Easter Ross, until its closure in 2011 required accommodation to relocate to Aviemore.[29] After a campaign lead by a school pupil, Ewan Tracy, the programme was re-instated at the Carbisdale Castle. The camp was also abandoned in 2020 and 2021, due to coronavirus restrictions. The camp is expected to return in late summer 2022, with third year, fourth year, and fifth year participating. This is the first time carbisdale has had more than one year participate.


Pupils at Stewart's Melville mainly sit Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) examinations, including (as of 2013) National 4, National 5, Higher Grade and Advanced Higher Grade levels. The English GCE Advanced Level, examinations can also be sat in art and music. Almost all pupils go on to higher education.[30]

Controversy over Viscount Melville and the abolition movementEdit

On June 7, 2020, during a Black Lives Matter protest, the 1st (Henry Dundas) and 2nd (Robert Dundas) Viscount Melville Monuments were graffitied. Demonstrators believed Viscount Melville had caused a 15-year-delay in Parliament voting to abolish the slave trade.[31]

The leading proponent of the movement to denounce Viscount Melville is Sir Geoff Palmer, a human rights and SNP activist and retired science professor at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. He argues that because Viscount Melville proposed an amendment to a motion before the House of Commons in 1792 to achieve abolition immediately and gradually, he delayed abolition of the slave trade by 15 years.[32]

Palmer's interpretation of events is contested by at least three historians - Tom Devine Brian Young of Oxford University and Michael Fry, biographer of Henry Dundas. They note that the motion to abolish slavery was heading for certain defeat in the House of Commons until Dundas proposed the amendment for gradual abolition, to be achieved by 1800, but that after the successful vote in the House of Commons the House of Lords declined to consider the matter. In August 2020 Edinburgh World Heritage and Essential Edinburgh applied for planning to erect a plaque on the Pillar. Descendant of Henry Dundas slams this as ‘biased’, ‘defamatory’ and ‘historically inaccurate’.[33][34]

Former HeadmastersEdit

  • Herbert James Liddle Robbie (1904–1964) headmaster of Daniel Stewart's from 1946 to 1964

Notable former pupilsEdit

The school maintains a Former Pupils Club, which organises social events throughout the year. There are branches throughout the UK and abroad.

War Memorial in the College grounds

Academia and science

Media and arts

Law and politics






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External linksEdit

  • Roberts, Alasdair (2009). Ties that Bind. Steve Savage Publishers. ISBN 978-1-904246-29-9.
  • Sutherland, Kenneth, ed. (2003). Edinburgh Institution and Melville College 1932–1973, A History and School Register. Edinburgh, U.K.: The Melville College Trust. ASIN B004N6JLDY. OL 22817176M.

Coordinates: 55°57′N 3°13′W / 55.950°N 3.217°W / 55.950; -3.217