Our History

Over 300 years in the making

The story of ESMS is in fact the history of three separate institutions, The Mary Erskine School, Daniel Stewart's College and Melville College, brought together in the 1970s to create the largest family of independent schools in Europe. It also helps to account for our name.

Find out more about our schools' history below.

1694

Merchant Maiden Hospital Opens

Mary Erskine and the Company of Merchants Edinburgh co-found the Merchant Maiden Hospital to house and educate the destitute daughters of Edinburgh's merchants. 'Hospital' was a term given to an endowed charitable foundation at this time.
1696

Girls Become Residents

The first girls take up residence in the Merchant Company's Cowgate building, lodging in the gallery above the Great Hall.
1706

A New Home for the Hospital

Mary Erskine then purchases a substantial house for the Hospital in the Bristo area allowing the school to move out of their lodging in the Merchant Company's Great Hall and into a space of their own. Meanwhile, the constitution obtains statutory ratification by the Scottish Parliament.
1814

Daniel Stewart Bequeaths Money

Daniel Stewart bequeaths a substantial sum of money for the foundation of a school for orphan and destitute boys. He entrusts its 'perpetual management' to the Merchant Company of the City of Edinburgh.
1818

Merchant Maidens Move

The Merchant Maiden Hospital moves to its third home at Lauriston.
1832

Robert Cunningham Opens School

The Rev Robert Cunningham founds the Edinburgh Institution for Mathematics and Language at 59 George Street, which will become Melville College. 60 boys attend.
1835

The School Grows

By 1835, the School opened by Rev Robert Cunningham now teaches 241 boys and moves to Hill Street.
1855

First Boys at Daniel Stewart's

Daniel Stewart's money allows the first 50 boys take up residence in the magnificent David Rhind building on Queensferry Road at Daniel Stewart's College.
1870

Daniel Stewart's Institution

The David Rhind building officially becomes Daniel Stewart's Institution with about 300 boys attending.
1870

The Girls' School Evolves

The Merchant Maiden Hospital becomes the Edinburgh Educational Institution for Young Ladies. In the same year, the Institution moves to the western end of Queen Street to house rapidly growing student numbers.
1889

Edinburgh Ladies' College

The Merchant Maiden Hospital is renamed the Edinburgh Ladies' College and is now recognised as one of the most renowned schools of its day.
1936

Creation of Melville College

After moving to Melville Street in 1920, Rev Robert Cunningham's School is renamed Melville College in 1936 - to better reflect the institution that it is.
1944

The Mary Erskine School

The schools' current name, The Mary Erskine School, was acquired on the 250th anniversary of its creation in honour of original co-founding benefactor Mary Erskine.
1963

Boarding at Daniel Stewart's

Boarding is introduced on the Daniel Stewart's College site for the first time, at Dean Park House.
1966

MES Moves to Ravelston

The Mary Erskine School moves to the Ravelston site after many years of planning.
1972

Boys' Schools Combine

Daniel Stewart's College combines with Melville College to form 'Daniel Stewart's and Melville College'.
1978

Boys' and Girls' Schools Merge

The Mary Erskine School and Daniel Stewart's and Melville College merge. The Senior Schools remain in their respective buildings, but their timetables are synchronised.
1978

The Junior Schools Combine

The girls' and boys' Junior Schools become fully co-educational, now called The Combined Junior School of The Mary Erskine School and Stewart's Melville College.
1989

New Junior School Name

The Junior School is renamed The Mary Erskine and Stewart's Melville Junior School.
1999

Twinned Houses Introduced

Introduction of twinned Houses at Stewart's Melville College and The Mary Erskine School.
1999

Joint Sixth Form Established

A joint Sixth Form is established, which completes the unique ESMS Diamond Structure with a co-educational final year.
2004

The Solway Centre Opens

The Solway Centre was opened by Princess Anne to accommodate e-Plus services on the Stewart's Melville Queensferry Road site.
2006

New Ravelston Opens

New Ravelston opens at The Mary Erskine School site to accommodate e-Plus services.
2007

Performing Arts Centre Opens

The new Erskine Stewart's Melville Performing Arts Centre opens. This is later officially named the 'Tom Fleming Centre for the Performing Arts', in memory of distinguished Scottish actor and Daniel Stewart's Former Pupil Tom Fleming.
2013

Junior School Renamed

The Junior School is renamed ESMS Junior School.