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.


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.

Girls Become Residents

The first girls take up residence in the Merchants' Hall in Cowgate.

Merchant Maiden Hospital

The foundation obtains statutory ratification by the Scottish Parliament, and the school also moves out of the Cowgate area into a 'good house' toward Bristo.

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.

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.

The School Grows

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

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.

School Numbers Grow

The Merchant Maiden Hospital becomes the Edinburgh Educational Institution for Girls. The school population grows from 75 to 1,200.

Daniel Stewart's Institution

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

The Girls' School Moves

The Edinburgh Educational Institution for Young Ladies moves to the Western end of Queen Street to house its growing student numbers.

Edinburgh Ladies College

Renamed the Edinburgh Ladies College, it rapidly becomes one of the most famous schools of its day.

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.

The Mary Erskine School

On the 250th anniversary of Mary Erskine's original foundation, the school is renamed The Mary Erskine School.

Boarding at Daniel Stewart's

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

MES Moves to Ravelston

The Mary Erskine School moves to the Ravelston site, and the modern era is launched.

Boys' Schools Combine

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

Boys' and Girls' Schools Merge

The Mary Erskine School and Daniel Stewart's and Melville College merge.

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.

New Junior School Name

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

Twinned Houses Introduced

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

Joint Sixth Form Established

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

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.

New Ravelston Opens

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

Performing Arts Centre Opens

The new Performing Arts Centre, later officially named 'The Tom Fleming Centre', opens.

Junior School Renamed

The Junior School is renamed ESMS Junior School.