‘Returning over the Nightmare Ground’: Goodbye Eslington Tower, 14th July 2016

I’ve been back at home on Tankerville Terrace for just over a year now, but still occasionally dream about the time working in Eskdale.  When I say that, I really mean bad dreams, of course.  The merger was stressful for all, but the main casualties were those of us who were moved ‘down the road’ from Church High.  I have likened the experience, many a time, to attempting to step onto one of those children’s playground roundabouts, already spinning at full tilt.  No concessions were made for us at all.  ‘We were in Central now’, as some were actually told.  It didn’t help that some ex-Central girls didn’t want to be taught by ex-Church High teachers or that some parents echoed this sentiment.  I found myself complained about more than once, in the ‘white-hot’ first term in particular.  I survived by continually reminding myself I had come from an English Department twice commended by its Board for gaining the best Lang/Lit A Level results in the country.  Why was here so different?  In these dreams, Eslington Tower was the real ‘House of Horrors.’

The Nightmare Ground for me: Eslington Tower looking as eerie at dusk (left) as the Eskdale Main Corridor did c 1910.

After I’d taught my last lesson in Eslington, I left the building with never a backward glance and no desire to return.  Ever.  Yet on July 14th 2016, once everything had fallen quiet, with my crates all packed and a camera still to hand, I mused whether I should head over there again ‘one last time’.  Just for the record?  To lay some ghosts to rest?  So I did.  A few summers ago, thanks to a friend, I shared after-show drinks with the poet Owen Shears in The Swan Theatre Bar in Stratford.  Not only did we get on really well, we found we had a favourite war poem in common too: Keith Douglas’ Vergissmeinnicht.’  So, as I headed along the rutted back lane behind Eslington Terrace one last time, it was the first three lines of this poem that echoed in my head: ‘Three weeks gone and the combatants gone/returning over the nightmare ground/we found the place again.’

I had to traipse along this dreary lane, heavy bag in one hand and laptop tucked under my other arm, numerous times each day for two years – hail, rain or shine.

My ex-Church High colleague, Kay, always referred to Eslington as ‘Fagin’s Den’, so clearly it wasn’t just me who found it a depressing place to work.  I’m sure the property was once a very fine house, but it was dark and dank, particularly at ground floor level, and more than one cleaner confided they didn’t like being in that building alone.  A make-shift Home Economics room had been created on the top floor, where Church High colleague Lynn Batchelor was based.  Lynn’s smile was the brightest thing in the building.  It helped a lot.  The ugly black fire-escape which dominated the back elevation prompted me more than once wryly to liken our existence there as being akin to ‘Westside Story – but without the singing and dancing’!

Eslington Entrance reminiscent of Fagin’s Den.

So let me show you round my teaching world for the second year in Eskdale.  Those of you who remember sunny, ivy shrouded Room 5 will see – all too clearly – why I was never at home there.  However, at the time I was grateful for the hard-won room base having had to teach my lessons for the entire first year of NHSG in 13 different classrooms, spread out across 4 separate buildings (whilst others in the department enjoyed the luxury of a dedicated teaching room). Not an ‘even’ battlefield – sorry, playfield – right from the very start.

The ‘welcoming’ main entrance of the NHSG English School.
The dark & dingy hallway: ET2 is to the left.
ET2’s door (left) opened virtually directly onto the teacher’s desk. It was always a very tight squeeze to get into the room.
I wish I had a fiver for every time I (or a pupil) tripped over or stubbed a toe on that inconveniently placed doorstop ….
…. or scraped an arm/snagged clothing on this sliding piece of jutting out plastic!  (The light fitting which fell down during one of Ruchelle Everton’s lessons was never replaced).

The only feature of the room which gave ET2 any character was the big bay window (part of the tower) to the left of the teacher’s desk.  In case I was ever in danger of forgetting the fact time in Eslington was finite, from April a ‘For Sale’ sign was always in my eye-line.

From April, I had a ‘For Sale’ sign constantly in my eye-line.

The Eslington room I found the most uncongenial was on the first floor and was used as a departmental staffroom.  The summer we moved down from Church High, I really did have high hopes for this room.  Leaf-dappled sunlight filtering in through the branches of a large tree in the garden was faintly reminiscent of Church High.  I pinned some RSC posters to a section of noticeboard in an attempt to settle in.  The writing was on the wall the day I noted random documents pinned onto these posters with drawing pins, however.  At the end of that day I went across after school and removed all my pictures.  It goes without saying that room was never a ‘home’ to me.

Department meetings were held there around an octagonal table. I never ever got used to sitting at low children’s tables.

If anything, the return walk back across to the Eskdale building was even less picturesque.  The heavy metal plated floor at the base of the fire-escape moved and clunked underfoot when you walked out onto it and to enter the main building again you had to run the gamut of the most purple-looking doorway in the whole school.  The bottom corridor always smelled strongly of disinfectant, especially in the mornings.  This made it feel more like a hospital than a school.

The view under the clunking metal fire-escape.
My very last journey back across the Eslington back-yard….
….. and the uneven, badly-rutted back-lane which was lethal during the winter because it was never salted.  Never in Gentian’s day!
I know I wasn’t alone in hating the side door.

No, going over ‘nightmare ground’ again is never an easy thing to do.  The fact it has taken me well over a month to complete this particular post clearly reinforces this too.  Sorry for the long delay.  Hopefully ‘normal service’ will be resumed again soon.  I could have skipped on, I know, and missed out this bit of the story.  But my intention has always been to print all the posts off once our tale has come ‘full circle’, have them bound into a hard-backed volume and deposit the book with Tyne & Wear Archives for filing in the transitional NCHS/NHSG archive they have already put in place.  But the delay has had one benefit though.  I can now end my post on a therapeutic note.  In the interim, workmen have moved in.  Karma.

The back of Eslington Tower has looked very different of late. Rubbish removal in progress!

On my way home from work on September 8th this year, I caught a glimpse of something red out of the corner of my left eye as I was about to cross over the back lane behind Eslington Terrace on my way to Jesmond Metro.  Curious, I made a little detour along that awkward little back lane one more time and spied the rubbish chute.  Not only is girls’ education in Jesmond finally back on Tankerville again, a new chapter is about to start for the Eskdale buildings too.  I realise this will create sadness for those who loved their time at that school.  But not for me.  And I know others who feel the same.

Eslington strip-out is well underway: I recognise that door!

Once I got round the front of the building, there were indications a full ‘strip-out’ was in progress there too.  The For Sale sign was no longer there.  The Newcastle High School for Girls sign also.  And through the window of ET2, I could see the door was off its hinges.

No NHSG signage out front anymore: time is on the move.
The door to ET2 will bother nobody anymore.
And out front a couple of weeks later again.

Doors are such symbolic things, aren’t they?  Yes, the Roman god Janus sits double-faced in the New Year doorway with good reason.  God of gates and transitions, he looks to both the past and future.  Every ending is another beginning, of course, and so life continues its cycles and circles.  How different the feelings now on spying that troublesome ET2 door through a very dusty window, to seeing Giuseppe’s photo of a Church High door on a skip two years earlier.

The first green door on a skip was a sign of the end in 2015.

There are a lot of things I understand better now than in 2014.  Back then we thought it was just the Church High history that wasn’t being given a ‘look in.’ Now I know it is just past history ‘full stop.’  That was made concrete clear walking round the front of Tankerville on September 8th.  Something caught my eye.  To the right this time.  Something low down, gold and gleaming in the dusky evening light.

Something gleaming at the base of the tree.

Even though I’d worked the truth out a long time ago, I still couldn’t quite believe it when I saw what had drawn my eye to the foot of the tree.  I’d learned the cherry tree outside my classroom window was a special little tree, planted in memory of a pupil who had died.  An attempt had been made to move it, but, instead, a cutting was ultimately taken.  Fair enough, I guess.  Some things are probably best left as they are.  But leaving the plaque behind too?  Well that left me speechless.  I’ve told them and it will no doubt be reclaimed, but that’s not the point.  Vergissmeinnicht?  Yes, truly nightmare ground.

Vergissmeinnicht is, of course, German for ‘Forget me not ….’


Empty Chairs at Empty Tables: Very Nearly Full-Circle Now, 14th July 2016

There’s a not very nice smell coming from the plug-hole of my kitchen sink.  I’m assuming said smell is emanating from stagnant water and rotting stuff encamped in the U-bend.  I’ve now bought a bottle of sink-unblock and intend to use it before I go to bed tonight.  If only all noxious odours were as easy to remove.  Some continue to linger, whatever you do.  I returned to work last Monday after my first summer in three years without a big cloud hanging over it or me bringing heavy boxes home for ‘safe-keeping’ having just had to empty a school.  Despite this, I’m still unbelievably tired and daren’t go near the bathroom scales.  After a year back on Tankerville Terrace, things have begun to ‘unblock’ a little, but there is still a long way to go.  On our study day, we were told of all the work done on the building over the summer as Wates’ snagging responsibility draws to a close.  This included a smell in the lift shaft with an untraceable source.  As I said, some bad smells just won’t go away.

What a difference two years can make: July 2014/May 2016.

‘Revelations: Full Circle’ is one of my favourite ‘X-Files’ episodes and ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’ a favourite ‘Les Miserables’ song.’  The ideas behind both were very much on my mind when I paid my final visit to the Eskdale Terrace buildings on Thursday, 14th July 2016.  As far as I can remember, that visit to Jesmond was purely to pick up those items which had journeyed with me to Eskdale from Church High that I didn’t want to risk leaving in the hands of the removal company – or was my distrust of ‘our’ folk at the other end?  Forgive me, but it was impossible to forget that two years earlier instruction had been given for crates arriving from Tankerville to be searched and anything with a Church High logo removed.  Nor that in the build up to this move, books with Church High library stamps on my bookshelf in the Eslington Tower staffroom were initially all binned.  I kicked up a big fuss and they all resurfaced.  Hence my determination now that, although no old furniture was to be allowed into the new building, those familiar framed prints, pot plants and ‘metal people’ which had all proved ‘good friends’ over a difficult two years would all travel full-circle back to Tankerville with me too.

‘Bring Him Home’:  To the amusement of Lauren & Sameena, the Dragon Tree which had travelled with me from Room 5 was given the courtesy of being repatriated – on a point of principle. Sadly neglected at Eskdale, though not intentionally, that dry plant ultimately felt like a visual symbol of ME.

For the blog, as I’d done at Tankerville, I made a last tour of the Central building with my camera.  To be honest, there was a touch of revenge in it.  A sense of Karma.  Also, I knew that no-one else would be doing it.  And it WAS going to be done!  For the record, I respect the sadness of the Central Old-Timers who loved their building – though it was shocking how few of them there turned out to be.  But, having been forced to see Tankerville with its guts ripped out, I was determined there would be some record of Eskdale in that state too.

‘Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs?’ (Hamlet, Act V, Scene 1): Eskdale Terrace Main Corridor, still painted Central’s colours, is now left to the ghosts. Above, the Staffroom door, below the door to Michael Tippett’s Office.

Not only lots of empty chairs & empty tables, but now there were also orange crates in the Central staffroom too.  Karma.

Clearly I’m going to be biased, having spent 29 years of my teaching career within Church High’s Tankerville building.  But, as one of the few who saw both buildings after the ‘countdown’ was complete, I know which one still looked – and felt – the ‘warmest.’  Still ‘alive.’  Ex Central staff have since told me, now happily settled in Tankerville, they thought I was mad at the time, but that “now they know”.  Apparently I made my dislike of Eskdale “very clear to all!”  There’s a pivotal moment in ‘Hamlet’ when, talking with his mother, he compares pictures of his father and his uncle: ‘This was your husband. Look you now, what follows.  Have you eyes?/Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed/And batten on this moor?’ (Act 3, Scene 4).  That’s how I still feel now when I look at the images below, before and after shots of the equivalent rooms in Tankerville and Eskdale.

Main Corridors at Tankerville in 2014 and Eskdale in 2016.
Social Staffrooms: Tankerville in 2014 and Eskdale in 2016.
Working Staffrooms: Tankerville in 2014 & Eskdale in 2016.
My Classroom: Tankerville (2014) & Eslington Tower (2016).

Put quite simply, working inside the ‘Purple Palace’ made me ill, something I became acutely aware of two thirds of the way through the two-years we were based there.  Which was very, very unlucky for me.  One of my coping strategies was to keep a ‘countdown’ in my diary.  Each morning on the metro, I would add and subtract one number each way.  That probably makes me sound really sad, I know, but that’s how it was.  The truth.  And we know ‘Truth Conquers All.’

My diary pages for the last full week of my time at Eskdale.

Looking at those diary pages now, the unintended irony of certain entries amuses me.  Though I never actually got there, I note the United Reformed Church on Tankerville Terrace were hosting an exhibition commemorating The Battle of the Somme that week.  I can see some analogies there: entrenchment, the sapping of spirit, a long drawn-out conflict with a criminally high list of casualties.  Hence the empty chairs at empty tables that continue to haunt me still.  And, of course, the entry ‘Celebration of Achievement’ on July 7th refers to NHSG’s final review of the year, a calendar event inherited from Central, not me surviving the 365 days I had to work in that building.  I’m amazed I didn’t spot the irony there at the time.

An achievement worthy of celebration: friendship, faith and mutual support. The Church High staff family, July 2014.

It wasn’t just all the stairs, nor the fact that the NHSG English Department, based in Eslington Tower and connected to the Main Building by a badly-surfaced back lane, ran in its little ‘out-post’ as if we were still in Central.  No, it was the ever-decreasing number of Church High colleagues which caused me the most pain.  That and the knowledge of what we’d all lost.  The memory of those who had no choice but to take the other path.  The total disregard of history.

The School Hall in July 2014, its layers of history in the process of being peeled away, bit by bit, destined for storage.

But, as the Priest says to Scully in that episode of ‘The X-Files’, “Sometimes we must come full circle to find the truth“.  An empty Eskdale on July 14th 2016 was a small victory, but it was a step in the right direction.  I know a lot of ex-Central staff still thought there was a high probability they’d be returning to Eskdale in September, that the building wouldn’t be ready.  But I was in no doubt.  Those empty chairs will always remain etched in memory, but the momentum was finally shifting.  At long last.  Newcastle High School for Girls was returning to its natural home and I didn’t have to step foot into the ‘Purple Palace’ ever again.  We were nearly ‘full-circle’ now and it would not be long before Freddie Shepherd would take possession of his building.  Freddie is, of course, both father and grandfather to Church High Old Girls. I couldn’t know it on the 14th July 2016, but a full year later, on the very last day of term once again, Eskdale would be looking very different indeed.  Left in the hands of Mother Nature even nightmare ground becomes green.

The Eskdale Terrace Main Building, now in the hands of Mr Freddie Shepherd and Mother Nature, is purple no more.

‘Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the songs of angry men?
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes.’

[Les Miserables]

‘Identity of Position’: Musings on Question Marks, Hot Works & Refining Fire, 8th July 2016

I can’t really recall why I was in Jesmond on Friday July 8th, but, as when we had to have Church High emptied by July 4th 2014, I was certainly no-where near to being packed up.  I remember that my intention had been to pack very, very quickly this time – for obvious reasons.  So perhaps that’s why I was there on the first day of the holiday.  I have more memory of walking up to Tankerville.  There it was quiet on the outside, yet no doubt a real hive of activity within.

Apparently, ‘hot works’ were in progress within the building.
Hot works meant welding on the sign.  Thanks to Giuseppe, I now know the Boiler Room was the hive of activity that day.
The six new boilers I told you about were all installed now.
Unlike Miss Bartlett in ‘A Room with a View’, NHSG should never again find themselves plagued by a ‘troublesome boiler.’

Gates have always been very symbolic for me.  Perhaps that’s why, as a searching teenager, William Holman Hunt’s ‘Light of the World’ replaced David Soul as ‘Hutch’ on my bedroom chimney breast wall.

Hunt’s ‘The Light of the World.’

I now know this painting has a tentative connection to Newcastle High/Church High School, through one of our founding fathers.  Yet another story I am holding up my sleeve until I have finally narrated NHS safely home again.  As a teenager I loved its jewel-like colours, the calmness it exuded and, of course, the story behind it.  As you probably already know, most Pre-Raphaelite works are full of symbolism.  This one tells the tale of Jesus and the Human Heart.  Sometimes referred to as ‘a sermon in a frame’, the writing beneath the picture is from Revelation 3 ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me.’  If you look closely at the painting, the wooden gate Jesus is standing beside is overgrown and it has no handle.  Just like the human heart, it must be opened from within.

If gates could talk, what tales would these tell?

How many times have you walked through the main gates at Church High, I wonder?  Like me, countless times I’m sure.  And, perhaps also like me, if you had been asked to describe what they actually looked like, I bet you would have struggled.  Black wrought-iron might well have been as far as you got.  Only able to speculate about the ‘hot works’ underway on the inside that day and acutely aware my days of being ‘locked out of’ the building were coming to an end, my eyes were drawn to the wrought-iron gates.  Having lasted this long, it seemed likely they would now be staying, living on to tell their tale.  I had never looked at them this closely before.  There was a lot of over painting evident up close, but the scroll-work was really very beautiful.  And whose hands would have opened those gates in the past?

Miss Gurney no doubt used this very handle.

I mused on the shapes.  Had the metal deliberately been wrought to resemble ornate ‘question marks’, I wondered.  If so, very prophetic for a building that started life as Newcastle High School in the 1800s, spent most of the 1900s as Newcastle Church High School and was about to become Newcastle High School once again in the 21st Century.  According to Wikipedia, ‘In written English the question mark typically occurs at the end of a sentence, where it replaces the full stop. Period.’  Right at the start, someone clearly knew this school was not in the business of observing full stops.  If trees had only vertical roots, they would be easily toppled when they faced their first storm.  No, growth is all about following Nature’s curves and asking searching questions.  I’m glad this is subtly made evident at the door.

In ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves ..’, Lynne Truss describes the punctus interrogativus of the late 8th century as, “a lightning flash, striking from right to left.” And in our gate. How cool is that?

A question mark plays an important role in a book very close to my heart, adapted by Merchant-Ivory in 1985 – the year I joined Church High and the School’s centenary year – to create one of my all-time favourite films: ‘A Room With A View.’  E.M. Forster’s charming novel was first published in 1908.  A later paperback cover alludes to the novel’s questioning theme by using a line of wrought metal coat hooks to mirror the enigmatic ‘Question Mark’ left in the room.

“By the side of the everlasting Why there is a Yes … “: George Emerson’s Question Mark, left pinned to the wall of the ‘room with a view’, is echoed in the coat hooks by the illustrator of this early Penguin paperback cover.

It is E.M. Forster’s most popular novel containing wonderful words on this thing we call Life: “Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice.”; “Life is a public performance on the violin, in which you must learn the instrument as you go along.”; “… there are shadows because there are hills.”; “…though nothing is damaged, everything is changed.”; “She stopped and leant her elbows against the parapet of the embankment. He did likewise. There is at times a magic in identity of position.”  Is there a pun at work in the phrase ‘identity of position’, I wonder?  Identity and identical are not quite the same thing, of course.  And this is very apt for us right now.  The building may be about to become Newcastle High School for Girls once again, but the truth of Thomas Hardy’s observation ‘The same but not the same’ cannot be avoided.  And, whilst on the subject of allusions, it’s hard to avoid seeing parallels between the contrasting characteristics of George and Cecil in ‘A Room With A View’ and the ethos by which Church High and Central identified themselves.  Lucy says to Cecil: ‘When I think of you it’s always as in a room.’   But when she thinks of George Emerson: ‘The sky, you know, was gold, and the ground all blue.’ 

‘O Mio Babbino Caro’: Oh my beloved Father, when Lucy thinks of George, he is nearly always at one with Nature.

The bending of metal into delicate shapes, much like growing up and finding love, is no easy process, of course.  It involves close contact with white-hot heat and the repeated application of external force.   The forging process is a very skilled art and watching ‘Countryfile’ recently, I learned why a blacksmith’s forge is always kept dark.  It is only in darkness that the craftsman can detect when the metal is at the correct temperature for tempering.  It’s all in the colour of the heat. In human terms, we’re talking high pressure, stress and strain.

Blacksmiths work by heating pieces of wrought iron or steel until the metal becomes soft enough for shaping by hand.

For many people, myself included, this is what the merger felt like.  In some cases the ‘heat’ applied was too much to bear and I don’t blame them for looking to themselves and leaving.  Being forced into a new shape is hard enough, but it causes real stress when the required form feels unnatural, retrograde or both.  But ‘what doesn’t break you makes you stronger.’  Ultimately that was true for me, one of the lucky few who managed to come ‘full circle.’  It has damaged me, but we were a church school.  We know of the ‘Refiner’s Fire:’

10 For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.

11 Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins.

12 Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy [place].

The abundant place: the same iron gates in happier times.

As I left the new wing of the RVI last week following three delightful hours spent on the dermatology acute assessment ward, it was hard not to think of Job in his biblical ash pit scraping at his sores with a potsherd.  It didn’t help that we were in a ‘website wilderness’ either.  The blog had disappeared – as you may have noticed – and we were in the hands of an (incompetent) online Service Desk in Romania.  No comment.  But here we are again.  The story continues.  And as I stopped to take a photo of Armstrong College, framed so impressively in the glass entrance wall of the hospital, I thought of Miss Gurney’s beginnings, her father & his crystals and the fascinating old, old history I will soon be released to relate.  The blog will soon revert to the deep, background history. Yes, the best is yet to come.

Accessing our Archive at The Discovery Museum.

I knew that Church High’s archive was deposited with Tyne & Wear Archives, but it took the merger for me to make my first visit there.  There had been no need to up until that point, in fairness, and, if I’m honest, the prospect of actually getting to them felt a bit daunting.  If you are anything like me, it always feels a lot more comfortable being able to visualise exactly where you are going – as well as exactly what is to be found there.  So, thanks to the kindness of TWA, you can all now browse the entire catalogue up to July 2014 in the comfort of your own home via the website.  Initially, I was just consulting the paper copy of the E.NC17 catalogue, housed in one of the maroon lever-arch files stacked along the Search Room shelves.

Visiting the Archive Collection is free and if you are going to use it more than once, they will happily make you up a Reader Card and allocate you a reader number.  Everyone must sign in at Reception with their number and nothing can be taken into the Search Room other than a pencil and either some paper or a notebook.  You are only allowed to ask for three items at a time and can only have one item at any one time at your reader desk, so it’s not a quick process.  Providing you leave yourself enough time, it is fascinating though.

Once you fill out your request slips (in pencil) and hand them over to one of the Search Room staff, you sit and wait.  I usually spend this time browsing through the catalogue as I’m not good at sitting doing nothing.  However, it’s a lovely old-fashioned room with a distinctive ‘old book’ smell, so it is no hardship just to imbibe the atmosphere.  The reading tables are big because some of the building plans are large.  You don’t have to wear gloves, but the ‘tools of the trade’ of an archive researcher lie all around you: little ‘elephant’ stools for reaching general local interest reference books on high shelves; grey foam triangles and cushions on which to rest the old books while reading; and long, thin weighty plastic ‘snakes’ to hold down pages.

Sometimes you want to do more than make notes, of course, and so a photocopying service is available.  This extends from normal black & white copies to large coloured plan prints.  You have to order the latter and collect them at a later visit – or have them sent out to you.  They aren’t cheap, but the original elevations of the School look fab.  Alternately, you can pay £10.00 up front and take your own photos.  No flash is allowed and neither can you put anything on the floor, which is where those little ‘elephant’ stools can come in very handy.  If you know you will want to work from items at home, this is by far the most economical and helpful way to do research though.  They can also scan images to disk in a digitised form too.

A visit to the Archives is definitely a holiday job, if you work full time like me. The Search Room is only open to the public from Tuesday to Friday and between 10.00am and 4.00pm. I recommend it though – not least of all because the building was also designed by Oliver & Leeson (now Oliver, Lesson and Wood) 10 years after Church High.  Perhaps the little photo-story below, which I created with a future post in mind the day I picked up some of the archival material to be digitised for the NHSG website, might be your incentive for a visit.

There are obvious similarities between the architectural design of The Discovery Museum (built as the Co-op distribution warehouse) and the original Newcastle High building.
When you enter the Museum, signage to Tyne & Wear Archives is straight ahead of you.
Once you’ve walked the whole length of Turbinia, turn left.
Through the doorway ahead of you, the Archives signage is clear – both on the wall to your left and on the floor below.

Turn left and you’ll see a ship in a glass case ahead (above), then when you turn right a display board on the wall (below).

Immediately to your left is the first of two entrance doors to the Museum’s archive area.
A marvellous corridor lies ahead with the 2nd door at its end.

Through the door to your left you will see the Enquiries desk. Mark was processing search requests on the day I took these photos.
Immediately to your right is the Search Room. My favourite spot is the table at the very back in front of the window.
With the big window behind you, the light is ideal at this table for viewing larger archival items, such as Oliver & Leeson’s 1888 plan for Newcastle High School’s North Elevation.

In addition to a wide-ranging, comprehensively-catalogued collection of printed materials dating from c 1890 to 2014, the archive also contains a large number of fascinating photographs, press cuttings and architectural plans charting the history of the School from the earliest days of Newcastle High School right up to the final year of Church High.  Sadly, no photographs of the construction of the original building exist, but you may be interested to know that our archive does contain photocopies of all references to the School in the Church Schools’ Company’s minutes.  This record of day-to-day correspondence between Newcastle and the company’s Council in London isn’t the easiest of reads owing to the age of the photocopies and a range of different hands, but it contains some fascinating insights.  The page referring to GDST’s first attempt to buy the Tankerville Terrace site in particular.  From these minutes, we can see it was agreed that the representative of GPDST who made the overture was to be told that “the Council had no intention of abandoning their School at Newcastle on Tyne.” Indeed, just a little while later in 1902 the Company were soon advertising for a new Headmistress to further establish Newcastle High School for Girls.  The successful candidate would be Miss Gurney.  Thrilling to see first-hand.

From the Church School Company’s Minutes (T&W Archives)


on Tankerville Terrace Reflecting on the old as we welcome in the new. A celebration of those who helped shape the building.