Trying my Luck at Tankerville & Moving On, 27th August 2016

As you already know, the day after Handover I had decided to ‘try my luck at Tankerville’ around 11.00 am on the morning of Saturday, August 27th.  So we begin here where my last post left off ‘ ….. those bright red Braines removal vans really did not have very far to travel’. 

The dark green doors of Home (sadly the worse for wear now).

Moving Out.  Moving In.  Moving Out.  Moving In.  Moving On.  These five short sentences, made up of only 42 letters, don’t even take up a full line of text here, but they sum up the world around me since July 2014.  I wish I could say just my ‘working world’, but, sadly, that wouldn’t be true.  I also wish I could say that all of the friends who set out on this bumpy, unexpected journey with me lasted for the full five sentences too.  But they didn’t.  Although the rice-pudding did eventually all turn pink (forgive the in-joke), events conspired along the way to issue hands of fate to various folk which prevented them from making the ‘full-circle.’  And, to be honest, I’m not sure even I fully managed it.  Best to add on ‘trying’ in brackets, I think.

  ‘Please don’t get me started
Looking backwards to move on …..’

Zero to Hero: second time around, Quicksilver were heroes!

‘…. Strong yet open-hearted,
Accept leaving when leaving’s come’.


At the time, of course, in the August sunshine after such a long wait, all I could think of was getting back inside the building again.  Don’t forget, even I hadn’t been allowed inside for a long while and this moment of returning Home had been a long time in coming.  So, on this final leg of the cycle, orange crates were ‘good’ and Quicksilver were ‘heroes.’  Although this hadn’t been the case first time around.  However, true to my word, I remained one 100% uninterested in fixtures and fittings and the word/image content of this post will reflect this fact.  I was more interested in what still looked the same.  Every spot of greenish hue was noted. (The doors were just a bonus).

If I must, a few fixtures & fittings (and spots).

Well …… the old green doors were open and everyone seemed to be all smiles, so I just made my way inside and continued my photo-story.  As I wandered around the building, it soon became clear just how well-timed my arrival was (Thank You, God).  Enough of the furniture was there to give a sense of place, but without the clutter of crates and boxes to distract the eye.  Because of this, the video slideshow at the very end of this post really is one for posterity.  It seems nobody else thought of doing it.  Where were all the people?  Finally, as I wandered along the top corridor, I bumped into a man.  I thought it best to explain who I was.  “I know who you are,” he said.  I wonder how many times he’d seen this mad woman and her camera.

Strangers, they say, are just friends we haven’t yet met. Well this stranger turned out to be called Ian Meikle (who I never met again) and his role in this story was as a heating engineer.

I have always been very much against literary ‘feature-spotting’ simply for the sake of it (as my English examination students will all testify), but since we have finally come full-circle again, let’s play one last game of ‘Church High Eye Spy’ – just for the hell of it.  Since we all now know that the 1985 School Centenary Plaque was taken down and binned very late in the game, Item 1 is just a blank space.

“I spy with my little eye …” no 1985 Centenary Plaque in the Quadrangle anymore.

So let’s just move swiftly on …..  Item 2 is also in the back Quadrangle but you will have to look at the shot below very, very closely indeed.  Yep, despite the multi-million refit of the building, the little weather station which last drew data in the late 1990s is still spinning away.

I spy Item 2: Can you spot the Church High weather station high on the roof? (Top right)

From way up high, to way down low.  You probably didn’t notice them as you entered and left the Hall, but there were ‘Smith’s Spring’ brass plates at the base of each swing door.  The original fittings are all still there and have even been polished now.  For those who are interested in such things, these Smith’s Patent Door Springs would have been one of the state-of-the-art features of the 1889 original Newcastle High School building.  Fascinating.  Archibold Smith seemingly had numerous inventions patented to his name in the Victorian era including Patent Water-tight Fastenings for Casement Windows.  Like the floor springs, all made in London.

I spy Item 3: original Victorian brass spring plate still in place.

Item 4 (in the plural) is also still in the Hall.  To me, there doesn’t seem to have been a clear rationale about the original features retained and those that were removed.  If we can just gloss over for a moment the fact that huge swathes of original woodwork were painted bright white – bar the Honours Boards now safe in storage – and the big Victorian iron coiled radiators trashed, features such as the air vent in the ceiling and the little display brackets still remain.

Beautifully painted, the display brackets along the west wall are still there now – if empty.  And in more purposeful times below, displaying trophies over original radiators and polished parquet floor (Don’t get me stated on that flooring …)

No, a renovation that fails to value the quality of old wood, I’m afraid doesn’t value beautiful old Victorian parquet flooring either.  True, wood blocks require sanding and polishing as regular upkeep, but not THAT regularly.  And they just exude quality and tradition.  That’s the expert view too.  Jasper Weldon on timber floors: “Much like a piece of antique furniture, once wooden floors reach a certain age they all have an inherent beauty and value that merits investing the time and effort it takes to revive them.  A floor that has passed the age of 100 years is certainly worth saving, whatever the wood.”  And they were everywhere.  If it is too painful, I’d advise you skip the next photo.

The strip-out of the Hall wooden parquet flooring in 2015.

But life is all roundabouts and swings, remember.  It may help a bit to know the original stage IS still there under the new raised platform.

Note the original low circular stage still beneath the platform.

Just outside the Hall in old Room 2, the Victorian fire-surround has also been left in place.  But why cover it up again?  The tiles are teal.

Metal fire-surround remains – good! Beautiful Victorian teal tiles covered up again – bad!
The fire-place in Room 2 was teal & the one in Room 6 brown.

But we at least know they are still there and, most importantly, have been preserved for the future.  As have the huge, old roof timbers which used to support the bell-tower and are now tightly enclosed within a shiny white laminate coating to create a kind of study bar.

1889 bell-tower supports translated into 2016 study area.

The caretaker’s fireplace is still there too, though now painted grey.

The Caretaker’s Living Room fire, now grey.

And the top floor eaves admin corridor is also still there too, you know, as long as you stand to the left, cover one eye and squint.

Optical illusion? Once an eaves corridor, always an eaves corridor – it helps to squint.

Someone, somewhere in the future is in for a big surprise though.  That glorious little piece of original eaves space which remains intact behind a white plasterboard wall with a discreet little door is soon to be hidden from view behind a non-descript white bookcase.  I say it one last time.  How good would a glass wall have looked here?

I think this shot sums the whole thing up perfectly actually.

I mean, it’s not as if it hasn’t been done elsewhere in the building.

This little nod to the old ‘outside’ inside is cool.

And that is the point where my uninterrupted re-acquaintance with the Old Girl came to an end.  A very abrupt end actually the moment I opened the door at the south end of the eaves space.  I hadn’t really been aware of it, but I now realised there was a backdrop of noise.  Bangs.  Grunts.  Men.  Yes, those fixtures and fittings were arriving.

On the other side of the door: ‘O brave new world / That has such people in’t!” (The Tempest. V.i.184) & things get stuck!

Having put up with me photographing their dilemma (one of them was the smiley guy, I think), the men all suddenly disappeared and I ducked under the offending table to make my way down the stairs.  The original south stairs have been retained, but with the addition of some raised white rubber strips to the edge of each step (GDST are very big on health & safety) which now makes them odd to walk down.  And they are now painted grey and white too.  As I continued down, the degree to which the ‘new world’ was about to descend on the building became clear.  A veritable traffic jam of tables below.

The calm before the storm on the south stairs.

‘When tables come, they come not single spies, but in battalions ……!’ [Hamlet, IV,V].
This was definitely my cue to go.  I had already bumped into Hilary on the stairs and had given her my best sheepish smile.  The men had gone to report to ‘the top’ – and probably for a screwdriver too.  In the blink of an eye, I was through the green doors and into the light.

But the world had changed outside in the time I had been exploring.  The guys from Braines with their red lorry were just the vanguard.  Lining up by the side door was the next phalanx of silence invaders.

The guys from Quicksilver, on their way in as I came out, were happy to pose for a photo. Next in?  All the Eskdale crates.

As this little army got to work with their trollies, Tankerville Terrace was now lined with big white lorries.  NHSG would very soon be in residence and the Old Girl would be empty no more.  A sort of mental handover now took place.  It was time for me to be on my way.

‘Walking down this road
When my pulse beats slow,
Hope to have you close at hand.
When this cycle ends,
Will it start again?
Will we recognize old friends?

‘I’m on my way,
Soon be moving on my way,
Leave a little light on,
Leave a little light on’.

Emptying Eskdale at Last, Spoons & High Times Blog Analytics 2-year Update, 27th August 2016 (1)

Knowing that Handover was due to happen on Friday 26th August, where do you think I ended up late morning on Saturday 27th then?  Well I used my ‘noggin’, took a chance and it paid off.  If you’ve been following this story all the way, you now may well be of the opinion that, if not exactly mad, I have certainly been ‘very dedicated’ to the task I set myself way back in 2015.  Perhaps ridiculously so, I know.  In all honesty, on April 20th nearly two and a half years ago, when I realised demolition of Church High Junior School had already begun and decided to take my camera to work the next day to get some pictures for posterity, I had no idea where it would lead.  All I knew was I had loved my time at Church High.  Really, really loved it.  And as I had served as magazine Editor, I had always taken photos of the key events each year.  It just became a habit, I guess. Two phrases come strongly to mind here and I swear by both of them: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ and ‘If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.’  I also firmly and truly believe that Truth Conquers All.

A sterling silver Newcastle High School spoon. Such lovely engraved detail. A great eBay find.

In addition to depositing a lot of artefacts detailing the last year of Church High with Tyne & Wear Archives, I’ve also become a bit of an archivist myself since the summer of 2014.  Sometimes you don’t appreciate things – and I mean the real value of things – until you have lost them.  EBay has provided me with quite a few objects which will become the subject of historical posts when the building full-circle has been fully recorded.  Despite the pain and sadness along the way, it has been quite a story, you know.  Moves and transitions on this scale haven’t happened to that many schools.  When I joined Church High, and for a good many years after that, engraved silver spoons were traditionally the Governors’ Gift to departing staff.  The presentations were always made in the Dining Hall at a Governors’ Tea Party all staff were ‘invited’ to attend after the End of Term Service at St. George’s.  I say invited, but it was always a three-line-whip job.  I remember a number of long-serving staff saying just before they left, ‘And I do NOT want to be given spoons!’  I wonder if any regret this now?  I would have loved some, but that tradition had died out long before the end.  Very expensive, I’d guess.  Imagine my joy, therefore, to spot this online.  And it’s a heavy, early one too.

Mrs Janet Cox, wife of Alastair Cox, the Headmaster of RGS at that time, being presented with her leaving gift on retirement by Chairman Mr P.A. Jewitt in July 1994. I don’t see any spoons changing hands here, do you? It was always either a small rectangular box for a single spoon and a square one for a set.  Always wrapped in dark green. (Green walls then too.)

I have always loved history.  I studied it at university as well as English and was a member of the Richard III Society for many years.  Perhaps that’s where I gained my passion for digging for the truth, uncovering white-washes and vindicating lost causes?  Who knows.  But it’s amazing what can be recovered with time, effort and patience.  I learned this as a girl watching Rosemary Cramp’s archaeological dig at St Paul’s Church and Monastery, Jarrow, where my Aunt, Anne Black, was Verger.  Now that is really slow work.  I recall being fascinated by the time-consuming activity of students gently removing soil from between the ribs of an Anglo-Saxon monk’s skeleton. And the tool being used?  Why a teaspoon, of course.

Students at work on Rosemary Cramp’s dig at Jarrow Monastery in 1973-4 (above). I would have been 11 or 12 at the time. Note just how small the metal implement is (below).

They say that ‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’.  So I have an early rise on a Saturday in the hope of getting some shots of the move into Tankerville to thank for the bonus opportunity of recording the emptying of Eskdale that day.  When I turned the corner after leaving Jesmond Metro station, that line of shiny, bright red removal vans was really very hard to miss.

Just as had been said about the furniture from Church High, Hilary had said very little from Eskdale would get into the new school too.  From what I saw the men loading onto the van, it was largely tables.

For a firm of Office Removal Specialists, the name Braines was most apt and raised a wry smile.  Since everyone was on the move all the time, I got no names on this occasion but the driver had a nice smile.

No wonder he’s a friendly guy, the firm is from Sunderland.

One thing is for sure, I’ve made a lot of friends and met some really genuine people in the process of taking photos over the course of this project.  We’ve had some laughs and I have learned a lot.  About architecture, fire-proofing, engineering, joinery – you name it.  But it’s the connecting and the people I’ll remember for the longest.  And that includes the connections made via this blog too.  For who could have guessed how widely it would end up being read?  Or that it would have Twitter followers and a Facebook page of its own too?  By January 27th 2018, the site analytics had been running for two years and again there has been no day blog/website were unviewed.  Thank you everyone and for those who are interested in such things let me share with you the results of High Times’ two-year report.  The first Google screenshot shows the two-year activity Overview. overview for 27th Jan 16 – 27th Jan 18.

Being a bit low at the moment, I hadn’t checked the analytics for some time prior to the anniversary, so the increase in site traffic was very heartening.  It’s good to know that people do still care.  For those who need the data interpreting, the results were as follows: 7,889 sessions (ie, visits to either the blog or Heritage site); 3,907 different users (though to the computer this means devices used); 18,201 pages have been viewed, with the average of 2.31 pages per session.  The average duration of each session is 2 mins 40 seconds.  This is good because it indicates that more people stay on the site to look at something else after their initial page view than just log off.  Since the initial aim was to establish an active Church High online community, the percentage of returning visitors made even better reading: 50.4% returning visitors and 49.69% new visitors.  The fairly even split is also good, of course, because it means that new people are finding their way to the site all the time.  A real boost.  The horizontal squiggly blue line in the top third of the image shows the number of pages viewed each day.  As I have already said, the traffic is constant, averaging about 3-7 hits a day, which isn’t bad at all for a ‘niche’ interest site (or as an online bookseller based in York described it, ‘a real little labour of love, you have got yourself there’).  If you’re curious about the huge spike on the continuum near July 2017, this is when the video ‘Church High Made Us Happy’ was uploaded to the Heritage site.  It still makes people very happy!

The sub-continents where has been viewed.

I don’t believe I reproduced the sub-continent report last time, but it is essentially little-changed.  The site has been accessed on every continent and now only two subcontinents remain with no activity: Central Asia and West Africa.  A bit off the beaten track, I suppose.

The countries where has been viewed. The dark colour, as for sub-continents, shows the density of hits.

As the above image shows, it’s not exactly global domination, but we are getting there!  The site has now been accessed in 70 different countries around the world.  Most of the site traffic comes from the United Kingdom, of course, but I am constantly surprised how the list keeps extending.  The image below shows the top 13 countries for views. Some will be higher owing to 43 views on ‘not set’ devices.

The list of top 13 countries for site views.

Of course, when you view the analytics report for cities (below), you can see that it just takes one hit in one city for a whole country to ‘light up’ on the map.  Nevertheless, I think the total of 608 different cities is still very impressive for a small Newcastle-based school.

The towns, cities and villages where has been viewed. Europe is definitely at the centre of the traffic.

Again, it’s not surprising that the United Kingdom expanding out-over into Northern Europe boasts the highest density of access points, shown by the huge blue circle on this area of the map above.  Beyond that, it is intriguing to muse on who exactly is reading the copy further afield, although in some cases it will be returning visitors on holiday.  The image below shows the top 13 cities for views, this time with 420 visits registered as ‘not set’.  Newcastle is top, of course, but London placed next on the list may surprise some.

The list of top 13 cities for site views.

It just goes to show how big a game-changer the World Wide Web has been in transmitting information and connecting people together.  But back in the present (or at least a year and a half ago in blog time), those bright red Braines removal vans did not have very far to travel.  Indeed, in the time it took me to walk to the top of Eskdale Terrace crossing Clayton Road and Burdon Terrace on the way, the guys had already arrived at Tankerville and were starting to unload the vans’ contents.  In terms of physical distance, this must have been one of the shorter moves this firm would have had to facilitate.

Me playing catch-up: in some ways, I am still doing so now.

However, as everyone concerned well knew by then, the distance between the schools in other areas had not proved as quick or as easy to bridge.  Even now, the lurch of the wrench is still being felt.

And Handover Was Duly Achieved: Homeward Bound, 26th August 2016

My personal record of the Tankerville buildings’ renovation process is now complete, but there was still a small section of time remaining before Handover, when the site was awash with last minute activity.  So, for one last time, Giuseppe’s camera eye can tell that little tale.  Besides, this was now the penultimate full week of the Summer Holiday and, as I would already be going into School the following week to unpack crates and get settled in, I had no desire to be there at all.  In the interim, a great deal was accomplished on site during those last four days.  Inside both of the buildings and also in the grounds.

Groundwork to make the frontage presentable is underway.

In the courtyard at the back of the Old Building, since the paving had been completed long ago, only a washdown with a hose was needed.

However, a lot of work still needed to be done to the large paved area between the Old and New Buildings, the so-called Pupil Plaza.  Giuseppe shows us there were no paving stones in place there at all, even at this late stage, and the bike stand was only just being fitted.

The Pupil Plaza will clearly not be in place for Handover Day.

From Wednesday 24th, Northumbrian Roadworks Ltd. had been very much in evidence on site, various machines working at full-throttle laying down tarmac for the Carpark – which is in the same place it used to be – and for the base of the all-weather sports pitch.

A Northumbrian Roadworks grit dropping lorry and a huge steamroller are just two of the vehicles working on the Carpark on the afternoon of the 24th. It must have been noisy!
The tarmac base for the all-weather pitch has already been laid and the area had been re-fenced with new, more robust metal mesh. The meshing didn’t used to be a bright, shiny green, so this was a huge – and unexpected – improvement.

As you already know, the application of the New Building’s bronze cladding turned out to be an extremely long and drawn out affair, but I was still surprised to see there were still small sections being put in place during the very last week of the job – on the underside of the entrance over-hang.  I think the sourcing of this high-cost, high-quality metalwork played a part here.  Finished, it looked great.

The cladding looks dazzling in the sunlight.

Inside, the wooden ceiling of the Dining Hall was very nearly complete and was looking wonderful.  This whole re-fit process has involved an awful lot of give-and-take.  In this instance, a lot of wood having been removed from the Old Building in the strip-out stage, as we know too well, I wasn’t expecting so much of it in the new build.

The wooden slatted Dining Hall ceiling is nearly complete (above) and it is now time to clean all those floor tiles (below).

Once all the flooring was clean, it was time for the furniture to be put in place.  If you’ve got keen eyes, you may have spotted that the sofas and material-covered, circular teal and grey stools for the informal seating area to the left of the entrance door were already stacked up in one corner.  For a big, big lorry was already at the door.

A long line of bright, white vans and a huge furniture lorry looks very impressive against a glorious blue summer sky.

I am always in awe of the fitness of removal men.  The things they have to carry are often very, very heavy and, however well-designed buildings may be, one doubts an architect takes into consideration the demands of moving fixtures and furniture in and out when they design their building.  No doubt stairs will be an occupational hazard wherever these guys work, but at NHSG there was a lot of glass too!

Although the New Building’s green-tinged glass stairways look lovely, they must have been tricky for the men moving the furniture.

The new school was designed to include what the architects called ‘break-out areas’ throughout.  This is the reason why what most people would consider the key feature of a school, library study spaces, are smaller than they were.  The seating purchased for these areas features built-in mobile device plug-in ports in the arms.  In the Old Building, there’s an area like this outside the Head’s Room.

The sofas for outside the Head’s Room had arrived. Sharp eyes may spot a purple chair propping open the door to the administration area (the far end of the Church High Dining Room) which was not there by the time School re-opened!
It isn’t put in place yet, but the Staff Room now has furniture.

Each of these break-out areas also has its own information monitor.  Church High folk will remember there was eventually a veto on self-posting of notices on the walls of the building.  A rule which was always broken with abandon when Year 11 and Year 13 left, it has to be said.  In the new NHSG, there are not even noticeboards in public areas.  It’s a Wi-Fi age and notices for clubs, etc will show on screens.

All the information display monitors were now also in place.

The New Building was clearly starting to come-together and the combination of its design and modern furniture was impressive.

The new build is a big space.  The scale may surprise some and the corridors are very long.

At this time, the building was still littered with bits of white paper.  This is how Wates communicated the work that still needed doing.

The readiness of both buildings ultimately depended on a small army of cleaning staff who worked steadfastly behind the scenes.  Anyone who has ever moved house, never mind having building work done, will know just how much dust and detritus is generated.  Where does it all come from?  With a renovation on this scale, it shouldn’t surprise folk to hear that the cleaners were with us for quite a while.

The cleaning force were NiC Services Group.

Back outside once again, everything was being made spick and span.  Machinery was loaded up onto lorries for the very last time, the pavement was swilled clean, the perimeter fencing buffed to a shine, the exterior planted areas all tidied up and the new signage erected.

Once Peter the Gateman’s domain, the old Junior School entrance to the Tankerville site is now virtually unrecognisable.  I will always miss the natural climbing greenery, but when you and I look at the little boundary wall, we know its little tale of perseverance. Up, down, up, down – but ultimately still there!

Outside the Old Building, the frontage was being given back what estate agents refer to as ‘kerb appeal’.  The bin store beneath my old desk may still be a bin store, but it now sported new wooden gates.

A teal-handed person clearly closed the gates!

And the big hole in the original privet hedge was a big hole no more.

Perhaps just a ‘privet-screen’ at the moment, but Nature will have her way.  It will all meld together, eventually.  Most things in life do.

However unlikely it may have seemed at times, Wates did get their Handover to GDST on that afternoon of August 26th, 2016.  Which meant that, finally, the remaining Church High staff and I would be completing a hard-won full circle as we moved back into Tankerville.

The Handover is Complete: After a photo-call in the new Hall, Wates’ Alan Andrews and Nick White present Hilary French with a beautifully-crafted wooden presentation casket, which now has pride of place in the NHSG entrance foyer.  Inside is a bronze plaque, a booklet detailing the re-fit and also the original Newcastle High/Church High School front-door key.

Whilst on the subject of full circles, it seems fitting to end this post in exactly the same way.  Can you recall the opening image at all?  Well, behind those two men in hard hats, the front door is still very green!

Wake Up Time & Sleeping Beauty’s Roses, One Year On, 22nd August 2016 (3)

Jasper Rees’ Daily Telegraph Online review of BBC2’s new TV series ‘A House Through Time’ begins with the comment, Telling human history through a pile of bricks and mortar is not a new idea. Julie Myerson’s book ‘Home’, which told of the previous occupants of her house in Clapham, was published in 2004′.  If you missed Episodes 1 & 2 of this fascinating series, I’d highly recommend catching up with them on BBC iPlayer.  I wasn’t aware of Ms Myerson’s book when the desire to start digging beyond the redbrick walls of Church High took hold of me, but I’m sure it’s a good read.  The people who lived before us – walking the same floor, doing exactly the same things – are never very far away from my mind.  I recall being enthralled by a BBC programme called ‘The Millennium Oak’ based on the fact that an English Oak can live for a thousand years.  This 1999 BBC natural history documentary invited us to imagine the tale an oak tree might tell of the changes it has witnessed and the dramas that unfolded around it.  The programme gave me the idea for a creative writing task with my Lower Fourth English class at Church High that year – Majorie Whinfield’s ‘Hadrian’s Wall: A Dramatic Monlogue’ featured in the Millennium magazine – so it’s no surprise it triggered a blog .  In August 2016, we can only guess the reverberations in the old walls as the last elements of the refit fell into place.  ‘Here we go again?’

The old, familiar red-brick walls on August 22nd were now preparing to become Newcastle High School for girls- again!

Giuseppe was now taking far fewer Clerk of Works photographs, as you’d expect with the job nearing completion, but those he did take still provide an insight into the state of the Old Building at the start of Handover Week.  It was mainly finishing touches left to do, but the following shots do show just how ‘close-to-the-wire’ things were at this stage of the game.  To use a theatrical term, this ‘get-in’ would not be the smoothest.  A couple of the images in this post do date from a slightly earlier period of the re-fit, but, as those areas haven’t been focused on before, I’m including them at this stage of the tale.  Here’s a reminder of Church High Reception as it was after packing up in 2014, when our Admin Staff left the building for the last time.

Lynda Lant, Church High’s Senior Science Technician, signing out on July 11th, 2014.
I always thought the Church High entrance had a very tasteful, modern colour scheme.
Inside the School Office, Peter Keen, Church High’s Bursar, writes down the forwarding phone number for Eskdale as IT Manager Steven Farrell, Bursar’s Assistant Brenda Cavagnah and Site Manager Gentian Qeku say Goodbye to Lynda.
Church High’s IT Team, Steven Farrell and David Cocallis, waiting for the Reception desktop computer to shutdown for the very last time. Together, over the coming weeks, these two would have to remove all the IT equipment from Church High, reinstall what was being retained at Eskdale and merge the databases & information systems of both schools into one. It took them the entire holiday, but this unenviable task was duly completed in time for the start of NHSG in September.
Lesley Ferguson’s smile will be missed by all.

In 2016, just over two years later, this is how Reception now looked.

Church High’s pale wood and glass vestibule doors have been replaced by full glass.  Like the previous doors, this is keypad operated.

The whole entrance area of the Old Building has been opened up.

The new NHS entrance & reception area has an open plan configuration. The School Office is now based in the room most recently used by the Head Mistress at Church High.
The Reception desk has a seahorse engraved in the wood.

The Office of the original Newcastle High School was a very much smaller affair.  When I joined Church High, this tiny room to the left was known as the Waiting Room.  As you can see from the detail of Oliver & Leeson’s plan of the 1899 building’s Ground Floor below, the room which has now been demolished was originally conceived as the Head Mistress’ Room.  Then called the Lady Superintendent.

Detail of Oliver & Leeson’s 1889 plan for Newcastle High School, showing original positions of Office and Head Mistress’ Room [Image used courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives].
The Lady Superintendent’s Room at Newcastle High as it was in 1910 when Miss Gurney was Head Mistress. Doesn’t it look glorious? [Image used courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives].
Although it is has been retained as the Main Entrance, the old front door is no longer at the heart of the school – where a Head’s room really needs to be.  The centre of the Church High Junior and Senior School sites is now the newly-created circulation extension, which is where the NHSG’s Head Mistress’ Office has been positioned with one wall entirely of glass looking out onto the big beech tree in the grounds.  At the fitting out stage, Giuseppe’s uploads included shots of both work in progress here and the architect’s design proposal.

Architect’s drawings for the west wall of the Head Mistress’ Office (above) and the east wall (below).

At the time of photographing, as the images below clearly show, things weren’t ‘quite there’ yet, but it was all made ready in time.

There will be little privacy for NHSG’s present and future Head Mistresses, but, to counter-balance this, the room’s outlook is sublime.

Hilary French converses in the new Head Mistress’ Room.

The new Head Mistress’ Room is still entered via the same corridor as it was in 2014 though – just a little further along it and to the left this time and not the right.  The easiest way to orientate you if you knew Church High School is to imagine you are queuing up at the Dining Hall door and then when you are let in, you turn immediately to your left.  I have manned that lunch queue many a time, of course.

The Church High Dining Room.  Yes, the one you were never allowed to leave by! But nobody cared on School’s very, very last day.

Where the staircase used to be on that corridor, there is now a lift doorway, of course.  Times change, but I miss all the old dark wood.

Although still awaiting a handle and its locking mechanism, the doorway to the new lift.

There was clearly a lot of touching up still needing to be done to the grey paint on the walls of this main thoroughfare, even this late on.

Even when we were moved in, scuffing, etc, to corridor walls continued to be a problem.

Giuseppe’s photos also show us there was an awful lot of time and effort going into carpet protection here and throughout the school.

In the new-look, one-level LRC, library flat-packs were being built upon a sea of plastic.

Above in the Hall, now the Sixth Form Common Room, things were further ahead.  The carpet was uncovered and the new wood shiny.

The ‘No Entry’ sign on the now teal Hall doors was now serving a very different purpose.
You can see here why Giuseppe thought the custom-built steps up to the old stage were his favourite modern addition to the Old Building. And we know that both the old and also the original stage are still there underneath.

But I wasn’t aware of any of this, of course, as I turned my back on the Old Building that sunny afternoon.  My attention had turned to seeking out and photographing those Church High roses – one last time, one year on.  Tankerville House was literally basking in the sun.

The Main Building may soon have been about to wake up to change, but, across the road, Tankerville House was still a closed-off time capsule. On that day, a true Sleeping Beauty.

Connal Stamp saw me and crossed the road to say ‘Goodbye.’  We knew by then that some Wates’ staff would remain in Westward House for a while to oversee the settling in process, but young, trainee staff like Connal and Amy were moving on to other jobs.  However much I wanted to move back into Tankerville, this was still a sadness.  They had become like friends to me over the last year.  And Conal did have one last act of friendship to deliver that day.  He had come to tell me about one last ‘archeo-toy’ find that Amy was holding for me.  It turned out Hilary had taken it for me by then.  When I opened the envelope in her excite presence, I think she was more than a little non-plussed by that little blue plastic policeman!

Wates’ trainee Conal Stamp poses for a ‘goodbye’ photo in particularly nifty footwear!

I took the following photograph with a romantic notion of showing the same roses, one year later on in time, encroaching even further across the dark green door.  Nature taking hold again.  Princess Briar Rose.  Aware there was a poem entitled ‘The Last Rose of Summer’.

Sleeping Beauty’s Briar Roses: One Year On.

But I hadn’t reckoned on what I noticed as I was preparing this post.  The passage of time doesn’t always go hand in hand with progress.  And, of course, you need care, attention and nourishment if something is to grow.  Instead of a profusion of briars, maybe a little thinner but growing ever wilder, Tankerville’s garden is in decline.

Summer 2015, above: Summer 2016, below.

‘Tis the last rose of summer,
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
Or give sigh for sigh’.


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