Although the intention is to maintain as many of the old building’s original interior structural features as possible, in order to ensure optimum circulation and movement around the new site, the modernisation process means that some familiar and much-loved features will be lost. One of these, very sadly from a personal point of view, is the beautiful wooden staircase situated at the north end of school starting just outside the door of the Headmistress’ Office.
Its highly-polished, hand-turned, dark-wood bannisters and spindles, smoothed by the touch of thousands of hands over the years, always spoke to me of a building with a living past and a strong sense of continuity and tradition. Indeed, I met my best friend and long-serving colleague half-way up those very stairs.
During my visits to photograph the demolition of the Junior School, I got talking to one of Tolent’s workforce who had already fallen in love with the beauty of our building. As we watched the wrecking machines levelling the 1970s building and speculated on the new state-of-the-art building it was making way for, Mark commented that the ‘real jewel’ was actually the old building standing behind us.
Having explained my connection with the building , Mark asked me to wait as he thought he might have something that would interest me. He disappeared into the main building and returned moments later with something in his hand. Despite its musty, dusty condition, I immediately recognised it, by its familiar dark green cover, as an old edition of the Church High School Magazine. How appropriate!
He then took me inside to see where it had been found and it transpired that as holes were being punched into walls during investigations into the condition of the old building’s infrastructure, within the boxed-in base of the main staircase a small stash of 1930s magazines had been discovered. Clearly this must have once been used as a storage area and the few remaining contents over-looked.
When I opened the front cover in search of the exact date however, my smile of genuine thanks deepened into a very wry smile. The magazine was dated 1934-35 and recorded the events of the School’s Jubilee year. The opening words of the Editorial were ‘Annus Mirabilis’ and reading on it was hard to resist coming to the conclusion that, by throwing up this particular copy of the magazine now, the building was not unaware of what was happening to it.
The Editorial went on to speak of ‘a second beginning’: ‘There had been that paragraph in the local Press at our inception – “Negotiations are in progress to commence a High School for Girls in Newcastle …… Whether there is an absolute need of such a school …… is another matter”.