Arriving at the site gates today, the structure had a different feel somehow. It wasn’t just the break in the clouds, it looked complete. And so it proved when I talked to Peter once inside the compound. The last corner of the steel frame, where the entrance to the new building will be, was now all intact. It looked huge from the ground.
All that was now left to do at ground level was to finish off the final section of concrete flooring, the rest having been laid last week.
I also learned from Peter that Thompsons, the demolition and dismantling contractor, had finally left the old building. This meant that ‘construction’ work was now able to progress inside. Luckily for me, one of the very kind and helpful Wates’ workmen offered to take my camera into the building again, only for a short while, but long enough to show how the work was progressing on the ground floor. It’s safe to say that his offer, an early Christmas gift, ‘made my day’.
A few weeks ago, one of the Thompsons’ workers had told me I would still be able to find my way fairly easily around the old building. Most rooms, even if their usage was changing, remained in the same places, he said; it would be largely a case of some doorways and windows not being where they used to be and others being opened up elsewhere. The first picture taken showed this to be true.
As he walked into the old building across the new extension foundations, the next shot the worker took shows the old Large and Small Dining Rooms with plaster stripped right back to the brickwork.
The scaffolding working tower just visible at the centre of the previous picture is being used by two workmen in the process of affixing new plasterboard to the ceiling of the Large Dining Hall.
The next image the worker took for me, of the Entrance Hallway looking towards the Main Door, was obviously taken from in front of the Learning Resources Centre. Once again this area has all been stripped back to the brick and rafters; the grey breeze blocks to the right indicate where the door to the Meeting Room used to be. The wood and glass Entrance Lobby doors, which were operated by a touchpad door-code system, have now both clearly been removed. It was a joy to see the semi-circular window-light still in situ though.
The workman, on his way towards the front door, had clearly turned to his left and photographed what would until recently have been every visitor’s point-of-view when they entered the old building: Reception to their right with the Senior School Office behind it. In this shot, the doorway into the Head Mistress’ Office can also be seen, with its doorway out onto the bottom corridor to the left of it.
The workman had then clearly gone through the open front door and turned back towards the LRC. In this shot it is possible to see through to where a window has been temporarily removed to allow site access via the rear courtyard to this inner area of the building.
As we know, the biggest changes within the old building will be in the LRC. A decision has been made to raise the floor so that the room will be all the same level when the building becomes NHSG. In order for this to happen, concrete columns are in the process of being created in order to support the newly-raised flooring. The idea is to create a light, clear view from new Reception right through to the courtyard beyond, but I will still miss the dynamic sense of energy that the mezzanine levels and sweeping staircases created.
The LRC, of course, once used to be the old School Gymnasium, the first purpose-built gymnasium in the city indeed. Old Girls and ex-staff will remember there was a raised platform at one end of the room and one had to descend a small flight of stairs to enter it whichever doorway you used. The doorway leading out onto the Science corridor and locker rooms used to have a yellow curtain across it to keep out draughts. Countless girls doing exams in that space will remember hearing the clinking noise of the brass curtain rings as it was pulled aside by invigilating staff as they entered and left the room at the end of each session. In the present renovation process, now that the glass-fronted Careers Room has been dismantled, this doorway has once again been opened up. It seems that in the new LRC this old doorway may have a new life as a window.
My worker was now making his way back out of the building again, taking a fascinating shot before he left it from the Dining Hall area looking out across the foundations of the new extension; this area until very recently used to be a single-storey kitchen space. The area of the building visible beyond used to be the kitchen storage and refrigeration areas; this will become the new ICT Room.
The final shot, taken from the very back of the new extension foundations, shows how the two buildings, old and new, will closely align.