Wednesday 16th December was the last day of the Autumn Term at Newcastle High School for Girls, the day both starting and ending at St Georges’ Church, Jesmond where the School Carol Service was held. In recent years, the Church High Carol Service had been celebrated here too, though for many years it was held in the United Reformed Church next door on Tankerville Terrace, with hot mince pies provided in the Senior School Dining Room afterwards for all.
Walking down Tankerville from St George’s via the railway bridge in crisp sunshine post-service, I arrived at the site from the opposite direction to usual and was presented with a disorientating surprise. The site access seemed nearer than it should have been and, when I arrived there, looked very different: a second site access had been created at the far end of the staff car park alongside the Sports Hall. I later learned this had been in place for two months, unbeknownst to me; it certainly offered a different perspective on the new build.
There were new workmen on site today and the gentleman pictured below had already been bowled over by the architecture within the old building so we hit it off from the start. Knowing that last week just a small area of floor was left to be laid under the new build, I had expected my attention to be focused there first today. Instead my eyes were immediately drawn to the big red crane now positioned in the area of the new extension with a shiny stack of grey metal nearby. The first load of steel for the new extension had now arrived and work was clearly underway on the construction of the main frame.
This modern extension to the old building will not only be glass-fronted, it will also house the relocated north staircase following the demolition of the old wooden stairs by Thompsons earlier in the year. Plans on display in the Entrance Hall of Wates’ Site Office in Westward House show the position of this new flight of stairs. Photographs of site work reproduced alongside also include an image (bottom left) of the site of the original stairs post demolition.
The final work on the new build floor was at an interesting stage too. True, the last section of concrete had not yet been laid, but by arriving on site today I was able to see up close through the lens of my camera the metal caging now all in place waiting to receive it.
Leaving the site to make my way back down to Eskdale, I looked for a bin to discard the Starbucks coffee cup bought on Acorn Road, which had previously been warming both my hands and my insides. The nearest one was behind Tankerville House and on crossing the road I realised that, despite working in these buildings for 29 years, I hadn’t ever looked at the Sixth Form block from this angle before.
This building once housed Church High Junior School before the modern Junior School was built on adjoining Orphanage Gardens land. It made me smile to see the Modern Foreign Languages Department’s satellite dish still in place, marking them as the last inhabitants of 1, Haldane Terrace which adjoined Tankerville House. However, my attention was quickly drawn to a ramshackle pile of old wood just beyond the gate which must have lain there exposed to the elements for the last year and a half. Sad yet also amazing. As I mused on this, I suddenly realised I had a fair idea what it was.
I have always had a love for old wood; it was once a living thing and when worn and misshapen by age, it is always fascinating to wonder how many bodies have touched it over the years to make it that way.