Alan Younger’s photographs were particularly interesting because they documented the work in hand beyond the ground floor of the old Church High building. Any qualms I may have had about the survival of the most distinctive architectural features were quelled. It is hard to put into words just how happy – and also how relieved – I felt when the first few shots of the first floor main corridor began to take shape in front of my eyes and things appeared largely familiar.
It took a few seconds for me to re-orientate myself looking at the shots Alan had taken of both ends of the main corridor. Presumably in an attempt to open up space and facilitate movement around the building, I now realised that both sets of swing doors onto the Hall corridor had been removed; so it seemed some of the old, highly distinctive, Church High woodwork had actually ‘gone the journey!’
I have always known these doors as fire-doors and it is true that manoeuvring through them at busy change-of-lesson times could be problematic, especially at the north end of the corridor where a further door set at right angles led off to the Art & Technology wing.
And the north end did look different. With the removal of the old wooden staircase, the stairwell & landings have now been levelled out. This does make sense and will now make circulation much more streamlined in this area. The plans show that new fire doors will be installed, but this time much nearer to what was the old Staff Room.
The area of the building which was once ‘out-of-bounds’ to pupils and designated Staff Only has clearly also undergone quite a bit of change. This north-east corner of the first floor used to house the Social Staff Room, the Working Staff Room (which was actually teaching Room 1 when I first arrived at the school), a tiny circulation corridor and the Ladies’ toilets. Now this area and the passageway in front of it have been knocked through to create one large space.
According to the plans, in this north-east corner of the first floor a small corridor will still remain allowing access to the new lift from this level. The lift shaft would be accessible somewhere to your left if you were standing on the small stairwell landing leading along to the Staff Room. This area will be remembered by all. How many pupils must have stood there and rung that loud bell over the years, just as girls did hoping for staff signatures on the very last day?
The north-east area will now mostly be taken up by two classrooms – both with beautiful views, it has to be said. One of the three Deputy Head’s Offices is to be situated at the end of the new circulation corridor, where the light, leafy fire-escape-door-corner of the Social Staff Room used to be. In recent years, this was one of my favourite places to sit on sunny, summer days, but, before that, this prime position was home to ‘Damaris’, the cheese plant, where she thrived.