Whichever end of Tankerville Terrace you approach it from, the pace of progress on the new build site is clear for all to see. As I’ve said before though, renovation work behind the brick façade of the old Church High main building is much harder to fathom. If you’re planning a heist, having ‘someone on the inside’ is invaluable. And where I’d be now without Wates’ help doesn’t bear thinking about.
For my first site tour, I’d been invited to join the official inspection party. Although a fantastic opportunity, the only snag was I was just a ‘tagger-on’ and delays meant the tour lasted only 25 minutes. For someone like me who wanted to soak it all in, this meant I ended up missing out completely on the top floor of the building. However, six weeks – & many new friends – later Wates were the game-changers.
Aware the interior of the main building was changing all the time, one of the Wates team, Conal Stamp, kindly offered to give me a main building tour after my lunchtime photos on February 24th. His timing was ‘spot-on’ for me because, once inside, it was clear things had moved on fast and it was a very good time to visit the top floor too. Conal took me all around the building and, most importantly, allowed me to photograph new additions and old features newly exposed at my own pace. This allowed an invaluable record of this amazing building at a pivotal point in its renovation: with its new layout now in place yet still stripped back to its original features; largely uncluttered by new building materials and also in bright sunshine.
I took over 150 photographs that afternoon which have now been linked together at the end of this post to re-create the feeling of an eight minute walk around the regenerating old Church High building. It’s important to let you see things for yourself, I think. However I do intend to focus on the area of greatest change, the top corridor, in the next few posts. But for now, the rest of today’s post will point out for you the most note-worthy things I saw that day.
My tour this time began at the back of the building, entering through the glass door at the very back of the modern 1998 Barbour Wing. Walking past the Home Economics room to the left, it was clear that the main activity on site at the moment was plumbing. Apparently, modern building regulations require all pipework to run over-head not under the floor, so travelling along all the corridor ceilings was a complex, weirdly-beautiful network of bright copper piping.
Through the glass of both modern extensions at the back of the building, the quadrangle presented as a maze of scaffolding poles.
The new extension is still without its glass at the moment, but it’s clear the new classrooms on the first and second floors are going to both have a fantastic view of the upper branches of the oldest tree.
I don’t know what was most exciting at this point of my tour – the fact I was now looking at something I had only previously seen from outside or that I was actually walking down the new concrete stairs!
But it was the old that took my eye as much as the new on this occasion. I knew from six weeks ago that the distinctive glass-panelled doors of the first floor classrooms were being retained, which was really good news as they give the main corridor such character. What I hadn’t expected was the fact that, despite the last room on the left of this corridor (most recently Maths Room 7) being destined to contain a toilet now, the original corner fire-place uncovered during the site-enabling works will definitely be worked into the new room design. It’s going to be a lovely quirky feature.
Walking up the only remaining original flight of stairs to the south of the building, I noted the full form of the funny little semi-circular fanlight at floor level was now exposed in a very beautiful manner.
The brickwork arch now exposed above it made me question the purpose of this odd little feature of the south stairs more closely than I had ever previously done. It was only when I got home and looked at exterior shots of the side doorway that the whole window structure became clear to me. Discoveries like this are fascinating.
On the top floor, I knew the administrative offices had all been knocked through, but the exposed rafters and beams now made it clear these rooms really had been cut into the eaves – and quite literally so as a later conversation with a joiner would make clear. When the dormer windows were put in, it seems the king posts were all just cut out. This building has undergone radical change before.
Having said that, even this knowledge didn’t prepare me for the fact that at the far end of the top corridor not only was Steven Farrell’s IT Manager’s Office – formerly the old School Sickbay – no longer there in any form any more , that whole area also now had no roof!
The radical changes to the top corridor layout deserve – and will receive, as I have said – more detailed explanation, but now I invite you to join me on a full tour of the building with Conal as our guide.