Changing Light: Extending the Old Girl and Roof Top Alterations, 13th April 2016

Newcastle Church High School

Light is the only thing we can see.  Rays of light disturbed by the properties of surfaces.   The image we perceive is the end product of every ray hitting our retina at that one moment.  The rays have come from different directions, travelled different distances and may have reflected off many objects before hitting our eye.  Just as the view through my old classroom windows is now altered, in the old Church High building, the way light falls inside is being changed.  Because of this, to quote Thomas Hardy, things are ‘the same, but not the same.’ 

New light source: the new glass-fronted extension to the old build.
The new north elevation now has a glass-fronted extension.

To extend is the act of creating more time, space, or length.  The extension the part added to something to enlarge or prolong it.  The Newcastle High School building has changed in this way numerous times over the years (in the 1920s, 30s, 50s, 70s, 80s, 90s and either side of the Millennium).  Old light sources closed up: new ones being opened.  Its interior an ever-changing chiaroscuro of light and dark.

On the top corridor, the north gable attic room is being closed off once again.
On the very top corridor, the beamed north gable attic room is being closed off once again.

The new glass-fronted circulation extension will clearly allow the entry of a lot of light.  Yet, despite this, some rooms will now be darker.  Today old Room 9 is completely ‘light-locked’ and the west elevation of the 1930s north end extension has totally disappeared.  The building’s footprint has not altered.  This extension is all ‘in-fill’.

Three elevations of the Church High old building have now been deprived of light.
The centre section of the Church High Main Building north elevation in 2014 contained only fire-escapes and fresh air.

Newcastle Church High School

This is in no way a criticism of the remodelling of the building in this area; it’s a clever use of space and the views from the Headmistress’ Office and the two newly-created classrooms will be spectacular.

The new extension as of 13th April 2016.
The new circulation extension as it was on 13th April 2016.
Peter Wilson standing in the Ground Floor Head's Office.
Peter Wilson standing in the Ground Floor Head’s Office.
First Floor classroom: Room 17, History.
The First Floor classroom, Room 17, will be a History room.
The Second Floor classroom, Room 29, will be used for English.
The Second Floor classroom, Room 29, will be for English.

The new structure was really ‘coming on’ when I visited the site on Wednesday 13th August.  I arrived at a time when Peter was free and because of this I gained an unexpected ‘mini’ tour.  Once again Peter said, “Where do you want to go, Madam?” and once again I said, “Old building.”  The new extension was just right for the time.  I was really pleased with the photos I took that day, but, thanks to Giuseppe, I can now supplement them from different perspectives.  And as I’ve said before, Giuseppe gets to places Christine cannot go.

Ground Floor of the extension (
The Ground Floor of the new extension & new door (
Second Floor of new extension from New Build (
The Second Floor of new extension from New Build (
New Newcastle High roofline from New Build (
The new Newcastle High roofline from the New Build (
The new extension roof from the Old Build north extension roof (
New extension roof from Old Build north extension (

I’ve always loved skylights.  Open ones have been used in architecture since Roman times and the glazed variety since the Industrial Revolution.  Because of this, my favourite room in the Church High building was the ICT Suite (formerly the Library) where daylight flooded in from four angles.  The circular skylights ‘made’ the room.

Sunny, bright & airy: the top-lit Church High ICT Suite.
Sunny & bright: Church High top-lit ICT Suite.

Once again yesterday someone new to the building said to me how much the building had been ‘lightened’ by the white walls.  I always smile politely.  It depends what you mean by ‘light’, I guess.  I’ve never thought of the Church High building as dark and white walls always seem to make rooms flat and two-dimensional to me.  On my tour today, when I realised the ‘port-holes’ in the old ICT Suite ceiling were being blocked up, I couldn’t believe it.  There must be a reason for it, but the divided room is now a shadow of its former self.

My 'port-holes' are all blocked up now.
My ‘port-holes’ are sadly all blocked up now.
Without top-lighting, Room 30, will now be an English room.
Without top-lighting, Room 30, will now be an English room.

Thanks to Giuseppe again, I got to see what was happening above us that day.  I think a new flat roof will son be laid and the modernised teaching rooms will all have suspended ceilings, but it’s still a shame.  The building brief is that there should be no difference at all between a teaching room in the new or old building – in any way.  But we can’t escape ‘The same but not the same’ here too it seems to me.

As I've just said, "All very, very strange."
Lost for words for a change: “All very strange.”
No, not the moon: the north extension roof (
No, not the moon surface: the north extension roof (

Do you remember the vent for the Hall delivered to the site recently?  Although I didn’t visit the main corridor on April 13th, allows me to show you that they are now installed.

The vents in place in the Hall from both inside and out.
Vents in place in the Hall – from both inside and out (

Newcastle High Hall roof vents 2The new staircase is being boarded out at the moment.  As it’s totally enclosed, the stairwell will always require electric lighting, I think.

Met the owner of the plastering company again today on the stairs.
Met the owner of the plastering company again today. Pictured with Peter on the stairs.
The lift shaft is also in the new circulation area.
The lift shaft is also situated in the new circulation area.

As the video slideshow at the end of this post will show, there was a lot of activity on the very top corridor today.  The lovely, evocative eaves room has now been boarded off completely, presumably for posterity, and the last of the dormer window units were being fitted.

The new windows certainly look good from the inside.
The new window units certainly look good from the inside.

It was unusual to see what looked like a painting and decorating table in place where two guys were focussed on a piece of metal.

Lead for the roof gulleys being shaped.
Lead for the front roof gullies being shaped.

Always curious, I asked what they were doing.  I’ve learned a lot that way.  They directed me to the open window behind them.  Looking out it was instructive to see the lead being fitted in the roof gullies.

The newly-leaded roof gulley to the left ( and the work still to be done to the right.
The newly-leaded roof gulley to the left (  The work still to do to the right.

Newcastle High School roof

This area under the eaves is destined to be the Sixth Form Library.  It’s going to be one of the nicest remodelled places in the building.  On the floor plan below, this is the area coloured blue.  The old eaves space has been left white, as has the new staircase and circulation space.  The converted ICT Suite and new classroom are in peach.

The top floor of the old Church High building.
The new look top floor of the old Church High building.
The ground floor of the new extension.
The new north side door & ground floor of the new extension.
The first floor of the new extension and converted staff room space.
First floor of the new extension & new Deputy Head’s Room.

I’m hoping that adding some floor plans will make orientation in the slideshow tour a little easier – especially as a lot of this is new space.  I basically start at the new north side entrance, briefly photograph around me in the old Dining Hall area and then head for the stairs.  It won’t take long before the new glass extension seems like it’s always been there.  For now, it certainly shows the ‘Old Girl’ in a new light.

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