‘When God Closes A Door, He Opens A Window’: New Build Ivy, 21st May 2016

On May 18th, as you already know, I spent a long while visiting all levels of the old building.  Conal offered to take me into the new build after that, but, despite having no teaching commitments on Wednesday afternoons, I said I had better head back to school.  I took some shots of the trees against the copper panels in the sunlight before I left, though.  It was just as well.  I was never to get that close to the new building again until the day we moved back in.

The Cherry Tree in full-bloom behind its tree protection fencing.
Cherry Tree in full-bloom behind its tree protection fencing.

As the NHSG project page on the EWA website makes clear, the site renovation scheme has been carefully designed to fit within the Tankerville Conservation area setting and has received praise from both  English Heritage and Newcastle Conservation Advisory Panel.  The new build’s glass and copper panels in particular are designed to complement the trees on site: the metal panels resembling tree trunks as they darken over time and the glass reflecting the leaves.

newcastle high school for girls
The glass panels reflect the trees on site in a marvellous way.

My intention was to return on Saturday morning when I’d have more time to spare and the site would be less busy.  It was the roof garden on floor two of the new build I wanted to check up on.  But that never happened, of course.  I phoned Peter from the Metro to tell him I was on my way, only to be met by a very long pause.  Had I not got the message, he asked?  “What message?” I replied.  The message that no staff were to be allowed on site from now on.  “And that includes Christine too,” Wates had been told by Hilary.  Peter thought they were pulling his leg at first.  But that wasn’t the case.  They couldn’t understand why.  Thank goodness I had Giuseppe.  As the saying goes ‘When the Lord closes a door; somewhere he opens a window.’  That’s from ‘The Sound of Music’ not the Bible, by the way.

The shadowy Giuseppe on the roof terrace on Friday 20th.
The shadowy Giuseppe was luckily photographing the roof terrace on Friday 20th May.

I’d been curious to see how the living roof was coming along ever since I’d seen the sedum blanket delivered on its pallets on May 11th.  Thanks to Giuseppe’s photos, not only can I show you what it looked like when finally laid, we can get a sense of the process too.  As the many living roof websites explain, sedum can be grown on a light blanket or on a substrate.  In our case, it seems to be the latter.

The pallets had by now all been lifted onto the roof by crane.
The pallets were all now lifted onto the roof.
A brick/shale substrate was laid down.
Brick/shale substrate was laid down next in a contained area.
Close-up, the wire base of the matting can be seen.
Close-up, the matting’s wire base can be seen.

From Giuseppe’s photos, we can see that aluminium green roof edges, connectors and corners were used to retain the aggregate substrate and that slits in the structure are there to allow drainage.  Also that our roof is made up of long lengths of mat edge to edge.

Aluminium green roof edges allow drainage.
Aluminium roof edging allows drainage to occur. The sedum blankets will grow together.

39-20th-may-2016-10-sedum-blanketBoth from a distance and close-up, the finished roof looks superb.

From the side, it is rather reminiscent of luscious turf and from a distance it gives real character to the flat roof.
From the side, it is rather reminiscent of luscious red turf and from a distance it gives real character to the large flat roof.

39-20th-may-2016-1From the photograph above, you can see that the large aluminium planters ended up being positioned along the north and west edges of the sedum – the sides which run parallel to the outer edges of the new build’s roof-top.  From Giuseppe’s photos taken on May 21st, one can get an idea of how the roof-terrace could look in the future.

The large aluminium planters now hold greenery.
The aluminium planters now hold greenery.

Looking at the contents close-up, one cannot help but smile.  As I’ve  said, ‘When God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.’  The verdant greenery which has just been planted, and which will no doubt eventually cascade down over the edge, is not just ‘greenery’.

it's not just any old greenery in the planters.
It’s not just any old greenery in those planters.

No, if you look very closely, you can see that it’s most definitely IVY!

An ivy curtain to replace the ivy cross.
An ivy curtain could soon replace the ivy cross.

If you attended the Church High Alumnae Reunion on Saturday 24th, you will have seen the video I made charting the history of Newcastle High School from Jesmond Road in 1889 to the return to Tankerville in 2016.  Displayed very large on the video wall in the new build Dining Hall – which is made up of no fewer than nine 47″ digital television screens – the changing forms of the Tankerville site held the eye rather like a kaleidoscope.  One of the last images I chose was the roof terrace in early September – all bright sunlight and rich jewel colours.  Nature is still at the heart of Tankerville.

Newcastle High School girls on the roof terrace in September.
Newcastle High School girls on the roof terrace in September.


Eaves Study Mark II: Old Building Second Floor Update with Conal Stamp, 18th May 2016

newcastle church high school

When I joined Church High in 1985, one of the rooms I was most proudly shown on my tour of the school was the Sixth Form Study at the top of Tankerville House.  I remember it being a contemplative space under the eaves with light flooding in through large dormer windows.  Directly opposite the main school, Tankerville was bought to house the Junior School in 1927.  On the opening of the modern Junior School, it was altered and completely modernised for Sixth Form usage in 1977.  As I approached the main building top floor via the original south staircase on May 18th, it struck me that, once again, a Sixth Form study space in the roof eaves was destined to become one of the show spaces of the Tankerville Terrace site.  The top floor which housed Church High’s administrative offices for many years is now transforming into the NHSG Sixth Form Library.

newcastle church high school
The original features of the south stairs have been retained.

newcastle church high schoolOn May 18th, the south approach to the top floor still looked more than a little unpromising, but for me it was nice to see that after almost two years the banisters were still green and walls pale blue.

Even now, walls are still blue and wood green.
Even now, walls are still blue and wood green.

The first door to the left at the top of the south stairs I know as the Marketing Office, though in the last years of Church High it also housed the Head of Pastoral Care, the SEN Co-ordinator and the Director of Studies.  In NHSG, it is to be a 6th Form Tutorial Room.

The western south-gable eaves room looking east.
The west south-gable eaves room on May 18th, looking east.

I remember this room being created, probably somewhere around 2008.  It was the last bit of the roof to be converted into offices.  The east room, latterly the office of David Cocallis, IT Technician & Systems Manager, was created circa 1988 when GCSEs replaced GCE ‘O’Levels in order to provide a secure storage area for coursework.  Both south-gable eaves offices were created by lowering the ceilings of the rooms below.  In this case, Maths Room 8, a room which began its life as a Science Lab in 1890 hence the little roof ventilator – an original feature I intend to explain more fully in a future post.

On May 18th, the painters were at work applying the ubiquitous white emulsion. The hatch in the ceiling Just behind the painter's right arm, is actually the original Victorian fresh-air ventilation shaft.
Painter at work in Room 26 applying ubiquitous white emulsion. The open hatch in the ceiling behind the man’s right arm is the original Victorian fresh-air ventilation shaft (below).

boyle's ventilator newcastle upon tyne church high school

The original Victorian roof ventilator above Room 8.
The old Victorian north gable roof ventilator on May 18th.

Originally converted to house the caretaker in the 1950s and then turned into administrative offices in the eaves, the long roof-space will now serve as the 6th Form Library at NHSG.  Now fully painted, the feel of this space had altered quite a lot since I was last up there.

The newly-painted eaves space taken from Alison Roe's room.
The newly-painted eaves roof space looking south to north.

The load-bearing wooden bell-tower support beams were still in their original state that day, but there was now evidence that carpentry work was in the process of being carried out around the base.

newcastle high school for girls Church high school
These wonderful old oak beams will remain in situ, though not in their rough original state.

The main change was all the electrical wiring.  Not only was the new lighting system in place, but the roof space also now appeared to be fully cabled out with Cat6 to allow digital internet access.  This room will also undoubtedly become a hub of wi-fi activity at NHSG.

Blue Cat6 cabling denotes this will be a key IT access point in the eaves.
Blue Cat6 cabling denotes this will be a key IT access point.

The old office dormer windows are now to be window study seats.

The access points indicate the window bays will house study couches.
Access points show the window bays will house study seats.

Although the windowed east-eaves will be utilised in the new design, as they were at Church High, it looks like the west-eaves won’t be.  The Church High IT storage space looked like it was in the process of being sealed off.  Indeed, a stud wall was already in place across the entrance to the north-gable eaves, where the hatch on the very top landing used to be.  The only existing main building roof trusses, which used to make the Church High Server room so quirky and atmospheric, are to be walled off in the new design.  Whilst this will protect them, a glass panelled wall would have been fabulous.

The west eaves are being insulated (above)and the north gable eaves room is now being sealed off (below).
The long space in the west eaves (above) is being insulated and the king posts in the north gable eaves are now almost sealed off (below).

But just as old openings were being closed off, new ones were still appearing.  Clearly, the old building’s new lift shaft had always ‘been there’, but that day its size and shape was becoming really obvious.

The new lift shaft in the infill, positioned just outside Mr Farrell's Office window, looking down onto the first floor landing of the new north staircase.
The new lift shaft in the old building infill, positioned just outside of Mr Farrell’s IT Manager’s Office window, looking down onto the first-floor landing of the infill’s new north staircase.

The IT Manager’s Office – formerly Sickbay – doesn’t exist anymore, but if you ever have cause to wait for the lift on the top floor (should you be lucky enough to have a key for it), then that’s exactly where you will be standing.  The ICT Suite remains, but it is now divided into two separate classrooms; Rooms 30 and 31 are now English rooms.  I eventually realised why the old circular roof-lights were removed.  It wasn’t a maintenance thing after all; there would simply be no point to them anymore because of the new lowered ceilings.

The Old Library/modern ICT Suite has now been converted into two English classrooms: Room 30 (above) and Room 31 (below).
The Old Library/ICT Suite has now been converted into two English classrooms: Room 30 (above) and Room 31 (below).  As with all NHSG’s rooms now, both have lowered ceilings.

ict-suite-2My tour of the Second Floor ended that day at the top of the new north staircase within the glass-fronted infill extension.  Owing to the addition of a large window in the west wall of the second floor landing – in addition to the replacement glass roof-light I have already reported on in an earlier post – there is now a lot of light flooding into this area of the building.  Even though there is now a wall between the stairwell and the infill’s second floor glass-fronted classroom, Giuseppe’s photograph shows this fact really well.

The infill extension's upper storey: stairway, lift-shaft and large window to the left, glass-fronted English classroom to the right.
The infill extension’s upper storey: stairway, lift-shaft and large window (left), glass-fronted English classroom (right).

As I have said, this was the last time I set foot inside either of the buildings before NHSG moved to Tankerville at the end of August.  Because of this, I can’t provide any more slideshow tours like the one which ends this post, but I found other ways to tell the story.  When God closes a door, he always opens a window elsewhere.  Luckily, I’d photographed all the structural changes by then and all that followed internally was just the addition of fixtures and fittings.  If you’re intending to join us for the Church High Alumnae Lunch at 11.00 am on Saturday 24th September, you’ll be able to see the final stage of the redevelopment yourself as you tour both the buildings.  And perhaps that’s the best way.  God’s timings are always perfect.

The First Splash of Teal: Old Building First Floor Update with Conal Stamp, 18th May 2016

Newcastle High School for girls

From Tankerville Terrace, the first floor of the old Church High building certainly looked beautiful in the spring sunshine on May 18th.  Indeed, this shot of the east elevation framed by Tankerville House cherry blossom could be dateless.  It’s a comfort that some things haven’t changed.  Inside the building, the first floor main corridor’s distinctive character has also survived.  However, as Conal led me up the new north staircase that day, I knew that by now there couldn’t fail to be a number of new developments for me to absorb.

Conal approaching the First Floor via the new north staircase.
Conal approaches the First Floor via the new north staircase (above).  A shot of Giuseppe’s shows Wates’ builders at work there (below).

38 18 May 2016 staircaseThe staff study days in the renovated building had an enjoyable twist for me.  Although I had badly wanted to be back at Tankerville, this could only come about by saying goodbye to all the friends I have made at Wates.  At the moment, I have the best of both worlds.  Because there is still a lot of snagging and landscaping to be done, I am now working alongside Giuseppe, Nick, Paul, Ken, Conal and Colin – plus other guys I don’t know by name but who know me.  It’s been lovely having an opportunity to introduce them to my work colleagues, letting them know the contribution each man has made.  I have found myself continually saying ‘thank you’ to them all – and to all the contract cleaners – for all the hard work they’re still doing.  There is no call for a Gateman now though.  I miss Peter Wilson a lot.

Newcastle high school for girls
The RS Room’s (originally the old Newcastle High School Art Room) north-facing outer façade on 18th November 2015.

Do you remember the image above from way back in November?  Well, despite all the changes and the fact this is now an internal wall within the circulation ‘infill’, EWA’s team have really respected the building’s architectural heritage.  When you go up the new north staircase, on the first landing there’s a glorious reminder of where you actually are.  The second window from the left still exists within the plasterwork.  It was clearly necessary to allow light into the new Humanities Faculty Office, but it’s a glorious reference to the ‘past’.

On May 18th, the internal window had been glazed, but plaster had yet to be applied. I found this strangely moving.
On May 18th, the internal window had been glazed, but plaster had yet to be applied. I found this strangely moving.
The window viewed from the stairwell (above) and in reverse from the doorway of old Room 9.
The redbrick-edged internal window viewed from the new stairwell (above) and in reverse from the doorway of old Room 9 (below).

There was still wide open space on the stairs to your left on May 18th.  This would soon become a Humanities room in the ‘infill’.

Newcastle high School for Girls
The First Floor classroom in the ‘infill’ to the left of the stairs.

But I’m guessing you’ll all be most curious about the main corridor.  As I’ve said before, the plan was always to retain the main architectural features of this important area of the Oliver & Leeson building, although each time I approach it, I do rather tend to hold my breath.  That day was no exception, but other than sporting new white walls – a colour which has been liberally splashed about the old building to create a light and airy modern feel – it was still there.  At this time, the Cat 6 Ethernet cabling was being installed in the corridor ceiling.  NHSG will have state-of-the-art Wi-Fi access in all areas.

Newcastle Church High_Newcastle High School for Girls
The first floor main corridor really doesn’t look very different – just a lot more white.  However, there’s plenty of sky blue cabling overhead.


For a while now, the guys had been saying I had to see the sample room.  I’d thought they meant where samples of new fittings were kept and was a little bemused why locating the key was a problem.  What they had meant, of course, was the ‘Sample Room.’  In new housing terms, the ‘Show Home.’  The penny finally dropped that day when I looked through the locked glass door of old Room 3.  I may have still had a dark green Hall door behind me, but before me a spanking new NHSG ‘hi-tech’ classroom was starting to take shape.  The relevance of the key was now clear.  No dirty feet on the carpet.

Old white wooden door: new white emulsion interior.
Old white wooden door: new white interior.


The colour-palette throughout will now be white with gun-metal grey feature walls and dark charcoal-grey carpets.
The colour-palette throughout NHSG will now be white with gun-metal grey feature walls and dark charcoal-grey carpets.

My teaching room will be in the renovated old building.  You don’t know how happy that made me when I finally realised this fact.  It couldn’t be a better room for me either – a composite of parts of the old  Social Staffroom, the ‘Photocopying Room’ and Staff Workroom.  On May 18th, it was a long way off the Sample Room, but the sight of those green trees through the windows lifted my heart.

My new classroom as it appeared on May 18th.
My new classroom was still a work in progress on May 18th.

At the other end of the corridor, over the last couple of days Wates had been re-instating the door-surround.  As you can see, the original fan-lights have now gone.  Oddly, it took me months to realise this and that the entire area around the existing doors had been removed.  I guess it’s something to do with modern fire standards.

New fire-doors will soon be installed at the north end of the corridor.
New fire-doors being created at the north end of the corridor.


I’m leaving the story of the Hall – the space most integral to the history of the building, to a later post – or two.  But I will say here, though I didn’t know it at the time, that May 18th was to be the last time I got to go in there until we moved back into the building again.  It was also the last opportunity I got to enjoy the Richard Leeson Arts & Crafts hammer-beam roof in the full glory of its natural wood.  Perhaps it was better that way.  Last ‘goodbyes’ can be hard.

The last view of the Hall beams in their natural state.
My last photograph of the Hall beams in their natural state.

As the image above shows, the renovation of the Hall involves an extension of the staging and the addition of modern vertical radiators where the two entrance doors used to be.  The stage will now be a raised seating area in the Sixth Form Common Room.  By May 18th, painters were already at work transforming the space.  The wooden panelling has been painted white for many years now.  No, the new development that day was the first splashes of teal appearing.

newcastle high school for girls church high school hall
A little teal island has recently appeared in the sea of white.

When I had my ‘colours’ done by Colour Me Beautiful – we put on an event for the girls at Church High a good many years ago now – the technician noted down on my colour wallet that I was ‘A teal girl!’  (I’m a ‘warm-spring’ if you’re into that type of thing.)  I’ve always liked teal and the colour teal apparently ‘likes’ me.  The girls also seemed drawn to it at the NHSG Brand Meetings which were held at the offices of Drummond Central on Jesmond Road, just next-door to the original premises of the first Newcastle High School for girls.

newcastle high school for girls
Church High Sixth Form, Drummond Central.
newcastle high school for girls church high school
Church High Lower School and Sixth Form girls are drawn to the teal-grey combination in separate meetings in 2013.

newcastle high school for girls church high school

Teal is a medium-saturated, blue-green colour.  Wikipedia states it can be created by mixing blue with green into a white base,  deepened as needed with a little bit of black or grey.  This interests me.  It beautifully melds the brand colours of our past and present.  In some religious orders, teal also symbolises the relationship between Heaven (blue) and Earth (green).  As you will know, the most commonly used areas of this colour palette are teal blue and teal green.  If you enlarge the image below of sample painted panels of the Hall door or look very closely, you will notice two shades of teal.

newcastle high school for girls
Which shade of teal paint would you choose? 3060B20G Gloss applied to the left panel or 4040B20G to the right?

Is it just me, or do you think Giuseppe may have selected teal green?

newcastle high school for girls

Enjoy your tour of the first floor yourself now:

Old Building Ground Floor Update with Conal Stamp, 18th May 2016

Newcastle High School for GirlsI didn’t know it at the time, but Wednesday 18th May was to be the last time I was allowed access to the Tankerville site by School.  Don’t worry, this change of circumstances didn’t hinder the blog in the end, though I admit to being a bit worried there for a while.  It was already evident that day that work within the old building had stepped up a notch and that through my camera lens I was starting to see more of the building as it would soon be rather than as it was.  My Wates’ guide for this last tour was the ever helpful Conal Stamp.

newcastle high school for girls
Conal Stamp, photographed at handover time.

It’s strange reporting back on this stage in the build now bearing in mind I unpacked my crates in the building on Tuesday 28th August and have already had two Staff Study Days on the Tankerville site.  Admittedly, we are still in the company of a lot of my Wates friends, but we are in there nonetheless!  And it feels so great to be back too.  As with previous site tours, I will guide you through the main progress points floor by floor and end each post with a slideshow.

newcastle high school for girls
Entering through the old green Church High doors for the first time since August 2014.

The most memorable part of this tour for me was being able to walk into the main building through the green front door once again.  This was how I had ended up talking to the man who was cutting back the ivy.  Through the doorway, the emphasis on wiring and piping work was clear and I got a first-hand feel of the opened up reception area.

newcastle high school for girls
The reception area will be much more open-plan than before.

As I have already said, the new LRC will be a much smaller room.  The mezzanine levels have been removed and it’s now possible to walk through this space into the back courtyard without having to negotiate any stairs.  A lot of character has been lost in the process in my opinion, but disabled access will be easier.  I was able to walk straight though myself that day as Wates’ Peter Bell and a colleague were busy working on the brickwork surround of the big back door.

Work is now underway on the LRC courtyard door.
Work is underway on the LRC courtyard door.

Newcastle High school courtyardWork on all doorways was clearly now in progress because to my right the Science Block side entrance looked very different indeed.

The building plaque is still in place, but the Science Block side entrance has been temporarily removed.
The building’s date plaque is still in place at this point, although the Science Block glass side entrance has been temporarily removed.

Inside the Science Block, things were also starting to look very different.  The end Chemistry Lab was now being used as a sort of workshop and the Chemistry Prep Room was well on the way to becoming the new Head of Year Office, soon to be my future home.

The end Chemistry Lab is in 'workshop mode' at present but the Prep Room is now nearly transformed.
The end Chemistry Lab is in ‘workshop mode’ at present but the Prep Room is nearly transformed into the HOY Office.

Head of Year OfficeToilet facilities for the girls are still in the same place, by the main building side entrance, but the layout has changed.  There are fewer cubicles, all facing east and a disabled toilet fills the remaining space.

The washbasins in the girls' toilets now line the east wall.
The washbasins in the girls’ toilets will now line the east wall.

When you revisit the old building, one of the things you will find most strange is that the Large and Small Dining Halls have been divided up into lots of smaller office spaces.  This area is darker now.

The Dining Hall has been divided up by stud walls.
The Dining Hall has been divided up by stud walls into offices.

At the north end of the bottom corridor, a weird hole seemed to have appeared.  It took a while to realise I was actually looking down into the Boiler Room.  I remarked to Conal that, other than the roof, this was the only area of the building I had never visited and, much to my delight, he said it was now possible for him to take me there.  The old boiler had been removed by then, the floor re-laid and walls newly white-washed.  New equipment was already being installed.

Looking down into the Boiler Room.
Looking down into the Boiler Room from the bottom corridor.
From outside the building, I enter the Boiler Room at last.
From outside, I enter the Boiler Room at last.
The walls are newly white-washed and the new heating system is just starting to be installed.
The Boiler Room is newly white-washed and installation of the new central heating system now appears to be underway.

Church High Boiler RoomTo get to the Boiler Room, Conal had taken me out of the building through the new side door – previously the top part of the bin-store.  Above our heads ran a complex network of insulated heating pipes.

A network of heating pipes near the new side door.
A maze of heating pipes by the new side door.

My final port-of-call on the Ground Floor that day was to the new infill extension.  This is the view from the NHSG Headmistress’ Office.

The new Head's Office looks out onto the Pupil Plaza between the two buildings.
The new Head’s Office in the infill extension is glass-fronted and looks out onto the Pupil Plaza between the two buildings.