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.
The 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.
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’.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Is it just me, or do you think Giuseppe may have selected teal green?
Enjoy your tour of the first floor yourself now: