Church High’s Last Roses Stand Tall As A New Era Dawns, 19th August 2016

When I visited Tankerville on the afternoon of August 18th, one of the last shots I captured through the fence was the main entrance.    The red roses still standing tall to the right of the door had caught my eye.  Now that the hoardings had been removed, the garden in front of the building was revealed for the first time in a very long while.  This area of the site had acted as a workers’ thoroughfare.  Wooden sleepers had been laid across the grass and, as Giuseppe’s photo below shows, the damage to the garden was beyond repair.

Behind the hoardings, what had once been the front garden had become a sorry sight.

This area would be replanted in time, of course, but, in keeping with the modern feel of the refurbishment, in a more minimalist style: grasses, ferns and that kind of thing.  No more roses anymore.  I know I’ve used this image before, but as the new era was drawing nigh, forgive me for re-reminding you of the frontage at its prime.

newcastle high school for girlsI am very fond of roses.  I’ve never been much good at growing them – they need too much time and care – but my Nana and Grandad Chapman were.  I do remember some things they told me as a little girl.  I know rose bush suckers are a bad thing and have to be removed because they suck the majority of the nutrients necessary for good growth.  This only happens with cultivated grafted roses apparently, not the older types.  I wonder if there is an equivalent for a grafted school?  From childhood experience, I also learned that roses were lovely to look at but could be painful to pick.  Have you read Colleen McCullogh’s novel ‘The Thorn Birds’?  It was a blockbuster TV mini series a couple of years before I came to Church High.  Roses were a key motif in this tale of love and pain: ‘There’s one thing you’ve forgotten about your precious roses …. they’ve got nasty hooky thorns!’

The key scene from ABC’s 1983 TV series of ‘The Thorn Birds’ starring Richard Chamberlain: ‘But he that dares not grasp the thorn/Should never crave the rose.’ (Anne Bronte)

The book’s title relates to a Celtic legend, the premise being that ‘the best is only bought at the cost of great pain.’  The inference is biblical, of course.  When something hurts me badly, I do try to remember this.  The thing about life is that we don’t get the full picture as we live it.  We feel the ebb and flow of emotions, but can’t see the end result.  When I saw Giuseppe’s images of the old building interiors nearing completion on August 19th, I felt just such a mix of joy and sadness.  Happiness at the prospect of returning ‘home’ again soon, but the changes to spaces like the Hall caused – and still do cause – me pain.

A new era for the Church High Arts & Crafts beamed School Hall as a Common-room with Deli-bar is about to begin.

I know those of you who have now spent time in the refurbished building will be familiar with its new 21st Century interiors, but for the benefit of those further afield, Giuseppe can guide you through.  Inside the buildings in the week of the 19th, the deli kitchen had been constructed at the south end of the Hall and work was now underway on the stage area at the north end.  You may remember the stage had been extended into an arc at its west-facing point?  As in the plan below, the raised seating area was now being created.

Safety rails for the raised seating area of the new 6th Form Common Room were now in the process of being installed.

The same joinery firm who worked on the stage extension also created bespoke stairs for the room created under the eaves in the original NHS building’s south gable, most recently used as an office.

These bespoke steps and the joinery work on the staging are Giuseppe’s favourite modern additions to the Old building.

As staff, we had already seen the large interactive screens that were planned for every classroom in the school as a trial one had been in situ within the Brandling Campus for the last year.  Ordering these screens was the very last thing Steven Farrell did as IT Manager for NHSG before the management decided to restructure ICT Support.

Each screen is mounted within a Learning Wall. The doors of the cupboards either side of the screen serve as whiteboards.  Every classroom has been designed to exactly the same specification, whether it be situated in the New or Old building.

Learning Wall being installed in Room 18 of the Old building.
A fully-installed New building Learning Wall.

Giuseppe’s uploaded photos also made it clear that inside the New building the Science Labs and the Main Hall were all now complete.

A second floor Laboratory looking out onto the Roof Terrace.
The south-facing first floor corridor overlooking the Hall.
The retractable tiered seating has now been fitted in the Hall.

At Noon on August 15th, Giuseppe captured a shot through the old Staffroom side window of a large removal van pulling up outside the Old building Main Entrance.  The first batch of furniture had arrived.

The first delivery of furniture arrives on site.

Its load was clearly a big consignment of work table frames.  Above, stacked in the 6th Form Library, below in old Room 8.

The white (of course!) flat-pack furniture for the staff offices had also arrived. This office is destined for the Languages and Digital Literacy Faculty, aka the old Physics Prep Room.

Although virtually everything is white now (never, ever a favourite colour of mine, sadly), it IS still the same old building beneath it all.  And readers of this blog understand this more clearly than anyone.  While visitors to the Sixth Form Library on the top floor of the Old building will notice a strangely-configured, white desk-table-cum-cabinet structure, you will all know that, underneath that laminate casing, still lie the rough-hewn wooden bell-tower support beams.

Some things just plain refuse to ‘go-away’. The initial plan was to remove the vertical timbers discovered when the partition walls of the rooms under the eaves were torn down – until they turned out to be structural. None of the renovators knew the building once had a bell-tower. The idea was to use them as a desk.

After reading this post, you will also now know that – apart from the original stage which is still under the Common Room seating area – there is one very small area of the Old building which has been left as it was, totally unchanged.  How great is that!  It may be tiny and extremely hard to get into, but a part of Old Church High really has been enshrined forever, deep within the newly-renovated building.  If you move aside one of the portable white bookcases at the north end of the Sixth Form Library, where a small set of stairs used to be, very low down in the white wall behind it you will see a tiny little door.  Readers of Neil Gaiman’s ‘Coraline’ will know all about the parallel worlds that can lie behind such tiny, lockable doors in a wall.

The magic little door to the Old Church High.

Yes, a portion of the old roof-space with the only remaining king post truss is there even now, hidden away admittedly but still there for posterity.  A more imaginative architect might have considered putting a glass wall in place just there, but sadly that was not to be.

I loved this little eaves room in the Old building’s north gable roofline. Wouldn’t it have been glorious to have been able to admire it still through a modern glass partition wall?

I always try to look on the bright side of things and consider it a blessing of sorts that this little space at least has been kept intact.  I had guessed as much from my site visits, of course, but having it confirmed by Giuseppe, almost as a little photo-story, was lovely.  I didn’t need any more gifts after that, but it appeared Giuseppe had one more little present for me. You may recall his penchant for passing on any little archeo-finds the workforce came across.  Well, when I noticed two very unexpected images appear in his uploads, I kind of guessed what might next be finding its way eventually to me.

In the New Era, ‘Someone to watch over me’?

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