New Building Steel Frame Is Now Complete: Thompsons Leave Old Building & Work Begins, 9th December 2015


Arriving at the site gates today, the structure had a different feel somehow.  It wasn’t just the break in the clouds, it looked complete.  And so it proved when I talked to Peter once inside the compound.  The last corner of the steel frame, where the entrance to the new building will be, was now all intact.  It looked huge from the ground.

The last corner where the entrance will be is now complete.
The last corner where the entrance will be is now complete.

All that was now left to do at ground level was to finish off the final section of concrete flooring, the rest having been laid last week.

Under the structure, the last bit of floor still needs to be laid.
Under the structure, the last bit of floor still needs to be laid.

I also learned from Peter that Thompsons, the demolition and dismantling contractor, had finally left the old building.  This meant that ‘construction’ work was now able to progress inside.  Luckily for me, one of the very kind and helpful Wates’ workmen offered to take my camera into the building again, only for a short while, but long enough to show how the work was progressing on the ground floor.  It’s safe to say that his offer, an early Christmas gift, ‘made my day’.

A few weeks ago, one of the Thompsons’ workers had told me I would still be able to find my way fairly easily around the old building.  Most rooms, even if their usage was changing, remained in the same places, he said; it would be largely a case of some doorways and windows not being where they used to be and others being opened up elsewhere.  The first picture taken showed this to be true.

Newly blocked up doorways in the kitchen/ Dining Hall area

As he walked into the old building across the new extension foundations, the next shot the worker took shows the old Large and Small Dining Rooms with plaster stripped right back to the brickwork.

Looking towards the Large and Small Dining Rooms from the kitchen area.
The old Large & Small Dining Rooms from the kitchen area.

The scaffolding working tower just visible at the centre of the previous picture is being used by two workmen in the process of affixing new plasterboard to the ceiling of the Large Dining Hall.

Plasterboard is now being nailed to the ceilings.
Plasterboard now being nailed to the ceilings of both rooms.

The next image the worker took for me, of the Entrance Hallway looking towards the Main Door, was obviously taken from in front of the Learning Resources Centre.  Once again this area has all been stripped back to the brick and rafters; the grey breeze blocks to the right indicate where the door to the Meeting Room used to be.  The wood and glass Entrance Lobby doors, which were operated by a touchpad door-code system, have now both clearly been removed.  It was a joy to see the semi-circular window-light still in situ though.

Main entrance hallway looking towards the front door.
Entrance Hall looking towards front door.

The workman, on his way towards the front door, had clearly turned to his left and photographed what would until recently have been every visitor’s point-of-view when they entered the old building: Reception to their right with the Senior School Office behind it.  In this shot, the doorway into the Head Mistress’ Office can also be seen, with its doorway out onto the bottom corridor to the left of it.

Looking through Reception into the old School Office and the Headmistress' Office beyond that.
From the hallway looking towards Reception into the old Senior School Office and Headmistress’ Office beyond that.

The workman had then clearly gone through the open front door and turned back towards the LRC.  In this shot it is possible to see through to where a window has been temporarily removed to allow site access via the rear courtyard to this inner area of the building.

Main Front Door looking towards the LRC.
Main Front Door looking towards the LRC.

As we know, the biggest changes within the old building will be in the LRC.  A decision has been made to raise the floor so that the room will be all the same level when the building becomes NHSG.  In order for this to happen, concrete columns are in the process of being created in order to support the newly-raised flooring.  The idea is to create a light, clear view from new Reception right through to the courtyard beyond, but I will still miss the dynamic sense of energy that the mezzanine levels and sweeping staircases created.

Central view of LRC onto the back courtyard.
Centre view of the LRC onto back courtyard.

The LRC, of course, once used to be the old School Gymnasium, the first purpose-built gymnasium in the city indeed.  Old Girls and ex-staff will remember there was a raised platform at one end of the room and one had to descend a small flight of stairs to enter it whichever doorway you used.  The doorway leading out onto the Science corridor and locker rooms used to have a yellow curtain across it to keep out draughts.  Countless girls doing exams in that space will remember hearing the clinking noise of the brass curtain rings as it was pulled aside by invigilating staff as they entered and left the room at the end of each session.  In the present renovation process, now that the glass-fronted Careers Room has been dismantled, this doorway has once again been opened up.  It seems  that in the new LRC this old doorway may have a new life as a window.

LRC in the process of reconstruction looking left where the Careers Room used to be.
The LRC under reconstruction looking to the left where the  glass-fronted Careers Room used to be.  An old doorway has been opened up again and will now bring light to the room.
The Old Gymnasium at the time of its dismantling in 1997 to make way fro the LRC.
The Old Gymn being dismantled in 1997 prior to the LRC.
LRC looking right with the new Technology Wing visible behind it.
LRC looking right with the new Technology Wing beyond it.

My worker was now making his way back out of the building again, taking a fascinating shot before he left it from the Dining Hall area looking out across the foundations of the new extension; this area until very recently used to be a single-storey kitchen space.  The area of the building visible beyond used to be the kitchen storage and refrigeration areas; this will become the new ICT Room.

Looking from the old Dining Hall out towards the new extension.
From the Dining Hall looking out onto the new extension.

The final shot, taken from the very back of the new extension foundations, shows how the two buildings, old and new, will closely align.

View of the new build from the old build new extension foundations.
View of new build from the old build extension foundations.


Grey is the colour of the day, 2nd December 2015


Longman’s Contemporary Dictionary tells us that ‘if the weather is grey, the sky is full of clouds and the sun is not bright’.  Such a day was today: there was no doubt that we were now in December.  Grey clouds, grey steel, grey mood.  Whilst the new build structure was clearly more advanced each week, it was becoming harder to photograph in different ways and now it only just fitted into frame.


Today, though it was exciting to see a concrete floor now in place, even at the old building extension the main colour was also grey.

The concrete floor is now laid in the old build extension.
A grey concrete floor has recently just been completed in the old building extension.

Looking back over my shoulder as I left the site, there was a sense of brittleness and sparseness that only Winter brings to Tankerville.  The trees look so much smaller bereft of all their leaves and the broken pane of glass I now noticed in one of the staffroom windows did nothing to alleviate that sombre dog days of December feeling.

Winter trees and cleared shrubbery.
Grey December Day: broken window pane & winter trees.


‘Full Steam Ahead’ on The Tankerville Site, 25th November 2016


For the end of November, the weather was unseasonably mild which allowed a great shot of the old Church High building today with the palest of blue skies behind it complete with cotton-wool clouds.  Apart from the tip of a red crane just visible above the roofline, the first change to the building I noticed today was up in the eaves.  All four dormer window frames now appeared to have been removed.

All four dormer window frames are now empty.
All four dormer window frames have now been removed.

Arriving at the gates to the old Junior School grounds, the cotton-wool clouds now provided an interesting – and refreshingly different – backdrop for the ever-growing steel structure of the NHSG new build.  Work was now underway on the last area of the building: the three-storey front section which will face onto Tankerville Terrace.  While I stood there, the large red crane made more than one swinging delivery of shiny steel to the very top floor of the structure.

Crane in the process of lifting steel to the top floor of the new build.
A crane easily lifts the steel for the top floor of the new build

From the gateway, the hive of activity going on at the foot of and within the structure itself wasn’t at all obvious, but, once up close, it was clear that it was ‘full steam ahead’ for everyone on site today.  Much like Ford Madox Brown’s Pre-Raphaelite painting of 19th Century urban construction in progress, ‘Work’, everywhere you looked across the site today a different narrative was unfolding.

Straight in front of me, a pair of yellow ‘cherry-pickers’, manned by smiling workmen, were moving up & down between the levels of the steel structure almost in unison: construction poetry in motion.

Cherry-pickers navigate the steel in tandem.

To my right, a worker was busy attaching a chain to the next piece of heavy, grey steel due to be lifted up aloft by the huge red crane; meanwhile on the second floor, another worker waited to receive it.

A plentiful supply of steel girders waiting to be hoisted into place.
At the base of the structure, another load of  steel is waiting to be hoisted into place.

Zooming in closer still to my right, a team of men working at ground level within the shadowy depths of steel structure were all busy smoothing out wet cement which would soon set to form the floor.

All hands to the deck within the steel structure.
It was ‘all hands on deck’ within the steel structure  today: workers laying and smoothing out the new concrete floor.


Over to my left, two workers were engrossed in smoothing out the surface of what looked like a huge white tarpaulin – presumably the damp course membrane for the floor of the old building extension.

Damp course being laid for the old building extension.
The damp course is being laid for the old building extension.



When completed, this three-storey extension will house a lift, the re-positioned north staircase, two classrooms as well as the Head Mistress’ Office.  However, this was all rather hard to imagine at the moment with the bowels of the building cut wide open and exposed.


Work begins on the Foundations of the Old Building Extension,18th November 2015


Well, at least it wasn’t raining today.  As I rounded the corner of Tankerville Terrace, a vibrant blue and green scaffolding rubbish chute was complemented beautifully by a bright, pale-blue sky.  Clearly there was still more material to be removed from inside.  The windows were all wide open again, but the dormer window in the eaves, exposed for so long, was now covered up with sheeting.

The dormer window of the Deputy Head's room in the eaves is now covered up.
The dormer window in the eaves is at last covered over.

Work seemed to be progressing well on the steel work of the new build in the old Junior School grounds.  Each week, the structure seems to gain in substance and complexity.  It was now beginning to take on a more three-dimensional form and, for once, the grey metal was not merging into a dull grey sky, but glinting brightly in sunlight.

For once, the steelwork is framed by a bright blue sky.
For once, the steelwork is framed by a clear pale-blue sky.


The structure looked to be about three-quarters in place by now and, even more than last week, it was possible to see the full footprint of the building’s foundations traced out on the ground.

The final quarter will clearly soon be in place.
The final quarter will clearly soon be in place at ground level

But the really interesting developments this week had taken place to my left.  Although no-one was working there at present, work was now clearly underway preparing the foundations for the new glass-fronted extension to the old red-brick Church High main building.

Work has begun on the foundations of the new extension.
Work begins on the extension foundations.

By the side of what used to be the kitchen store area and the caretaker’s office, a stack of rusty, steel reinforcement cages could be seen stacked against the outer wall of the building – the type of metal that cement is poured over in order to create a concrete base.

The metal mesh for the concrete floor.
Metal reinforcements stacked up ready for the foundations.

Closer investigation revealed that large metal pins were already being put in place ready to position the cages of rusty wire rod.

Metal pins in place for the concrete floor.
Metal pins put in place to secure the mesh.

Up to my left, dark scorch marks left by a blowtorch, staggered at even intervals, were now the only indication that a metal fire-escape had ever been there.  The dark apertures of the 1930s extension still continued to demand attention and draw the eye inside once again.

Yawning holes in the 1930s extension brickwork.
Scorch marks trace out the position of the old fire-escape.

One wondered whether the same fate was awaiting them as was already happening straight ahead of me to the windows of Room 9?

The windows of Room 9 are starting to be bricked up.
The windows of Room 9 are now starting to be bricked up.

Windows that were clearly now destined to be windows no more?

Windows clearly destined to be windows no more.

on Tankerville Terrace Reflecting on the old as we welcome in the new. A celebration of those who helped shape the building.