Meanwhile Up the Road 1: State-of-play Within ‘The Old Girl’ (By End of June)

Although I’d felt safe in the knowledge ‘The Old Girl’ was in good hands for a long time now, I was still curious as to the ‘state-of-play’ inside those dark green doors.  This curiosity also extended to the length of time the said doors could possibly still remain dark green.  We were, after all, two full calendar years into the merger by now.  Things like that never ceased to make me smile, recalling all the sad backward looks as we left the building for the very last time in 2014.

A bit plaster-spattered, but the side entrance is still as it was.

To discover how the plaster-splashes in the shot above got there, one didn’t have to go very far into the building at the end of June.

The plaster is new but the old south staircase is still green too.

Up until recently, the west wall of the south stairs was still pale blue in colour, although channels had been cut into the plaster to allow the addition of electrical cabling needed to install new wall-lights.  Strange with such a huge window already there.  But I recall Central and GDST folk continually ‘worrying’ about the building being dark.

Channels cut into the still pale blue stair wall.
Despite the large original window on the first floor landing, there are clearly to be wall lights on the stairways of the refurbished building.

This fixation with making things ‘light’ ultimately ran through the entire refurbishment process, which was hard to take for someone who loves natural wood as much as I do.  Those big, rustic bell tower support timbers exposed during the strip-out never stood a chance.

The beautiful old bell tower support timbers in their natural form (above) and now all enclosed in a white melamine casing (below).

I’ve never felt at ease in rooms painted white.  When on a family holiday in Dorset once, the single bedroom allocated to me in an (otherwise lovely) cottage was thick-walled and white.  I found it impossible to sleep in.  It seemed to suck my breath away.  As a child, I recall a school-girl game: think of an animal; now think of an expanse of water; how would you feel waking up in a white room?  Apparently the last question was meant to indicate how one felt about death.  Enough said, I guess.  Well, at least it was still our building.

The bell tower’s timber supports will soon become a white study bay in a very white Sixth Form Library under the eaves.

A rare reversal of this trend was evident on the first floor landing of the newly-created north staircase in the infill extension, however.  This time I did approve of the new design features.  Very, very much.  I thought it a lovely touch on the architect’s part that the one exterior window which remained unblocked off had been allowed to retain its red brick edging.  A nod to the fact that this was once outside.

A lovely design reference to the old within the new.

I know that not everyone will have followed all my posts nor be as familiar with the building as I am.  Because of this, I’m including two images below from a lot earlier in the refurbishment process which should hopefully remind everyone of where this window used to be.

This window used to be second from the left in Newcastle High School’s north elevation. In recent times, it was in Room 9 (RS room). The image above shows the infill extension area as it was in October 2015. By December 2015 (below), it was possible to see which window would still be there in the NHSG building.

It’s also nice to know that, way up high, on the west facing apex of the north gable, two of Newcastle High School’s original windows are still there even now.  True, they’re not the most typical-looking windows and the area into which they were intended to allow light is no longer there, but I love the fact they’re still up there.  Survivors.

Giuseppe’s photos of the exterior brickwork included these two very distinctive images. It took me a little while to figure out both what they were of – and where they were taken.

In this shot of the back of the original Newcastle High School building, you can just make out two small windows high in the gable apex.

The windows at the apex of the north gable-end of the original Newcastle High School building as they were in 1900.

And this is what the same back-of-the-building view looks like today.

The conjunction of old and new: the back of the building now.

Also at the back of the building around this time, a piece of old Church High history was being removed.  In recent times, most will have been unaware of the presence of an old wooden gate within the back perimeter wall.  Others may remember that it once allowed access to five tennis courts on the other side of the wall which Church High used to use.  Before this, the courts in the Fleming Children’s Hospital grounds belonged to the Brandling Tennis Club.  There is now a new development on this land: a care home.  Because of this, no doubt with security uppermost in mind, GDST clearly thought it best to reinstate the stone wall in its entirety once again.

The gates in the wall behind the school as they once were.
The old gates are finally now being removed.
Waites guys say ‘Hello’ to the Helen McCardle Care Home team on the other side of the wall.
Work underway on Fleming Court’s garden.

As with all work undertaken on the building’s refurbishment, the architects took pains to ensure that the finish was high standard.

Reclaimed stone was delivered to the site to do the infill job.

I’m sure you will have worked out by now that wherever Giuseppe’s camera pointed on site indicated where work was being undertaken that day or still needed to be done.  From the shot I’ve chosen to end this post with, I wonder if you can guess what he wanted done next?


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