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Those of you who have visited this site in the past may be aware of my previous difficulties in mapping this building. Fortunately, in 2006 I managed to lay my hands on an approximate plan of the Boys School, and a list of square footages, and from these I've been able to increase the accuracy of the map (left) somewhat. I wasn't far off as it happens; just a couple of rooms short.
I shall now take you on a tour, starting at the main entrance and working clockwise around the building. Text is coloured in line with the map, so that you don't get too lost.
Main Entrance & Crypt:
is up some stone/concrete steps, at the centre of the south face. These
steps are actually a bridge over the access to the crypt. This fenced-in
area is reached by gated steps down, to the left of the main entrance.
What lay beyond the crypt-door was always something of a mystery to us
pupils. The immediate space was used as a storage space for tables etc,
but how deep the cellar went was unclear. On one occasion, smoke was seen
coming out of the cabling hole of one of the central IT rooms. This was
put down to some sort of ghostly presence, but certainly suggests that
the basement went on under the rest of the building, if not from the exterior
door then from one of the manholes in the interior corridors. Unless it
really was a ghost, there was presumably somewhere under lower school
for a caretaker to take a quick fag-break. That said, watching the news
reports from the fire, there seem to have been no issues regarding dodgy
flooring, and people are just walking through the wreckage. This seems
to weigh against any massive underground bunker.
Correspondent, James Turner, alerted me to the truth: the basement housed the boiler. The boiler was a somewhat tempramental beast. Regularly the schools had to close because the boilers failed; even in the summer: In June 1939, the temperature was as low as an intolerable 53°F (12ºC). The girls had to be "drilled" to keep warm. In November 1944, the boiler burst, flooding the basement and sending temperatures down to 40ºF (4ºC).
The presence of the boiler would require the basement to stretch as far as the central chimney, and so it probably went up to the south wall of the centre quadrangle. For smoke to enter the IT rooms, the boiler room need be no wider than this quad either, and so it is safe to assume that the grey block marked on the map is a pretty accurate reflection of the crypt's size and bounds.
Hardcore boiler fans may wish to know that in the '60s Lower School was heated using a Robin Hood boiler. Really hardcore fans will wet themselves with this table which shows fuel tonnage per trimester in 1938/9:
You don't have to know how many hundredweights make a ton (20, incidentally) to see that the school was buring just under 240 tons of fuel a year (which is just over 240 tonnes, for those of you who like to write like Chaucer). A bit of calcualtor prodding leads me to conclude that, very roughly, every child required their own bodyweight of fuel every half term. By not showing my working, I'm losing out on marks.
Entering the building we reach a foyer area. At each side is a pair of offices designed to house the two heads and their clerical assistants. Beyond the offices in each school is a store room. Demand for more office space saw the boys' store room given over to the secretary, while the girls' was set to become a scullery. I don't know how the stores were being used when they set on fire, but the offices (probably knocked from four into two) were occupied by the two Deputy Heads.
On one of the walls here is a button - a very exciting button - the button that triggers the bell for the start and end of each period. Once discovered it was much abused. Presumably Lower School was separate from the upper-school bell system and so this had to be rung manually by one of the Deputy Heads. That said, maybe it was a relic, with a more high-tech system in operation.
The facing wall contains trophies and photos of guide dogs, in a cabinet that seemingly hides an art deco fireplace (see the fire photos).
The foyer is on the south corridor, and turning left we make our way past what in the end were the Language labs (numbered in the 30s or 40s?). The first room is 600 sq.ft., and then there are four rooms of 492 sq.ft. All five were designed as all-purpose classrooms / formrooms. By the turn of the '50s, the largest room had become a combined library and classroom. It contained about 1750 books, of which a little over half were fiction, and a few second hand periodicals.
The roof of the corridor is made predominantly from frosted or meshed glass, which is why the corridor is known as the Glass-Roofed Corridor. The flooring is apparently Bulgomm tiling. Through the late '50s and early '60s there were various attempts to renew the corridor flooring, which was then seemingly just floorboarding. Rubberising was skuppered in May 1957. 4.5mm sheet marble lino was too expensive at £673, so the floors got a re-sanding in 1958, and the rubber plan was persevered with, though asphalt and conveyor-belting were also considered. Bulgomm was finally laid by 1965.
Our first right is the 1,800 sq.ft. Hall 43. This was originally the girls' hall, which was actually the least high-tech of the two halls back in the Modern era: the boys had a swanky stage with curtains. In the end Hall 43 is similarly blessed.
The walls are decorated with art-deco overlayed-rectangle motifs such as those that make up the borders on these pages.
In 1969 the lino in the Hall was declared dangerous. It was renewed at a cost of £277. By the 1990s, the room was carpeted using a wiry, constantly malting fabric that stayed with you after drama lessons.
6th form assemblies and media and drama lessons were the principal uses for the Lower School Hall in its last decade. In the '80s it was put to a much more exciting use. Jules recalls: "On Friday lunchtimes there were sometimes Lower School discos, where I believe you paid 5p to get in and dance to Wham under the ultra-violet light to show off your white undies!" Julie Lawrence expands further: "Mr Cooke and Mr Imeson ran a lunchtime disco for lower school in Hall 43, charging 5p per entry to help pay for the latest 7” records. Mr Cooke spun the tunes (usually the Human League, Soft Cell or Wham!) and Mr Imeson took your money on the door!" (Cf. Miss Mills.)
The room is mainly on a level with the south corridor, but with a raised stage at the north side (at the same level as the north corridor). The stage was hollow, and I am told by James Turner that it contained a tunnel that led to the Old Gym, possibly with storage areas off it. It is unclear whether there were two such tunnels (one from each hall, leading to their respective changing rooms), or one tunnel (presumably joining under the quadrangle and emerging within the floor of the gym itself). The post-dating of the gym would suggest against it, but anyone with access to the Old Gym is encouraged to explore. Certainly there was a tunnel in the hollow stage that went someway back, but I seriously doubt that it went beyond the main building. There was also an apron stage, built for use by both sides (though perhaps fixed in the Boys' Hall).
Mrs Goldthorpe speaks from the Log Book, on 14th January 1957, in the second week of the mixed Secondary Modern: "Today we tried a 'whole school' assembly in the hall, and found it impossible and even dangerous to include all pupils." As a consequence, even in the mixed school, two assemblies had to be run; one in each hall.
To the east of Hall 43, at the edge of the centre quadrangle, is what was once the kitchens that served both halls. They were never really big enough.
Martin Brown writes: "If I remember correctly, when I started there, dinner was still served in the lower school halls to years 1 and 2: Segrave and Hatfield in 43 and Osborne and Athorpe in 45. After lunch you had to stay in lower school and all exits were guarded, teachers and dinner ladies prowling the perimeter - the steps, the ramp, all the gates and the cut through between the annexe and the far end of lower school, with back up by the tennis courts to catch any escapees. The only unmanned exit was the top end of the bus park but anyone making a run for it would be spotted from miles away!!"
Guarding of Lower School became something of a curious habit. Dinner ladies were aggressive in their defence of the entrances, this time keeping us out rather than in - quite irritating when you want access to your form room for afternoon registration. Equally curious was the guarding, this time by teaching staff, of the area of ground defined by Lower School, the New 6th Form Base, the Tennis Courts and the Maths Annexe. For some reason we weren't allowed round there at break times. Which was daft when all you wanted to do was get to Maths for your lesson. I never understood why this was a no-go zone. It is perhaps coincidence that the arson attacks took place in these protected areas, but maybe the kids responsible were drawn there specifically by the lure of the forbidden... Probably not.
some point in the mid-'80s, the kitchens were stripped out and divided
into offices. The one adjoining Hall 43 was used as the Visual Aids department.
A corridor heads off right, passed the Hall and off towards the north corridor, but we shall ignore this and continue to the end of the south corridor (with the quadrangle on our right) until we reach the west corridor. Here there is an exit left, and the staff room next to it. Smaller and less grand than the staff room in Upper School, it is used as an office and store room by the Modern Languages department. To the right of this is the staff toilet and then a small washroom. To the right of that is the cloakroom. By the time of the fire, this cloakroom was being used as a storeroom by the Music department, and contained, amongst other things, an electric organ and other musical instruments. These were, in the most part, rescued after the fire.
We head north now, with the quad right, and another exit left. As we head up three steps to the north corridor, we pass on our left what was, in the end, Mr Ellis's Biology lab (room 30). This was built in 1938 as an art room, and is 900 sq.ft.
The final left, before we turn onto the next corridor, is the Girls Toilets. These were open a little more often than the Boys Toilets, but only slightly so (see below for more info). The Caretaker's office was built over the exterior door of this block, and this would be the last entrance to be locked at night. Consequently, the way out from many after-school clubs was through the Girls Toilets and out through the Caretaker's office.
The quad remains on our right as we head east, while to our left are a couple of Food Technology labs. At the back of each is a semi-partitioned area used as office space. These rooms have always been used for domestic science, and cover 750sq.ft. a piece.
Going through one of several double fire-doors on these corridors, we reach the corridor on our right which we ignored earlier and will ignore again. The next room on our left is a 600sq.ft. all-purpose classroom. By the '50s it was used for Needlework. It may have been converted for science in the end (the Advertiser article on the fire speaks of four laboratories), but I don't think it was much used. I don't know as I ever went in it.
We carry on, passing the Hall and the centre quad on our right. The paintwork in Lower School was sky blue and mainly peeling (cf. New Gym).
On our left, in this central section of the corridor, are the Chemistry labs (23 and 24?). Between the two labs is a prep-room and store. These were always science labs and are 900sq.ft. each. The western lab belonged to the girls and the eastern to the boys. Mr Walker used the latter in later years; Mr Pilgram in earlier years. The former was Mr Haigh's room in the '90s. The prep-room appears to have been shared.
Another corridor heads right, back to the south corridor, but for now we'll go straight ahead, past the eastern quad. There was no access for pupils to these (grassed) quads, and they were mainly used as store-yards for old pipes and manhole covers. The quads had a facelift in July 1950 (during the height of a post-war gardening boom) and probably changed little since then.
On our left now ae three rooms used by Technology of various kinds. The first was originally an all-purpose room which was initially dedicated to Book Crafts. It was also Mr Hawkins' form room, and seems to have ended up as Mr K Hall's graphics lab (all dark and desky). It is followed by a pair of dingy rooms that seemed to change hands as needed but which began life as the Technology department. The first room was Mr Allen's Woodworking room (complete with stores) and the second was Mr Evans' Metalwork room (complete not only with stores but also a forge). In the last days, these last three rooms became a mix of computer rooms (converted in the late '80s) and one or two odd rooms with sturdy wooden benches that were too big to be useful. I remember doing Diploma Foundation in one of these rooms. Mr Jackson informs me that Lab 27 (which I assume is one of these rooms (perhaps the cornermost room) had a photographic darkroom attached to it until the fire. Perhaps this was a refitting of the forge. The huge benches suggested physics or biology, so I guess that's what they were for, but in the main the rooms were unused, and locked. This whole top right corner seemed a little under-used, to be honest. The Advertiser article on the fire says there were seven computer rooms, which implies that the two workshops were both partitioned to make four rooms. This would also fit with the Advertiser's description of the building as having 24 classrooms.
However, this photo, taken from the Advertiser in question, shows one of the computer rooms on the top corridor, and casts doubt on the theory that the workshops were divided.
It's a view south-west, and through the door is the top corridor. The prominent section of wall to the right goes higher than the glazed wall along the corridor, and is almost certainly the gabled section that once contained the stores. A noticeboard or similar furnishing obscures the one section of wall at 90º to the rest, and it may be that there is a door there into a shortened store room. The computer at the extreme right demonstrates that the room continues at least a table length to the right of shot. It is my belief that this is the old Metalwork room, taken from a little further in than Photo 4 on the Lower School Photos frame. This implies that the stores and forge have been knocked through (right), and that the classroom has not been partitioned (as there is only one window's worth of room beyond the left of frame).
Here's a plan explaning my reasoning. It's not terrifically accurate, but it gives the right impression...
So if the workshops remained undivided, where do the extra two (computer) rooms come from in the Advertiser's stats? Any suggestions are most welcome.
The Boys' Toilets:
We reach the end of the corridor, and the boys' toilets. Lower School toilets were the best in the school. Boys' house-base lavs were three cubicles and three urinals. The block in lower school was... well... huge... A wall of sinks, a wall of cubicles, a wall of urinals. I still dream about this near endless toilet block - made all the more fantastic by the air of mystique it received as a result of being usually locked.
If these toilets were so
good then why were they locked? There's four potential reasons:
Of course, they could've just removed the bolts, but they didn't, and these great toilets remained underused. To get a truly good idea of this space, consider the toilet-y equivalent of the Old Gym showers, and square it.
If you spotted that these lavs were open, you felt compelled to use them, even if you were just running around the central dividing wall, revelling in the space. A friend of mine had a detachable hood that I enjoyed illicitly removing, and sadly it was lost in there when a teacher threw us out before he had chance to retrieve it. I still feel a twinge of guilt. But drinking makes it go away.
Mrs Goldthorpe wrote, on 11th December 1961, "Today we begin to use paper towels, after a long and now successful warfare." She often had an odd turn of phrase. Consider an entry from 16th March 1962: "There has been a burglarian entry during the night." Nice that. Almost 'Morganatic'.
The boys' toilets seem to have been pretty sizable from the offset, though provision in the girls' school was "insufficient" in the HMI inspection of October 1950. Both sides underwent improvement work in 1970/1. I have not found anything to suggest the toilets were ever rebuilt, so presumably, for some reason, they were always brick rather than the wood of the rest of the building. The boys' cloakrooms and cycle-shed were also to be found in this corner block, though presumably the latter was converted to some other use with the arrival of the Art room.
We make our way down the steps of the east corridor now, with the quad to our right, and Room 10 providing the reflection of Mr Ellis's room. Room 10 was in the end Mr Cooke's Technology lab, and it was at the adjacent entranceway (the next left) that the fire was started (see those fire photos again).
Like the western corridor, the eastern corridor was added to the school in 1938, and Room 10 began life as the 900 sq.ft. Art room in the same year. Before that, this was the site of the boys' playground, which stretched as far as the diagonal retaining wall of the then 6½ acre playing field. This is the grass area between what is now the coach park and the astroturf (older readers will remember the Maths Annexe being where the astroturf pitch now sits).
Radiators were added to the Art room in the Summer of 1954, and a kiln was installed in late 1958. The kiln was still there at close of play, and occasionally saw use.
We're now at the south-eastern corner of lower-school, with an exit ahead of us. This part of the corridor, beyond the arsoned entrance, is original. The Modern Languages office is reflected here as the Technology stores (a room full of wood), and I think Mr Taylor or someone else along those lines had an office here too, presumably in the cloakroom.
Classics & RE Rooms:
We now return along the bottom corridor towards the main entrance, with what ended up as the Classics and RE rooms to our left and, of course, the quad on our right. Again, the roof is glass, and also, around here is a metal strut, just above arm-strectched height, which spans the corridor and probably holds the place together. Pupils were discouraged from leaping up and twatting it one, and it had been kinked from people dangling off it. It was in this area, or hereabouts that Mr Standring took his first lesson.
In the '30s, these mixed-use classrooms belonged to Mr Whitehead, Mr Tagg, Mr Cooper, Mr Hoare and Mr Walton respectively. This final, larger room became the boys' Library (it had about 1550 books in 1956), and seems to have remained as a Library until at least the '70s. Formica tops were added to the tables in November 1959. The store room next to this room was used as a scullery, and the Lower School Library was soundproofed in 1968, at a cost of £250, on account of the noise from this scullery.
Before we reach the main entrance we have the opportunity to turn right, onto the corridor we missed last. Here, we have the quad right, and the boys' hall left. In 1957 this hall, then known as the East Hall, was refloored to be suitable for barefoot exercises.
Hall 45 (as it was renamed) was partitioned in the 1980s, despite haveing been better equipped than the girls' in the 1930s. The partitioned hall may have possibly had a stint as RE rooms but ended its days as a pair of IT rooms jam-packed full of BBCs. One of the rooms may or may not have been haunted (as mentioned above).
At the back of the south IT room, towards the centre quad, and perhaps adjoining (or even being the same room as) Mrs Atkinson's room was an office for the business studies dept. The area of the north room that was once the stage later became home to a genuine business the department ran, offering photocopying and printing services at an extortionate rate. I spent £30 there on an A-Level Media Studies project, back when colour photocopying was in its infancy. I got a B for my troubles.
As mentioned previously, the offices bordering the centre quad were originally the kitchens. These were supposed to have been converted to sculleries in the 1960s but may have been abandoned until revamped as offices.
As far as room numbering went, I can't quite work it out... The south corridor was numbered in the 30s, with perhaps the west-most rooms being in the late 20s.10 was definitely Mr Cooke's room, 30 Mr Ellis'. And 24 and 25 were Chemistry labs on the north corridor. The Hall was 43.
So my guess is that the top corridor ran from the late-teens to the mid-20s E-W, while the bottom corridor ran late-20s to mid-30s W-E. Can't be more specific than that though, and I don't know how 10 fits into that system.