Look how the inside of the former Doncaster Girls High School looks now
It is a view that was once familiar to thousands of Doncaster schoolgirls.
But times have changed since the last intake of youngsters left the former Doncaster Girls High School on Waterdale.
And this is the view through the front door of the iconic Doncaster landmark today as builders get to grips with work to restore main entrance to the building as part of the borough’s new museum and library development. When work is complete it will be encased in glass inside the museum, described by builders as ‘looking like a ship in a bottle’.
The Free Press was given a tour of the site by builders Willmott Dixon, along with a party from Communication Specialist College Doncaster, on Leger Way, to show how the scheme is moving forwards.
The doorway to the former school would probably be almost unrecognisable to the youngsters who went there to learn. It now reveals a tight web of scaffolding inside, keeping the structure up while work is carried out on the inside and outside of the building. Beyond the medal tubes, a sweeping staircase can just be seen in the background, which once carried hundreds of girls and their teachers heading to their lessons.
All that now remains of the school now is a wedge shaped section of the building, with the base of that triangular wedge formed between the two familiar domes on the frontage. Two wings that remained on either side of the towers until recently have now been demolished.
Behind those wedge-shaped remains of the school, two sets of 25m long railway tracks will be laid, to allow railway engines which were built in the borough to be brought into the building, via a reinforced entrance on College Road. Talks are already taking place with specialist hauliers over the delivery of those locomotives, says officials on the site.
On the main site, currently brown with soil and earth, giant yellow drilling vehicles are in the process of creating holes for steel to be put in place for the structure of the building.
Among the tasks workmen have had to undertake is removing pigeon droppings which have been deposited over the last 10 years in the top of the old school building which was first opened in 1911. As recently as 2008, the building was still clearly identifiable as the old school.
Construction manager on the site, Mark Cox, explained how work was progressing.
He said when the work on the former girls school entrance was complete, there would be no roof on the former school building, and visitors would be able to look right up to the main building’s glass roof.
He said the workmen were currently demolishing the old roof, breaking up the concrete slab over the stairs
He said: “We’re taking off the roof, so that when the building’s finished, you can stand on the first floor and actually look up. There will no roof, as there was, existing. You can look right up to the main roof that oversails all of this.
“Were currently demolishing the old roof, breaking up the concrete slab over the stairs and taking off the pitched roof slates and things like that.”
He said the facade would look as it had done in the past.
“All of the terracotta will be restored and cleaned and it will bring that mix of heritage and restoration in with something that is quite modern.”
He added that a mosaic floor that had been found in the building was also being restored.
The big sweeping staircase up to the first floor will be kept, and a new staircase will take visitors from the first floor to a second floor above that.
He said they were stone steps which would be made accessible for people with limited mobility.
The work is part of an 89 week project which is scheduled to finish on June 16, 2020.
Bringing in items to the museum and library is then set to take until the middle of August.
Those on the tour where impressed with the £14 million project.
Communications Specialist College Doncaster student Thomas Ellison Rowbotham aged 18, said he had never seen anything like the planned museum frontage before. “I think it will be a good thing for the town,” he said.
Fellow student Bradley Smith, aged 17 added: "I think its a good idea – it keeps memories alive.”
Learning mentor Robert Hughes, aged 37, from Edenthorpe, said of the museum site: “It’s impressive and I didn’t realise it was going to be so extensive, with the trains behind the frontage.
“You can see from all the drawing that it’s going to look nice, and I’m pleased that they’re retained the front of the school. I would say that was a Doncaster landmark, and Doncaster has lost too many of its old landmark buildings already, which quite saddens me.”
Chris Dyles, a construction teacher at the college, added: “It’s going to be totally different, and its going to be a further attraction with the trains there too.”