Former Cambridge High School for Girls student Kate Flint enjoyed a nostalgic visit to Long Road shortly before half term.
“This is the first chance I’ve had to walk around the College in daylight since I left,” she says. “My son studied at Long Road, so we came to Open Evening, and I attended parents’ events, but didn’t really have time to have a good look around.”
Kate, who works at Downing College, now has a family connection to the College, and was very pleased to be invited on a tour to see how the building has changed.
“The first thing that struck me was the entrance,” she explains. The area which now houses the Curriculum Offices, Finance, Reprographics, Exams and Computer Information Services, and which has a small front door used only by staff, was the girls’ entrance and cloakrooms. “I remember hundreds of pegs all along the walls.”
The next surprise was College Reception. “I don’t think there was a reception in my day – you just made your way to the school office. The corridor down to the Staff Room is the same – even the Principal’s Wait / Come in / Engaged light outside her door is still there (although it isn’t used now). The parquet flooring is the same, as are the small, grey tiles on the wall.”
Kate was also surprised to see that the walkway which leads to the LRC and refectory has been walled off to make B corridor. “Also, the large room in the Learning Resource Centre used to be our gym – I remember all those climbing frames up the wall. The refectory was much smaller, and the part where you get hot meals used to be where we had our pottery classes!”
The Sport Centre, D block, the Art block and G block didn’t exist when Kate was at the school, but E block, which has just been remodelled to make the new Student Centre, was there. “It used to be joined to the main building by a covered walkway.”
All the rooms on C corridor which are now offices, the Careers department and Student Services were classrooms, and the Photography rooms were where Kate studied Geography. “I remember having lessons in those rooms with their floor to ceiling french windows – freezing in the winter and boiling in the summer.” The original windows have recently been replaced, but are still in character with the original building.
Throughout the original building, Kate noticed that doorways have been blocked off, and new walls and openings have appeared. The main hall is now the Performing Arts Centre, and new rooms in a variety of architectural styles have been added to the Science wing.
However, one of the most interesting sights was the old sixth form common room in ‘the tower’. After locating what is almost a secret staircase, Kate made her way up to see how it had changed. “In fact, it’s almost the same!” she said. “Although it’s used as a storeroom now, it still has that dark and slightly seedy atmosphere it had in my day!”
Kate was in the penultimate year for entry to the school. “The year below me was the last to join,” she says, “so the number of students dropped each year. Everyone except the sixth-formers had to wear uniform – when there were just the fifth, lower sixth and upper sixth groups, they decided it was unfair to make the fifth-formers wear uniform so we just wore what we liked. The most exciting event was when the first group of boys joined the sixth form – there were six of them and loads of girls!”
Kate says of her visit: “It was quite an experience! So many memories – and really lovely to see how the college has changed over the past 34 years.”