Last night, David, Richard and I went down to the Marquis of Granby, a pub a few minutes walk from Streetgate, the next village down from Sunniside where our house is. After dinner, we left the pub and at that point, noticed smoke billowing from a site somewhere in Whickham. Given that it was dark, windy and we were having to look at the fire from a considerable distance and across the expanse of Washingwell Woods, we could not make out the exact location of the fire. Yet as we got further up the bank and got to the edge of Streetgate, we were able to see the flames leaping into the air, fed by the strong winds, despite the fire being over a km away. It seemed as though it was coming from the Grange Estate.
We discovered in the Journal this morning that the fire had been at Whickham School. The details were thin on the ground so after we dropped Richard off at the station to head back to London, David and I drove over to the school. I was met by one of the governors and was shown the damage by the caretaker. We have lost an entire block which contained the staff room, sixth form common room, lecture threatre, library and a couple of classrooms. 40 computers gone and smoke damage to the music rooms though fortunately the musical instruments were saved.
My guess is that the damaged block will have to be demolished. We are not sure whether or not the school will open on Tuesday.
I was at Whickham Comprehensive when the block in question was built. So the building in question still had the feeling of being new when I was in the sixth form. It's a shock to the system to know what has happened to it.