The bell tower was part of the original building that opened on the 26 February 1894 as Highland Road School. At that time the total number of children attending was 1,472 compared to the 360 children there now! It must have been a very crowded place indeed.
The 2012/13 School Modernisation Programme allocated £22,500 for the removal and replacement of the Bell Tower. This was in addition to an allocation of £16,842 agreed from the CERA budget 2011/12 and an agreed contribution of £7,500 from the school.
The Bell Tower is of historical significance and could not be demolished.
In 2011 the Bell Tower had scaffolding erected to stabilise the structure. The project has been developed further and the final estimate is significantly more costly than initially envisioned. This is due to the fact that a greater proportion of the timber structure is rotten and will require total replacement; and due to the health and safety requirement a tower crane will be required to remove the existing bell tower and lift the re-build bell tower back into position.
The whole project to remove, restore and replace the bell tower was undertaken by KKA Maintenance Limited, a Portsmouth based company. The actual construction of the replacement bell tower was subcontracted to Jacobs Joinery.
The first stage of the reconstruction process was the removal of the bell tower - to do this the tower was cut into three sections.
All the finials and balustrades had to be re-created by hand on lathes in the Jacobs Joinery workshop and the curved sections made from solid Accoya, a modified wood product.
The original structure was made with softwood though the finials were oak - perhaps recycled from a ship in the dockyard! It was held together with nails – the re-construction was to be made using Accoya and marine plywood and it was bonded with adhesives and screws.
The whole process of measuring the original components of the bell tower and re-creating it was a challenge to the craftsmen at Jacobs Joinery but one that they thoroughly enjoyed!
There was no room in the Jacobs Joinery workshop to assemble the whole structure, so to ensure that the roof section would fit onto the bottom section a copy of the upper part of the roof section was made and the roof lowered onto it - and the fit was perfect!
Once the three sections had been made they were painted by staff from KKA Maintenance Ltd and taken to the school where the final finishing touch was to cover the roof with sheets of lead and a lightning conductor was added. In addition, pigeon-proof netting was added to keep these birds out of the structure.
Special fittings were made so that the sections could be lifted onto and off the transporting vehicle and the tower itself so that do damage was done to the components.
Sadly there were no photographs taken of the reconstructed Bell Tower being lifted and assembled at the school - if you happened to be passing and took a photograph then Jerry Rapley at Jacobs Joinery would be pleased to receive a copy! Please use the Contact Page to get in touch with Jerry.