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Report - Whinney Hill School/Durham Johnston School

Discussion in 'Other Sites' started by djcs1998, Mar 24, 2016.

  1. djcs1998

    djcs1998 28DL Full Member
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    Today I experienced my Urban Exploring debut, although I never set out this morning with any idea I would. I've been aware of the forum for a number of years and always found the reports interesting. Especially ones of local buildings I've either been in when they were in use or know the location of. The eeriness of an empty building is something that intrigues me, but before today I've never had any real urge to do any urban exploring myself. Nor, I must add would I be surprised if I never post another report after this one.

    I was meeting an old friend in Durham City, both of us have moved away from the area and as a result have tried to meet up atleast once a year for a catch up and a trip down memory lane.

    Normally we would visit a handful of local hostelries, drink a lot of beer and get a good feed, then go our separate ways bidding farewell for another year. Today however, I was a little under the weather and whilst I was fit enough to keep up the appearance I didn't fancy the drinking part.

    We'd both heard in the local press that the school site at Whinney Hill was to be sold and we had reason to believe that it could be being flattened in the near future, with this in mind we decided to make a visit for nostalgic purposes one last time with the spare time we had. Just in case......

    The school is accessible from the road that runs up past Durham Prison, a street of semi detached and terraced houses line either side of that road and behind one side, on the hill is the school building. Behind the school is a public footpath which follows the line of the rear of the building, overlooking a very steep slope down to Durham Rugby Club. The footpath leads either into Durham City one way or past Maiden Castle - which is the training ground of Hartlepool United and also the Sports HQ of Durham University - the other way.

    I attended the school around 20 years ago and before it closed in the Spring of 2009 it was used to accommodate Years 7 & 8 of the Durham Johnston Comprehensive School. It was the 'Lower Site' building, with the 'Upper Site' housing Years 9, 10, 11 and two years of Sixth Form Students. That site was and still is situated at Crossgate Moor on the outskirts of Durham City. Although the current building is a new one, opened in 2009 and now housing all 7 year groups. Which means that the Whinney Hill site was surplus to requirements.

    The building itself was built in 1930 but wasn't part of the DJCS entity until 1979. From 1930 to 1979 the school was known as 'Durham City Boys Senior School'.

    Since its closure, the site was used by film crews as the site of (mainly) the police station used for the BBC Drama Series 'Inspector George Gently' which is based in Durham and Northumberland. The school was also used as a set for prison scenes, including in one episode - as an actual school. Having watched the series, I seem to remember they used Whinney Hill for two series' of filming, but I could be wrong on that - it may have been more.

    Many of the photos I took include additions that the crews made, there was quite a lot of paraphernalia in and around the rooms of the school which had been left in situ by film crews, for example a road sign with the words 'Filming in Progress' emblazoned across it. In fact, in my opinion there was barely anything left in the building which I feel resembled its life as a school. Obviously the classrooms and changing rooms and some blackboards had remained largely untouched, but all desks and school chairs had no doubt been taken to the new DJCS building and used there - or sold by the school at that time. A similar fate no doubt for any books.

    I seem to remember shortly around the time of filming and then subsequently after the school was being guarded 24/7 by a local security firm. However today there was no presence whatsoever. Also, when it was under surveillance barely any of it was boarded up, but no doubt the council felt that money spent on security was a waste and therefore decided to lock it down and board all windows up.

    So on to the visit, we hadn't intended to enter the building, merely to walk around the perimeter and wander around the playground reminiscing of the time we spent there. However once there I knew that if I didn't have a wander around inside I'd always regret not going in.

    So below is a number of photos I took. I apologise for the lack of quality on them but as I noted earlier, I wouldn't consider myself an urban explorer and all I was armed with was my smartphone.

    Some of the photos will seem pointless and in fairness the majority of people reading this may not find it interesting. If that's you I apologise, but to me, to people from the area and definitely for people who went to the school I'm sure this will be an interesting glance.

    I had a great time, I didn't harm anything or move anything. I merely wandered round, reliving my school days and experiencing a great buzz from seeing the inside of a building I'd not been in for twenty years. It felt like a great honour to be one of the last people to be able to wander around inside it. If anyone is reading who also went to the school I recommend going for a look too, before it is reduced to rubble.

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    A beautiful view from the school driveway.

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    On the approach.

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    Panoramic of outside.

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    Panoramic of the playground. Behind the trees at the far end is a sharp slope down to the old playing fields which are now used by Durham City Rugby Club.

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    Staffroom door was locked.

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    Outside the Staffroom, where I stood waiting to get wrong for being a wrong'un!

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    A view from outside the Staffroom looking toward the top corridor.

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    View of the passageway where the girls changing rooms were, taken from inside the school grounds.

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    Glass walkways at the front, I'm told the glass walkways were only added in the 80's, so before then children would go between classes braving the elements.



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    Looking up the corridor on the top level, class 1 is on the left, there are 17 classrooms along that corridor.

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    Random computer chair.

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    Looking toward Room 2/3 from the steps which lead down toward girls hall.

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    The girls hall steps, on the right were the girls toilets and changing rooms.

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    The 'booking-in hatch' used by the George Gently team when culprits were arrested and brought into custody.

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    The fictional NE constabulary from the series.

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    Dossers perhaps? Or youths? Either way, seems like they were disturbed.

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    Bag of scrap copper and brass - also disturbed??

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    Educational display outside upstairs Science room.

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    I remember that Fire Bucket from my days in the Science Lab! No sand in it now though.

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    The upstairs Science Lab which (iirc) was known as Chemistry 2.

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    Steps down to boys assembly hall, the open door is the boys changing room.

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    Top corridor leading to Room 17.

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    From the stage looking down onto the boys assembly hall

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    Boys changing room showers

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    Kitchen

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    From the back of the assembly hall with flash.

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    From the back of the assembly hall without flash.

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    Looking towards the City with the cathedral in view, to the left is the textiles classroom, to the right down some steps is the girls assembly hall.

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    On the way out, one last snap, leaving behind a lot of happy memories.

    Thanks for looking, hope I didn't ramble on too much and if anyone has any photos of their own or intends on going themselves please share your experience too! Hopefully some of the proper urbex lads and lasses who live locally will have a look in and get some better quality snaps!
     
    #1 djcs1998, Mar 24, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2016
    thenib1000, zchryhnsn and Bolts like this.

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  2. projectionman

    projectionman 28DL Full Member
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    great report thanks for sharing
     
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  3. djcs1998

    djcs1998 28DL Full Member
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    Thanks very much. For anyone interested on a visit feel free to ask any questions regarding it.

    For anyone that loves boilers and mechanical stuff the boiler house is unlocked and accessible but just pitch black so take a torch.
     
  4. stranton

    stranton subterranean explorer
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    @djcs1998 will you remove the writing about & photograph showing access,
    secca, chavs & pikies use the forum too.

    thanks
     
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  5. djcs1998

    djcs1998 28DL Full Member
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    Edited. If there's anything else you feel needs to be altered let me know. :thumb
     
  6. Alison Webb

    Alison Webb 28DL Member
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    I really enjoyed reading this and seeing your photos. I was at the school in the early 80s (I feel old now!) but still recognised places from the photos. Thank you for bringing back some memories for me - like yourself I moved away from Durham after secondary school and rarely have time to do more than visit family when I am home.
     
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  7. stranton

    stranton subterranean explorer
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    thanks :thumb
     
  8. djcs1998

    djcs1998 28DL Full Member
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