The Birchall Hall

The Birchall Hall

In use from the spring of 1988, the Birchall Hall was a magnificent addition to the Junior School. Its ground floor is in almost constant use and is ideal for a wide variety of activities and functions. It is large enough to seat all the pupils and staff so school assemblies are held there. The stage makes it possible to perform plays and concerts. Physical activities such as gymnastics can be done safely on the carpeted floor. Lectures, parents’ meetings, dinners and receptions can be held in a warm, light and comfortable space. Upstairs, three generous spaces were available, initially, for the Extra English department, music and art.  

The hall was named after Arthur Birchall, Headmaster of Junior School from 1965 to 1986. He and his wife, Marie, had done more than anyone to increase the number of pupils in the Junior School and to establish its reputation as a fine place for youngsters to learn, not knowledge alone but the values of duty and obligation. They had the pleasure of officially opening the hall on a sunny day in May 1988. Present were governors and other VIPs some of whom made speeches, dutifully listened to by the whole school.  Arthur and Marie cut a tape – twice, once for the benefit of the Press – to symbolise the opening of the building. Following the official ceremonies the pupils put on displays in the hall, there were exhibitions around the school and the first game was played on the giant chessboard in the quad, which the building of the hall completed. 

The following year, 1989, two large classrooms were added to the other side of the Birchall Hall, initially one for French and the other for Geography. At a glance they appear to be part of the hall but are, in fact, detached from it. Modifications to the adjacent classrooms were made in 2023 when the ground floor room was transformed into a reception area for parents and visitors with a study for the Head next door. These had previously been at the entrance to Cotlake House at the other end of the Junior School. Also of note was the addition of a clock above the central doorway. This was installed by the Junior and Pre-Prep Schools Parents’ Social Association in September 2000 to celebrate the millennium. 

The association had come into existence in 1987. Sunday walks, barn dances, mulled wine and mince pies, barbecues after sports day and fund raising for charity were all part of its brief. Indeed, the week before the official opening of the Birchall Hall, the association committee led by Mrs Trangmar  organised a May Ball in the hall to celebrate the new building and to raise money for St Margaret’s Hospice: as a result over £500 was given to this charity. This May Ball set a precedent for the bi-annual Queen’s College Charity Ball.

The Birchall Hall stands on land where previously there was a row of huts. They were removed in 1986/7 allowing the builders to implement the design of Basil Tokelove, the architect, who was also a parent. The huts had been introduced in the 1950s to provide much needed teaching rooms.  Each one was large enough for a class of at least 20 pupils, they were light with a good aspect over the Upper. Indeed, they were of good quality and they were used elsewhere when they were removed from Queen’s, for example, one of them became the Church Hall at Bishops Hull. Pupils were encouraged to cultivate the ground on one side of the huts.  

Developments have continued since the Haynes era including the building of changing rooms in the early 1980s but the main investment of that decade was the opening of the Birchall Hall in 1988, with two classrooms added to the side of the hall nearest the senior school in 1989. With the Birchall Hall in place a small quadrangle was created off the back door of Cotlake House. Also of note was the creation of the Prentice Building in 1999, named after RE Prentice, Head from 1936 to 1958, and improvements to the Head’s quarters in about 2002.

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