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Now lying derelict with overgrown grass, collapsed ceilings and smashed windows, this building once held over a thousand students and staff. With the building getting older year on year and student numbers on the up, the school packed up its bags in 2011 and moved to a brand new school building, leaving this site to decay. With written permission from the property owners, we proceeded to the site of BTP Joe’s old school, to tour the decaying site with former headteacher Russell Sullivan. The site has been left empty for the past three years with uncertain plans for it’s future buildings. Bullet-shells and police tape line the corridors; signs of training by Essex Police. Over an extended Christmas break at end of the 2011, staff packed up all of the equipment, books and more to move them to their brand new site at the heart of Canvey Island’s town centre. In January 2012, staff and students moved into the new building, with staff having to leave furniture and memories behind.
Castle View School opened its brand news doors to the new £2.4 million state of the art school in 1980 as the 3rd secondary school on Canvey Island, due to increased pupil numbers, joining Cornelius and Furtherwick Park. The school welcomed a year group at a time, starting with 150 year 7 pupils. The school building was built in two phases, with the main building being built first followed by the second part (the now sports block) afterwards. Beyond the Point has tracked down the first head teacher of the site and also the head teacher who oversaw the planning for the new build; Jack Telling and Russell Sullivan.
The building was designed by County Hall architect David Schreiber and was built in only 18 months. It had been planned to be built in three phases, although only two of the stages ended up being constructed. With only one year starting at a time, the building work didn’t prove too intrusive to pupils or staff. The main block was described in local newspapers as ‘space age’ due to it being solar heated as the heat of the sun would warm the building up. The following year in February 1981, the school was officially opened.
The Headteacher who opened the school was Jack Telling, who came from a Colchester school where he was deputy head for six years. Jack was appointed Head one term in advance of the opening when the building was at foundation level and had the opportunity to discuss with the architect aspects of of the building. It was Jack who oversaw the official opening for the school and secured its place within the community. Jack remained at the school for 6 years, leaving in 1986 (see right), to become the head of St. Martins school in Brentwood. Taking over from him was Eileen Simmons. Eileen remained at the school until 1997. One of the biggest changes during her time at the school was the introduction of the maths block. This was added in 1994 when the school became grant maintained. The set of maths classrooms was officially opened by Falklands War Hero Simon Weston and the building became known as the Simon Weston building from then on.
Beyond the Point also managed to track down some of the first students. Karen Daykin-Woodberry (top right photo, front left) was in the second year of students intakes. Karen remembers how great the school was, and so much so that it even appeared on TV for being so advanced but she also recalls jealousy from other schools who didn’t like the fact that Castle View was so modern. Another key thing that Karen recalls is how friendship lasts as over 30 years later she is still friends with the Head Girl from her year, Kerry Starling (front right of the same photo). Kerry also recalls how the school was great; the facilities, the technology, the new hockey pitch and music department and Kerry says she felt privileged to be there. By coincidence, when I started at Castle View, I was in the same class as Karen’s son, Daniel!
Taking over in 1997 was Russell Sullivan who is the longest serving head teacher at the school to date. Asking Russell if he remembers his first day, he responded “My first day? Yes, very well.” Russell joined Castle View in 1997, the day after the Nation learnt of Princess Diana’s death. Russell remembers how he arrived at the start of the new term with students and staff shocked by her death. Russell’s first assemblies at the school started with a minute’s silence in memory of the Princess.
Over the next thirteen years at the school, Russell had welcomed thousands of students through the doors, including myself in 2008. During his time as head, he had introduced new state of the art science labs and had started planning for the new £28 million building, over ten times the cost of the original school.
Upon Russell leaving Castle View, he passed the baton onto Gill Thomas, who oversaw the finalisation of the plans and the transition into the new building.
Speaking to Russell, Jack, Karen and Kerry, they all agreed that the building looked a sorry sight and Russell agrees that it was still right for the school to move to a new building.
Although the old Castle View was well looked after and respected by its pupils, it was becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain. It was also becoming rather cramped given increasing numbers of pupils. Added to that, we thought that the young people of Canvey deserved better in terms of attractive, state of the art facilities and was so pleased that we were able to seal the deal, after four years of planning, before I retired. Admittedly, it is a shame that more thought has not been given to how the Meppel Avenue site could be used more constructively as a whole. The new college, which was part of our original vision, is a welcome additional opportunity for the young people. – Russell Sullivan
We were saddened by the images of the buildings now rapidly falling into disrepair and being ravaged by vegetation. I hope that an alternative use can be be found for the buildings but in the event of them being demolished let me know so that I can say that I witnessed the birth and death of Castle View at Mepple Avenue. The new buildings look splendid and I wish the new school every success. – Jack Telling
Definitely a shame to see it so neglected. You’ve got to laugh at the old technology now – solar heating and computers! – Kerry Starling