Our New Science Buildings
Article originally published around the time of the opening of the
Kelvin Building at The Leys School, on Saturday 28th October, 1893.
Entering by the door at the East end, a stone staircase leads up to the Kelvin Lecture-room, but immediately facing is the entrance to the Elementary Chemical Laboratory. This is a large, lofty room, well lighted and well ventilated. The fittings are as complete as can be expected in any School laboratory. The work tables are of pitch-pine, with teak tops well soaked in paraffin to ensure them against destruction by acids. Each boy has his own cupboard containing a set of apparatus, and the bottle tacks are stocked with reagents in bottles with enamelled labels (unacted on by acids) burnt into them. Whilst the racks can be removed and the sinks in all the tables used for troughs for collecting gases, one table has been specially fitted up with large lead-lined troughs for that purpose. To a specialist the most striking feature of the Chemical Laboratory in all probability would be the well ventilated fume-cupboards under four of the six windows, and the arrangements of the drains. The former are large enough to admit all ordinary apparatus, and the flues are all built into the solid walls and enter into the two main chimney shafts of the building wherein a thorough draft can be maintained by means of large burners in the basement. The drains are open wooden troughs lined with lead, coated with pitch and tar, and suspended below the joists, being covered with loose boards, so that in case of stoppage the entire drainage system can be uncovered at a moment’s notice.
Leaving this Laboratory by the door nearest the, N .W. corner we pass through a small room used as a Master’s private laboratory and Preparation-room into the Advanced Chemical Laboratory. Here the fittings are such as are used for special work for Scholarship and other Examinations, affording every opportunity for continuous quantitative work. Whilst the large laboratory will accommodate nearly 50 boys at one time, the smaller one will give ample room for 10. Passing through this room we come to a Balance-room cut off from the West end of the building and facing north. This room is fitted with slate slabs built into the wall, carrying the balances and scales, whilst roomy cupboard contains the larger pieces of apparatus required for gas analysis, etc. Returning into the Advanced Laboratory and leaving it by the door on the South wall we enter the main passage of the building. Immediately to the left, stone steps lead down to the large and spacious rooms in the basement. This we think will be considered one of the most successful parts of the building. Careful sandwiching of asphalt between the outer and inner layers of the foundations has repaid us by giving us six useful rooms. One has been made fire proof, and contains the heating apparatus (on the Hot Water System), another has been made into an excellent store-room, and yet another has been fitted up with folding windows and wooden slipway for the delivery of all goods in cases direct into the basement. The Dark Room for Photography and the large Chamber adjoining where Combustion Experiments are carried out, are also completely fitted with every convenience.
Ascending from the Basement and taking the first door on the right we enter the Biological Laboratory. This occupies the whole of the West end of the ground floor except a portion at the North corner cut off to form the Balance Room. A pitch-pine work table runs round two sides of the room under the windows, which are large and afford excellent light for work with the microscope. In a recess in the North wall are placed a set of lockers, giving each boy special provision for his own instruments or dissections, and, above the lockers, cupboards, with glass doors, containing general biological specimens in spirit. Along the East wall run cupboards to contain physiological apparatus and models, etc., to illustrate the practical Botanical work. In the centre of the room stand two solid tables. The general work bench is fitted up with sinks and drains, and with bottle racks paced against the wall, supplied with reagents needed for chemical physiology.
The Physical Laboratory occupies the middle of the South side of the ground floor immediately to the West of the South door. It is the lightest and in many respects the best of the Laboratory rooms. A slate slab built into the wall runs round two sides of it, the other sides being occupied by a sink, and cupboards and shelves for apparatus. In the centre of the room is a slate slab mounted on a concrete column built up from the foundations, for use in experiments where great steadiness and freedom from vibration is required. Leaving the ground floor and ascending the staircase in the central passage, a door leads off from the first landing into the small Chemical Lecture room, situated over the Advanced Chemical Laboratory on the North side of the building. This and the corresponding small lecture-room on the opposite side have been fitted up for demonstrations to classes not exceeding about 30 in number. The lecture table is fitted with lead-lined troughs for collecting gases, and separate sinks and gas connexions for furnace. The fume cupboard is small and not intended for the actual performance of larger experiments.
Leaving the room by the door at the East end of the lecture table we find ourselves in a small room behind the large lecture room. This has been partitioned off from the passage over the staircase to provide a place for the preparation of experiments for the lecture rooms, and also to give means of access from behind to the large fume cupboard in the large lecture room, so that the Laboratory attendant can attend to experiments without interfering with the lecturer’s movements. A door leads from the Preparation Room into the Kelvin Lecture-room immediately to the North of the fume cupboard. This room is fitted up in Amphitheatre form. The doors and seats are of pitch-pine of exceptionally well-marked grain. The lecture table is semi-circular, and of pitch-pine, with teak top treated with paraffin. The seats are hinged and turn up for convenience in cleaning, and the shape of the backs of the seats has been carefully planned to afford comfortable accommodation to the audience. Opposite the lecture table and at the top of the sloping floor is the door by which admission is gained from the staircase leading from the East entrance. The room can be filled through the centre aisle and also by two side aisles. The roof has been made of glass in the form of a lantern roof, which gives ample light and also efficient ventilation by means of the vertical windows which open outwards.
For lantern work, the glass roof has here been fitted with sliding blinds so that the room can be quickly and effectively darkened: whilst the West wall over the top of the fume cupboard has been plastered to form a 12 foot white screen. A new pattern single-ray gas lantern fitted with the latest improvements (exhibited by Messrs. Newton at the British Association, 1893), can be worked from the central aisle to show either ordinary slides or experiments conducted between the condenser and lens of the apparatus. The lecture table has been fitted up with every contrivance likely to ensure successful lecturing with full demonstrations and experiments. A large water trough and a smaller mercury trough, together with a perforated tray connected with the main ventilating shaft, are sunk into the teak top in such a manner that they can all be covered over, leaving the whole surface of the table at one unbroken level when so required. Immediately behind the lecture table is the large fume cupboard. This has been fitted up with lead-lined double bottom water supply for condensing apparatus, sliding plate-glass windows front and back, and sliding black board. Large roomy cupboards under the lecture table and fume cupboard give convenient accommodation for lecture apparatus, whilst at the sides of the West wall bottle-racks are arranged containing all the ordinary reagents.
In conclusion we must call special attention to the Museum. This occupies the whole of the West end of the first floor. On the floor of the Museum cases of drawers with glass tops are arranged displaying our three valuable collections of geological and mineralogical specimens. On the West wall in the spaces between the windows cases of birds are placed; ascending the spiral staircase in the S.E. corner we come to the gallery which runs along the East and West walls of the room and across the middle from East to West. Here the numerous collections of specimens of various kinds are arranged in cases with glass fronts. As this is a section of our work in which we may be largely helped by the generosity of our friends, we may perhaps be pardoned if we express the hope that past and present Leysians and other friends will send us the wherewithal to further stock our shelves.
Republished by A.P.Harmsworth, Head of Physics, December 2005