E block

Physics on the ground floor, and chemistry on the upper floor. This was the senior science block, a place where pinhole cameras were made and where the really dangerous chemicals were kept. It had an earthy feel with brown scuffed tiled flooring and a combination of wood and brick interior.


Two staircases led up to chemistry, seventeen steps on the first and six on the second. When you had a double lesson with Mr Moore, particularly an “assessment practical” you would dread taking every one.

An alcove at the top of the first landing level periodically was changed with a display and through a set of double doors, E39, E40, and E41 , the latter two connected by a purposefully equipped chemistry laboratory prep room. Every morning from this place it was the smell of coffee that greeted and tested the senses. I’m not sure what else went on in that room, but this smell was unmistakably E block, along with the smell of freshly printed classwork sheets, usually in garish purple ink.


You could get high on that ink!


A row of bookcases where homework books were stored stood next to E41- senior chemistry, a room shrouded in mystery by blacked out cardboard. Fume cupboards were served by a purpose built chimney column outside- the tallest structure at Menzies.

A periodic table hung above a fume cupboard with  a revolving blackboard centrepiece and a bookcase row of chemical reagents on the right . Neat , precise and masonically ordered, three battered benches complete with gas taps and swan head tap sinks with a similar dispatch box  stood at the front . Pull out leaning trays could accommodate books but were in truth heavily graffiti laden and uneven surfaces. Stools were stored underneath the benches. Cupboards housing glassware, tripods, safety specs, retorts, bench mats and of course Bunsen burners flanked each side.

Reagents, universal indicator paper, litmus paper, retorts, burettes, conical flasks, fluted filter paper….. the list was endless.

 A study room where coats and bags were also stored ( by command), was at the rear with even more neatly labelled apparatus in draws.  

Another fume cupboard at the back of the room overlooked the space between F and D block.


Elsewhere in physics in the earlier school I recall a truly fiendishly designed practical exam where everyone would have to move around the classroom every minute to answer around 50 questions about a different set up piece of equipment/calculation etc accompanied to the sound of the bearded Mr Dickens pronouncing “CHANGE”!

In many ways this block with its laws of combination and change defined my time at the school and was the most interesting part about it.  Aims, apparatus, methods, results, conclusions – but really always just questions remained….