The Duchess of Cornwall went back to school this morning and told assembled guests at the new £26.5-millions St John’s School in Marlborough that she was so impressed with the building she wished she could stay.
After touring the new school whose opening in December saw a ten year dream come through for head teacher Patrick Hazlewood, the Duchess unveiled a plaque and said: “I think this is an absolutely fabulous place and it almost makes me want to come back to school.”
However she was able to spend just one hour looking around the school before she carried out the official opening ceremony.
It was the first royal visit to Marlborough since 2004 when her husband, the Prince of Wales, attended the town’s 800th charter anniversary celebrations when she joined him briefly as patron of the Bobby Van Trust.
Even though she had a tight schedule to keep to at St John’s School and Community College the Duchess visited its Theatre on the Hill and took in five minutes of the school’s production of Disco Inferno which is being performed in March and she watched Year 7 girls being put through their paces in the dance studio.
Wherever she went in the three-story school she commented on the views across Marlborough and the countryside and in an art room on the second storey she asked students how they managed to concentrate when the views were so distracting!
The Duchess was escorted around the school by Dr Hazlewood and she was clearly impressed with St John’s for going it alone and raising all the money to build the new school with hardly any help from the education authority.
One of the people she spoke to was the new school project manager and bursar Barry Worth who told her he had spent nine years working on the project was that he was delighted with the finished building.
He said: She asked me if I was pleased and I told her I was mesmerisingly so, incredibly so and that it was a million times better than I ever thought it would be.
“I told her of the day when we decided to go it alone, a day that I will never forget.”
In the theatre the Duchess enjoyed her five minute stay listening to students rehearsing Disco Inferno and she clapped enthusiastically when Alex Ford finished singing Street Life and Annie Quinton-Smith sang I Will Survive.
The Duchess, who was wearing a brown shaded two-piece taupe suit with a knee length skirt and brown suede boots, found time to chat to students in all the classrooms she visited and she was clearly interested in what they were doing.
In the sixth form block on the third floor she spoke with Becky Thompson and Hazel Ingham who said: “She asked me what subjects I was doing and talked about art.”
In an art room she spoke to Briony Rosier and Lily-Pickett-Palmer, Year 12 students, and Briony said: “She looked at some of our photographs and we told her some were taken on a trip to Amsterdam last week.”
In a design and technology room she asked Giles Rosier-Pitt, year 11, who he was making a jewellery box for that he had designed himself. “I told her it was for my mother’s birthday,” Giles said.
At the end of her visit the Duchess signed the distinguished visitors’ book and unveiled a plaque after Dr Hazlewood told her: “Thank you for joining us for what has been a very special day indeed.”