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Topping-out ceremony 2016

On Thursday 24 November, a traditional ‘topping-out’ ceremony was held at Eastbourne College to celebrate the imminent completion of the new cricket pavilion and academic block – the first phase of the transformational £33m Project 150 development.

Senior College staff were joined by representatives from Miller Bourne Architects, VINCI Construction, Northgates consultancy and Eastbourne Borough Council. headmaster, Tom Lawson, was particularly pleased to welcome the Mayor of Eastbourne, Councillor Pat Hearn to the College for this event.

Mr Gary Dixon, Director of VINCI Construction UK Ltd, led the ceremony by placing a tree branch on the top level of the building. He explained that the topping-out ritual is said to date back to pre-Dark Ages Scandinavia, with the practice of placing a tree on the top of a new building to appease the tree-dwelling spirits exiled by its construction.

The practice came to England with Scandinavian invaders in the 8th century and it is a tradition that has been upheld to this day.

One of the earliest known ceremonies in England was in 1393 for Winchester School, attended by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester and Lord High Chancellor of England. Not only was he the supervisor of the construction of Windsor Castle, he also founded New College Oxford, and Winchester College.

Topping out ceremonies are now held around the world. In Brazil, branches and leaves are attached to the building and the workforce eat, drink and dance. In Germany, laurels are hung around the chimney to acknowledge the 'birth' of a new building. The Danish decorate the roof of the building with evergreen garlands, and in Jordan, builders hold a religious ceremony followed by a feast.

The ceremony celebrates all things positive:
  • good luck for future occupants,
  • continued growth, and 
  • the safe completion the building. 

As Mr Dixon placed the branch, he congratulated the construction team on reaching this significant milestone.

He commented. “They are an excellent team, expertly led by Mike Rozier, supported by Miller Bourne, Gyoury Self, FT Allan and Northgates, and we thank them all very much for their considerable efforts.

Finally, we hope the achievement of this milestone serves as a source of renewed enthusiasm for Eastbourne College and their students as they look forward to taking residence in what will be a fantastic new facility, a great legacy for the College on their 150th anniversary, and something we are very proud to be delivering.”