At the end of June we held a ‘Topping Out Event’ on site to celebrate the completion of the steel structure of the new Royal School Manchester. The traditional Topping Out ‘Ceremony’ took place, where a tree is positioned on top of the building. The tree is a key symbol that, throughout history, appears to have conveyed different meanings to different people.


The tradition dates back thousands of years, with some accounts claiming the first known instance to Egypt and the completion of the Pyramids. The workers placed a tree on top to honour those who had died during the construction, a tree being a symbol of everlasting life.

In Scandinavia, a more widespread practice was followed. When a timber frame of a building was complete, a tree was placed on the highest point to appease the tree-dwelling spirits whose habitat had been disturbed.

In the mid to late 8th Century, Viking invaders took the custom to Britain, which then spread to the USA and other areas of the world, where different cultures absorbed the tradition into their existing beliefs and rituals. In America, its popularity was said to be due to the Native American belief that no building should be taller than a tree; erecting one on top of the building was a way to get around this.

We chose the Rowan tree, which will subsequently be planted on site to grow and flourish over years to come.

Historically, flags were often used on construction sites to signal to those on the ground what materials they needed, with different colours meaning different things. Flying one as part of a topping-off ceremony became a political gesture in 1920s America, when construction workers were accused of being unpatriotic and wanting to join a union. As a way of proving their patriotic allegiance, many builders flew the Stars and Stripes at topping-off ceremonies alongside a tree or branch, and many other cultures adopted this part of the tradition.

For our ceremony, we chose to display two flags; the Union Jack to celebrate the year of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and our very own Seashell flag, signed by our staff, students and all of those who attended the ceremony.

The event, to which a number of our key supporters, staff and students attended, included presentations from our CEO, Brandon Leigh, Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, Sir Warren Smith JP, and our School Head Teacher. Emma Houldcroft.

We had a fantastic performance from our college rock band, led by Greg Davies and Mollie on lead vocals, singing hits such as ‘This is me’ and ‘Shotgun’. A great day was enjoyed by all, with refreshments flowing and everyone enjoying the music.

We are all extremely excited for The Royal School Manchester to be completed in November 2022, and look forward to future events to celebrate it opening.