Woodard, Nathaniel (DNB00)

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WOODARD, NATHANIEL (1811–1891), founder of the Woodard schools, born on 21 March 1811, was fifth son of John Woodard of Basildon Hall, Essex. He was educated privately, and matriculated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, in 1834. At the same time he married Miss Eliza Harriet Brill. He graduated B.A. in 1840 and M.A. in 1866. He was ordained deacon in 1841 and priest in 1842. His first curacy was at Bethnal Green; his second at St. James's, Clapton; his third at New Shoreham. At New Shoreham he opened in 1847 a small day school, of which he appointed the Rev. C. H. Christie headmaster; to the school he gave up the vicarage where he resided, and moved his family into lodgings.

In 1848 Woodard first became deeply impressed with the lack of good schools for the middle classes, which should offer definite church of England teaching and the advantages of the educational system of the great public schools at a comparatively small expense. There were public schools for the higher classes and national schools for the poor, but the middle classes seemed to be left out in the cold. In 1848 he issued his first pamphlet on the subject, ‘A Plea for the Middle Classes;’ and in 1852 he issued his second pamphlet, ‘Public Schools for the Middle Classes.’ Meanwhile in 1848 he entered on his great educational work by opening at Shoreham a boarding-school under the Rev. E. C. Lowe (subsequently provost of St. Nicolas College). A number of houses were taken and occupied, and in 1850 Woodard resigned his curacy and devoted his whole attention to the organisation and development of large educational schemes. In 1862 he settled at Martyn Lodge, Henfield, which was his home until his death.

In working out his plans his ideas expanded, and a society was founded in 1848 to carry them out. It was stated that its purpose was to extend ‘education among the middle classes of her majesty's dominions, and especially among the poorer members of those classes, in the doctrines and principles of the church now established … by means of colleges and schools established, and to be established, in various places,’ with the permission of the diocesans and under the direction of clergymen and laymen in communion with the church. The colleges or schools were to be of three grades or classes: ‘the first for the sons of clergymen and other gentlemen; the second for the sons of substantial tradesmen, farmers, clerks, and others of similar situation; and the third for sons of petty shopkeepers, skilled mechanics, and other persons of very small means, who have at present no opportunity of procuring for their children better instruction than is given in parochial and other primary schools; the charges in all the schools shall be on as moderate a scale as the means of the society will allow; and particularly the maximum charges of schools of the third class shall be so fixed that the boys in such last-mentioned schools shall be boarded and educated for a sum very little (if at all) exceeding what it would cost their parents to provide them with food at home.’

The first school founded for the middle classes by the Woodard Society was St. John's, Hurstpierpoint. The corner-stone was laid in 1851, and it was opened in 1853. The first stone of the chapel was laid in 1861. Over 50,000l. was expended on the handsome buildings, which were designed to accommodate three hundred boys.

The second school was St. Nicolas, Lancing, where 250 acres were secured in the parish of Lancing and the first stone of the central buildings laid on 21 March 1854 by the founder. The first stone of the chapel was laid by Bishop Gilbert in 1868. The buildings form an imposing pile.

In 1869 Woodard published ‘The Scheme of Education of St. Nicolas College,’ in a letter to the Marquis of Salisbury. Woodard now proposed that there should be five centres of education for east, west, north, south, and the midlands; that each centre should be endowed with funds to support a provost and twelve senior fellows, who should give their whole time to carrying forward the work of education in the several districts; that twelve non-resident fellows should be elected from the gentlemen in the district, and be associated with the senior fellows. In accordance with these proposals a society of St. Nicolas Lancing was founded for the south district. Its educational establishments consisted at first of the two foundations of St. John's, Hurstpierpoint, and St. Nicolas, Lancing. To these additions were subsequently made. St. Saviour's school, Ardingly, for the lower middle class, which had been begun at Shoreham, was removed in 1870 to Ardingly, where buildings were erected to accommodate five hundred boys, on a property of five hundred acres. All Saints' school, Bloxham, Oxfordshire, which was founded in 1860 by the Rev. P. Reginald Egerton, and cost over 25,000l., was handed over by him, with its fine buildings, to the corporation of St. Nicolas College in 1896. Under the same society's auspices St. Michael's school for girls was established at Bognor in 1894.

The second divisional society, founded by Woodard on the model of that of St. Nicolas, was St. Mary's and St. John's of Lichfield for the midlands. A provost and body of fellows were appointed in 1873. They established St. Chad's, Denstone, for 320 boys of the middle class. The buildings, to the cost of which Sir Percival Heywood contributed munificently, were opened by Bishop Selwyn in 1873, and the chapel in 1879. The cost exceeded 70,000l. St. Oswald's, Ellesmere, and St. Cuthbert's, Worksop, were lower middle schools for those of narrow means. The first, with buildings for 190 boys, was opened in 1884 at a cost of 30,000l.; the second, with buildings costing 20,000l., for two hundred boys, on a site presented by the Duke of Newcastle, was opened in 1895. St. Anne's, Abbot's Bromley, a boarding school for a hundred girls, with day pupils, was commenced in 1873. St. Mary's, Abbot's Bromley, and St. Winifred's, Bangor, were lower middle schools for girls, boarders, and day pupils. The first was commenced in 1882, and new buildings were opened in 1893 at a cost of 4,000l.; the second was commenced in 1887. St. Augustine's, Dewsbury, a grammar school for two hundred boys, was opened in 1884.

A divisional society for the west, St. Mary's and St. Andrew's of Wells, was formed, with a provost, in 1897. King Alfred's College, Taunton, which had previously been purchased by Woodard in 1880, and carried on as a middle-grade school, was placed in 1897 under the government of the new divisional society as a school for those of narrow means, with accommodation for two hundred boys.

More than half a million has been raised and expended in carrying out Woodard's schemes, which gained the support of many eminent high churchmen. In the earlier days of the movement puritan alarm led to fanatical outbursts, but the demand for such a system of education, and the satisfaction expressed by parents at its good influence on their children, silenced opponents and soon led to a reaction in its favour. Woodard's aims have been largely realised in many directions. The governing bodies of all the divisional societies are now united in a comprehensive governing body styled the corporation of SS. Mary and Nicolas. A feature in the system to which Woodard attached great importance is the benefit fund. Its purpose is to maintain a bond of union between past members of the schools of all grades, and to make grants for the advancement in life or to relieve the necessities of members. The accumulated capital has become considerable. Though the amount of payment he proposed has had to be raised, the entire account for a boy at Ardingly is covered by twenty guineas annually. The discipline of the Woodard schools was upheld by leaving boys out of school hours to their own self-government, relying on their sense of duty and honour.

In 1870 Woodard was appointed canon residentiary of Manchester by Mr. Gladstone, in succession to Archdeacon Durnford, who became bishop of Chichester. The same year the university of Oxford conferred on him the honorary degree of D.C.L. In 1880 he represented the chapter of Manchester as proctor in York convocation. In 1881 he became subdean of Manchester. In 1888 the rectory of St. Philip's, Salford, which had previously been annexed by act of parliament to his canonry, became vacant, and he had in his declining years to accept a parochial charge. Soon afterwards his mental powers declined. He died at Henfield on 25 April 1891, and was buried at Lancing College in a vault at the south-east of the chapel wall. He was father of seven sons and one daughter.

[Calendar of the Corporation of St. Mary and St. Nicolas, 1897; Lowe's St. Nicolas College and its Schools; ‘Canon Woodard’ in Lancing College Magazine, by Francis Haverfield; information from the Rev. Canon E. E. Lowe, D.D., Rev. E. Field, and members of the family.]

J. A. A.