Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Woodford House a history by Gaye Robertson

Miss Mabel Annie Hodge, from Cheltenham, England established Woodford House in Hastings in 1894. She started the school with 18 day girls and four boarders.
Miss Hodge was followed as principal in 1923 by Miss Mary Holland.

Both Misses Hodge and Holland were determined and inspirational women who led the school throughout two World Wars, the Great Depression and the 1931 Hawke's Bay Earthquake.

As the number of pupils increased she realised it would be advantageous to relocate the school to larger premises and the hills of Havelock North appealed to her.

Accordingly she set about her task and sought the opinions of parents and enlisted help from prominent locals who proceeded with the development of Woodford. The school house system which forms an important part of the special character of Woodford was derived from the association of those four founding families. The new school opened with 60 boarders and six staff in February 1911.

The chapel, dedicated to St Francis of Assisi, was consecrated and officially opened in 1928. It suffered some damage (as did other parts of the school) in the Hawke’s Bay Earthquake of 1931, but by the end of the year was fully restored. The chapel was extended in 1968 and rededicated in time for the 75th Anniversary in 1969. Today the chapel, featuring extensive use of stained glass windows and containing an impressive organ, is the centre of the school and is used for school services, memorial services, baptisms and weddings.

The site was quite barren at the outset but over the years landscaping and extensive tree planting which retain the magnificent views have turned the grounds into an established and well recognised landscape. The beautiful 22 hectare site overlooks the Heretaunga Plains with its orchards, vineyards and views to the western ranges.

The present hall and dining room are part of the original building but an extensive range of specialist facilities have been added over the years, so that the campus remains modern and totally functional whilst catering for every educational and accommodation need.

Woodford House became an integrated school in 1999 and today caters for up to 325 boarding and day girls from Years 7 to 13. It continues to have a close affiliation with the Anglican Church under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Waiapu.

The school still identifies with and regularly celebrates its historic past and has a reputation for excellence and encouraging independence and confidence in young women. The current principal, Mrs Jackie Barron, has over 25 years experience as an educator and was previously Deputy Principal at Gore High School.