The Woodard Room, named after the school’s founder Canon Nathaniel Woodard is today the school’s main function room. A clue to the original purpose of this room can be found in its former name ‘Big School’. Built as the main schoolroom in 1869 the room would initially have been used to teach subjects simultaneously to a number of forms which comprised boys of similar ability but not necessarily similar ages.
However such a large space was soon also used for a variety of purposes – plays, concerts, assemblies and public events. In 1900 the newly acquired school organ was installed at the west end. Disaster was narrowly averted on 8 May 1905 when the organ caught fire. Boys using the school’s fire buckets zealously worked to extinguish the fire to such an extent that the water damage was worse than the fire damage. Fortunately the organ was restorable and can now be found in the school Chapel.
The multi-purpose role of the Woodard Room reached new heights after World War II, as a photograph of 1957 shows, when growing school numbers saw Big School used simultaneously as an assembly hall with stage, a classroom and an overflow dining room for King Alfred House.
A new role for the room came in 1969 when it was transformed into the school’s Library. In 1993 the stained glass windows, designed by Richard Pocock, Head of Art, were installed in the end window; followed by the Millennium windows on the left. The windows were gifts of the Old Aluredian Club to the school.
One use which has continued through the centuries has been as an examinations room. The roof originally had a central ventilation shaft with an external air spire. Less scholarly individuals would be known to skilfully throw plimsolls (a suitably heavy but small item) up into the vent in the days leading up to exams and then complain of the summer heat in the packed room. The vent would then be opened to the peril of those positioned in the centre of the room underneath.