School Heritage and Chapel

Woodard School

We are a co-educational school in the Woodard Corporation, founded to teach the Christian faith.

Our founder, Nathaniel Woodard, had a simple aim: to build schools which were Christian communities. There, children could be nurtured in the values of the Gospel and each could, within the limits of their own conscience, engage with Christ in the mystery of the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

Today, we are the proud successors of that inheritance.

We welcome students from across the world, from all religions and none, and retain at our heart our founding values.

We are a community of stewards and our aim is to produce young men and women, confident in their own faith and being, with a sense of justice for all – with a desire to make a difference to the wider world.

Ardingly College is known as Nathaniel Woodard’s ‘Jewel in the Crown’.

Woodard School Site

School History

“Beati Mundo Corde”      Blessed are the Pure in Heart.

St. Saviour’s College was founded originally in Shoreham in 1858.  It was one of the three schools founded in that area of Sussex by the Revd. Nathaniel Woodard (1811-1891) who believed fervently in the importance of religion in education.

The foundation stone of our magnificent main red-brick building was laid on 12 July 1864.

Most boys left the school at a comparatively early age, some after only one term. By 1880, over 3,500 boys had passed through the school. Although originally a school for boys, girls joined in the 1970s.

Despite obvious change over the years, many of the old features still remain as part of our heritage.

The Junior School did not become separate until 1911, when a Junior House was established in the current North School buildings with a separate Housemaster.

The Pre-Prep School is very much a newcomer on the Ardingly scene, opening in September 1993, in the Victorian Farmhouse, with its award-winning renovated and refurbished farm buildings on the edge of the campus.


Our motto, translated Blessed are the pure in heart, comes from Jesus’ beatitudes, which sets out a radical way of seeing the world counter cultural to the brutal violence of his society.  Ardingly College seeks to be a forward-looking community rooted in a traditional setting and our motto encompasses this forward, yet historic, context. 


The Pelican is an ancient Christian symbol of service to others.  Legend has it that when their young are starving pelicans peck their own breasts to feed their young with their blood.  This links thematically with Jesus on the cross, offering humanity salvation through the shedding of his own blood, and the purpose of College as a place that encourages service of others as part of how we build community. 


The Chapel at Ardingly College

Like all the purpose-built Woodard schools, the Chapel of St Saviour stands at the heart, physically as well as spiritually, of the College.  

Designed by the renowned Gothic Revivalist, Richard Herbert Carpenter (who was responsible for the entire original building at the College), the Chapel of St Saviour was added in 1879-87.  It was consecrated on 5th October 1883.  

Found in the stained glass Great East Window of the Chapel, the figure of a pelican is the symbol of Ardingly.  It’s a dominant image throughout the College. In Christian art, the pelican is used as a symbol of the Eucharist. Legend has it that she would feed her children with her own blood, just as Christians believe Jesus feeds us with himself in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.  The Pelican also speaks of making sacrifices for others, something at the heart of Ardingly’s ethos. 

We actually have two Chapels; the Crypt Chapel of the Ascension is used for the quieter services. 



All students attend an appropriate form of religious engagement once a week.  For Senior school and School House Prep this comes in the form of a chapel service, and for Farmhouse Prep comes as a Collective Worship time composing of a short story, song and prayer.  In Senior and School House Prep there is a communion service once a half-term at which students are invited to come forward for either the sacrament (bread and wine) or a blessing if they would like.  Each week a different Senior School House attends Crypt Chapel on a Friday morning, meaning that over the course of a term all Houses attend once. 

In addition to these compulsory events, there are numerous voluntary courses and events that take place across each week, term or year.  Each week there is a Christian Union group that meets on Thursday lunchtimes for Senior Students.  There is also a voluntary Communion Service held on Sunday evenings that is open to the whole College community. 

Each term there is a ‘First Communion’ course for School House Prep students which explains the basics of Christianity and the importance of the Communion Service, and each year there is a 10-week Confirmation Course going into further detail of the Christian belief.  Both of these courses end with a special service to induct into communion or confirm into the faith. 

These are the more formal offerings that take place, but there is then the less formal, more ad-hoc offerings of pastoral care, listening ear and spiritual engagement that happen from time to time.  For instance, students and staff were invited to light candles and write prayers at the start of the Ukraine war or following the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.  During Lent Rev. Andy posted daily challenges for staff and students to engage with.  There have also been times when he has listened to, and prayed with, students or staff in times of need or difficulty. 

For the Senior School the principal celebration is the College Service at 4.45pm on Tuesday. For the Prep School, it is Monday at 3.45pm.  Chapel services enable us to meet as a College community, reflect on the Christian faith and how it relates to who we are as a community and individuals.  Chapel services may also explore issues of importance to students’ lives, such as mental health, International Women’s Day, Black History Month and Pride Month. 



The Rt Revd Jonathan Meyrick