‘Old Boy’ steps in as guest speaker at the Roundabout Hotel

Roger Overton-Smith. Photo by Lisa Wall SUS-181109-140353001
Roger Overton-Smith. Photo by Lisa Wall SUS-181109-140353001

After an excellent lunch at The Roundabout Hotel in West Chiltington, the Fryern Ladies’ Probus Club settled into listening mode for friend and speaker Roger Overton-Smith.

Roger had kindly stepped in, at the last minute, as Weislaw Rogaliski, who had been invited to speak to us on Britain’s Polish Forces 1946/9, was sadly indisposed.

We hope to reschedule his talk for a later date and all wish him a speedy recovery.

Roger, of Storrington Probus Club, was well known to the ladies whose husbands were also members and a warm feeling of camaraderie prevailed as we found that the new talk title was ‘Lancing the School the Chapel and its Founder’.

Whilst we all knew where the impressive Lancing College was situated, few of us knew of its founder Nathaniel Woodard; who founded the school in 1848.

Currently the co-educational school educates around 550 pupils between the ages of 13 and 18 with a ratio of approximately 60:40 boys to girls – indeed Roger is an ‘Old Boy’ (meant kindly) and is one of the Chapel Guides to which fund he will generously donate today’s fee.

We were told that Nathaniel, born in 1811, was ninth out of 12 children, the son of John Woodard a country gentleman of limited means.

Nathaniel was brought up – never went to school but was home educated - by his mother Mary, who was a pious and devout woman, and in 1834 successfully entered Magdalen Hall, Oxford.

He was ordained in 1841 and after a few controversial sermons eventually obtained a curacy in New Shoreham where he was struck by the poverty and poor education amongst his parishioners – this encouraged him to open a day school (firmly grounded in the Christian faith) and later he started St Nicolas’ School, which took boarders, merged in 1848 to The College of St Mary and St Nicolas, which eventually became the Lancing College we know of today!

He then founded ten more schools during his life time (known collectively as The Woodard Group today) and is quoted as saying: “Till the Church educates and trains up the middle classes, she can never effectually educate the poor,” and “education without religion is pure evil” - wisdom indeed.

It is interesting that the motto of Lancing College today reflects this quote in ‘Beati Mundo Corde’ (Blessed are the pure in heart).

The school today is dominated by a Gothic revival chapel and follows a high church Anglican tradition.

Roger showed us many impressive slides of the interior and we were impressed by the beautiful rose window which is the largest in England being the inner width of the chapel and measuring 32ft in diameter.

It was also interesting to note that a stained glass window was commissioned in memory of Trevor Huddleston and consecrated by Desmond Tutu.

The chapel is open to the public and every year Christmas choir performances by the student choir are sell outs – a good idea for a Probus outing - indeed the BBC Radio 2 Choirboy of the Year was from Lancing College.

The list of Notable Alumni is also limitless and three notable ‘Old Boy’ playwrights of today are Tim Rice, Christopher Hampton and Sir David Hare.

It is interesting to note that whilst the foundation stone of the college chapel was laid in 1864 the chapel remains unfinished to this day and rests on uneven lines along the hillside. We appreciated many illustrations of the beautiful interior of the Chapel, the crypt, and hearing about the tomb of the founder – an impressive talk.

Jean Minter thanked Roger on our behalf and we were grateful that he could officiate at such short notice – Thank you Roger.

The meeting closed with reminders of our Invitational Lunch at West Sussex Golf Club and a visit to Hever Castle. The next regular meeting will be on November 1 and we shall hear from Susan Howe on ‘Cantering through a Funny Life’.