On 29th September 2019, Woodford County celebrated its 100th birthday.

There were the usual rituals of the school parade, a service where the schools' songs were sung and various other activities in between which helped made the day as memorable and joyful as possible. A particular favourite of the school was the Woodford birthday cake bake off, where many beautifully baked cakes had been competing in. My personal favourite was the Year 8 Murder Mystery. A fictitious murder of one of the teacher had taken place. Various clues had been given to the Year 8’s in order to find out who from the possible suspects had been the murderer.

Many of the past pupils had come to visit to seeing and experience Woodford today and to compare it to the nostalgic memories of their experience at Woodford County.

All Woodford girls are familiar with the history of the school itself and how it began to exist. The building itself is called ‘Highams’ and in the building the Warner family, lived. The grounds of the school were designed by Humphry Repton. The Main Lobby and the winding staircase were designed by William Newton and he designed Highams Manor, built in 1768 for Anthony Bacon MP. Newton had designed Greenwich Hospital and chapel previously and is responsible for many other designs in England.

Highams House has been through many hardships. It acted as a military hospital, in November 1914 it was converted into Woodford and Wanstead Military Hospital during World War I. It later hosted many famous people, including the local MP Sir Winston Churchill and not to forget the effects on the school and building from World War II.  By 1939 as no bombing had occurred, it was called at this period of time the ‘phoney war’ by the general public and students.  Nevertheless the expected bombings were considered to be so unsafe for them to remain at Woodford, they were then relocated to Bedford Grammar School for the duration of the war.  When they returned to Woodford, they noted that nothing dangerous had taken effect on the school. This had been referred to in the book “Visions of Girlhood” written by Rosemary Davis, a past pupil (1962-1969), current Chair of the Old Girl’s Association and written in conjunction with the centenary.

Two bronze statues have been commissioned to mark the centenary. These show a nostalgic gaze of the centenary girl of today looking and admiring back to the girl of the past. Here, the girl of the past is looking into the distance, trying to spot the Woodford girl of the future. This for me makes me consider whether the students of the past could ever envisage what their school would be like at 100 years, what opportunities the students of the future could readily claim and whether they would even be able to recognise the education experienced by past pupils. Reassuringly, the Woodford girls of today are always reminded of the school’s history in traditional events such as the Birthday Parade.

100 years ago, the school was created in mind with the idea of preparing a girl with all things fundamental in order to achieve a brighter life ahead. A century ago, continuing with further education was on the minds of the Woodford girls, with only a small minority going to university. However, today, Woodford girls are almost guaranteed a place at university and with most students applying for STEM related courses. This is an impressive amount of progress but not something that girls of the past could have only dreamed of.

Woodford, over the course of the century, has shaped the minds of academically able girls and has shaped new horizons for them. The school unashamedly encourages girls to reach their potential and will always be part of the best of their memories. Woodford girls of today are now the titans of their industries thanks to the motto of the early Headteacher of the school, Miss Cleland who aspired for a Woodford girl to be ‘intelligent, generous, personable and enthusiastic’; a girl who is always willing to engage, to enjoy challenges and to contribute to the common good’ (Davis, 2019:267).

Woodford in its hundredth year is ready for the next 100 years of educating and shaping young girls ambitions and dreams into reality...

Lakavi Suthan, Woodford County High School