Alban Woodroffe - Lyme's local hero
Alban Woodroffe was an energetic and forward-thinking local landowner who is best remembered for giving his name to the Woodroffe School back in 1923, but he accomplished much more than this.
He set up the Lyme Regis Electric Light and Power Company and through the investments of his rich friends, he had the money and influence to convince the town council to have Dorset's first electricity supply.
1909 5 January LYME REGIS. PROPOSED ELECTRIC LIGHT FOR THE TOWN.
At a meeting of the Borough Council with the Lyme Regis Electric Light and Power Company Ltd, a scheme for electric light for the town was provisionally adopted. A letter from Mr Alban Woodroffe had been received some days before saying he had been asked by the promoters of the Company to become a director, with power to nominate other directors. He was willing to accept this invitation, but only if the Corporation granted the Company a seven-year contract (with powers to terminate it, if the lighting were unsatisfactory). The total cost of the scheme was estimated at £1,902. The Electric Light Company was offering 15 more lamps for the same price, as the Council was now paying the Gas Company, or to make a reduction of £40 per year by using the same number of lamps as at present. After discussion the proposition was unanimously carried.
From Pulman's Weekly - Taunton County Library Archives. 20 February 2003
He saw Lyme Regis through World War I as Mayor, became a county councillor and also High Sheriff of Dorset. He presented the town with land to build a road out to the east to save horses the hard slog up Timber Hill and was granted the Freedom of Lyme Regis in 1933.
Alban Woodroffe was the person responsible for getting Dorset County Council to establish a grammar school in Lyme Regis. He insisted this school in Lyme Regis should provide accommodation for girls as well as boys - the first in the county to do so.
Here’s an extract from “The School On The Hill” by Gilly Warr, a pupil at Woodroffe School in the 60's. It gives an interesting insight into the selection methods Alban Woodroffe employed back then.
“It was in 1923 that Alban Woodroffe decided that there should be a Grammar School in Lyme Regis …. At that time he was Chairman of the Dorset Education Committee, Vice Chairman of the County Council and Chairman of the Finance Committee, so his opinion carried a lot of weight. The Board of Education declared that there were insufficient numbers to justify a Grammar School in the town but Mr Woodroffe was keen to have one and it is alleged that he visited every house in the town where there was a child eligible to take the entrance exam, often arriving in his chauffeur-driven car. It is said that he then personally invigilated the exam behind closed doors. Curiously enough every child passed which must have created a national record for any selection examination! Alban Woodroffe's original intention had been that the Grammar School would be for boys only but in the end he needed girls to make up the numbers so the new school was co-educational.”
He was chairman of the Lyme Regis Grammar School from its foundation in 1923.
The Catholic Herald reported on the 26th October 1956 that Alban Woodroffe was awarded the honour of being made a papal knight., Alban Woodroffe was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory by the Holy Father in recognition of all the work he had done for the Church, particularly in education for more than 40 years.
Alban Woodroffe – papal knight and Lyme Regis’ local hero.
Kevin Benfield, Words on Words
Published on 11/06/2012.