PICTURE OF THE MONTH
We are planning another volume of old photographs for publication in the autumn. If you would like to contribute to the History Group in any way, we would welcome copies/scans of family trees and documents, old photographs and any stories about former residents of the parish.
If you would like to assist in our research at the Suffolk Records Office in Ipswich, we would be pleased to offer guidance from our experienced researchers. You can contact us using the Contact Form on this website.
now stands at seventy with many other contacts around the world. For a six pounds annual fee, members receive four newsletters per year, admission at a reduced price to our quarterly talks and the chance to participate in research and historical events that take place in the parish. We also organise fund-raising events and an annual outing to a place of local historic interest.
Where is Worlingworth?
Worlingworth is a parish of some 2,400 acres of strong clay land, located in the agricultural heart of Suffolk in East Anglia. It lies somewhere between Ipswich and Norwich, lying closer to the former. The village topography is typical of a Suffolk parish, a long "street" with isolated groups of dwellings and the occasional narrow side road leading off to a neighbouring parish. The church and the inn form the centres of the two main settlement clusters and visual evidence of the ancient village green - the former common land - exists today with the preservation of Great Green on Shop Street. Worlingworth straggles along an unclassified road which roughly heads south-east to north-west from the direction of Framlingham to Eye. A small rivulet flows from Tannington through a valley past Worlingworth Hall to join the River Dove and the River Waveney. This area constitutes some of the most fertile land in the parish and there is evidence for a medieval water mill and signs of strip field cultivation from those times in this valley.
Aelfric, Bishop of Elmham, was given extensive tracts of land in Suffolk by King Canute and lands in Worlingworth formed part of this 'gift'. Subsequently, the advowson of the church belonged to the Abbey of St Edmundsbury until the Reformation. In pre-Reformation medieval times, much of Worlingworth's acres were in the form of "strips" of land, perhaps only a few metres wide, worked by the peasants for their feudal lord. The present church was gradually built over a period of many years, the present chancel replacing an older church, probably of wood and wattle, between 1280 and 1310. The nave and western tower were added in the 1400s.
When the monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII, the advowson of Worlingworth Church was sold to Anthony Rous of Dennington. The Rous (Rowse) family were feudal lords of the manor in the parish for hundreds of years until the 17th century. By the late 18th century, the Major and Henniker families had become the dominant landowners although the Ray family was influential in the commercial Shop Street cluster, centred around the Red House and the Worlingworth Maltings. The Ray family also provided the parish with its workhouse, now known as The Guildhall.
Worlingworth was a typical Suffolk parish of the 19th century, its inhabitants suffering greatly from the depression in agriculture. Bankruptcies, suicides, migration, emigration and transportation all featured intermittently in the parish timeline. In the Government census of 1851, 25% of the parish adult population were classed as paupers. Many cottages were little better than hovels. Consumption and other diseases were a constant danger, even in a rural setting.
The saving grace for many was the parish church, the community centre of its time. In a religious survey of 1851, it was recorded that there were morning and afternoon services and that, on average, over 300 people attended divine service on a Sunday afternoon. However, the church had become dilapidated and it wasn't until the Rev'd Frederic French had settled in as Rector in the late 1850s, that the parish's fortunes saw an upturn.
The church restoration of 1866-7 and the introduction of the communal "Harvest Home" celebrations were examples of the Rector's determination to improve the living standards of the deprived cottagers. Frederic French served the community as Rector, Manager of the New School, Justice of the Peace and County Councillor for over 54 years, until his death in 1907.
This website has been built with the help of a grant made by Suffolk County Council, from our County Councillor Eddie Alcock's Locality Budget, and by a Community Projects grant from Mid-Suffolk District Council in 2009.