There is little remaining evidence of formal schooling in the parish before 1818. No doubt, dame schools existed and schoolmasters, such as Thomas Peake (d.1822), are mentioned in the parish registers. In Town Committee record books, there are oblique references to some form of teaching. For example, in the 1680s, William Dod is given a small salary for the educating of the poor children. The location of this teaching was probably within some part of the original Guildhall, possibly in the detached annex, shown on old photographs. A reference to a fence being built between the two buildings seems to confirm this.
The Old Schoolroom
In 1689, John Baldry left money and land to finance the employment of a schoolmaster in the parish to teach poor children of this parish to read, write and cast accounts. This endowment was supplemented 9 years later by the will of William Godbold. Godbold left 120 pounds for increasing the salary of a schoolmaster to teach the youth of Worlingworth and Athelington in grammar, writing and arithmetic. As the population increased, it would become a necessity to have a purpose-built school erected.
The endowed school, also known as the Free School, was built and opened in 1818. This was situated to the east of the church on land belonging to the parish. Accommodation for the schoolmaster was also needed and an extension to the building was added in 1825 at the expense of John Cordy of Woodbridge, the former village shopkeeper. The school was free to the children of parishioners, who paid less than 10 pounds per annum in rent and also to two boys from Athelington and Southolt, at the bequest of Cordy. When the New School was built in a more central location on Shop Street, the Old Schoolroom became a Sunday School and social centre until being transferred to private ownership in the 1950s. Amongst the schoolmasters who taught there was Sylvester Tissington, the author of A Collection of Epitaphs and Monumental Inscriptions, a renowned work of the Victorian period. Tissington met an untimely death in an accident at Stradbroke in 1861, leaving a widow and three young children. Remarkably, his widow married Silvester's brother Richard ten years later. Richard was the schoolmaster until 1869 when he and Betsy moved to London.
The New School
The present-day school was built in the mid-1870s and opened in 1876. The first schoolmaster was John Holland (pictured), assisted by his wife Jane. They came to Worlingworth in 1869 and both were lauded for their work in improving the standards of the school. Sadly, John Holland took a fever and died in 1885, a truly calamitous event at the time. Remarkably, his eldest son Edward took over from his father at the age of 20 and continued for 5 years before wedding a teacher at Horham, Selina Hobson, and moving to London. Edward Holland would later become Lord Lieutenant of Surrey.
The location of at least two dame schools has been identified, one tenement still standing to this day whilst the other was demolished in the 1880s. A dame school existed at the School House next to the present school. Maria Goymour and her granddaughter Maria Henrietta were the tutors. When Maria Henrietta died of consumption in her mid-twenties in 1855, she left a will and an estate of ?50, possibly an indication that the school was quite profitable. This house (pictured below) would become the dwelling of the schoolmaster of the New School, built in 1875.
The other known dame school was located close to Widows Nest on Shop Street and was run by Hannah Bedwell. Her nieces, Cassandra and Violetta Harvey, carried on the school after Hannahs death in the 1840s. There is documentary evidence which suggests that this house may have burnt down in a fire on New Year's Eve 1885. A one-legged woman and her little dog raised the alarm but, by the time the Parish Fire Engine arrived (pulled by the firemen), the cottage had burnt down.
A Boarding School for Girls
Thanks to the census returns of the mid-19th century, we now know that a boarding school for twelve girls existed at Worlingworth Hall in the 1830s. This school was endowed by John Cordy for 20 years after his death although it stayed open for a little longer until the 1860s. The running of the school co-existed with the tenant farmer, who farmed the Hall estate for Lord Henniker. The pupils consisted entirely of the daughters of relatively wealthy farmers and gentlemen of the district.