Worlingworth Hall is a former medieval manor house, parts of which date back to the 13th century. In the mid-18th century, Worlingworth Hall became one of the seats of Sir John Major, a wealthy timber and iron merchant from Bridlington. Sir John and the Henniker family from Stratford, Essex were business partners, importing timber from the American colonies and the Baltic for Royal Navy ship masts.
His main residence was Thornham Hall (Major House) near Eye and his property of Worlingworth Hall was a small estate of parkland that the family would use for weekend shooting parties.
Following the death of Sir John Major in 1781, his son-in-law Sir John Henniker succeeded to the titles and lands, having married Anne Major in 1747. A diary recorded one of his first visits to the Hall with his sister-in-law Elizabeth, the Dowager Duchess of Chandos, in 1781, when he wrote that the roads were terrible and the house made him very ill because of the dampness. The occupant at that time, farming the estate for his landlord, was John Green, a member of a family whose history is recorded in a pamphlet at the Suffolk Records Office. It seems that Henniker was unamused by the condition of the Hall and decided to have a great number of repairs carried out.
Whenever they visited, it mght be that the Duchess of Chandos would ride out with her companions past Oak Farm towards Tannington Church on what is known as the Duchess's Bridleway. A farm on the Tannington Road is also known as Chandos Farm.
At the end of the 18th century, the Spurling family became connected with the Hall. William Spurling is recorded in a paper as being appointed "gamekeeper" for the Duchess of Chandos and John Henniker-Major, the 2nd Lord Henniker, in 1803. The Spurlings were tenants of a farm at Stanway Green which adjoined the Hall estate, all owned by the Henniker family. They would eventually, during the 1850s, emigrate to Australia.
The greatest ever social event in the parish's history took place on October 25th 1810 when Sir John Henniker-Major, the 2nd Lord Henniker, and his family hosted the Worlingworth Jubilee Feast in the park, commemorating George III's 50 years as monarch. The Ipswich Journal reported that an estimated 3 to 4,000 people attended and a 50 stone ox, given by Lord Henniker, was roasted on an ash spit.
The event was also commemorated by the commissioning of a painting depicting the scene that day. This painting, by an unknown artist, now hangs in the nave of the church. It depicts the principal establishments of the parish - the Church, the Hall and the Guildhall - whilst the assembled throng of labourers and their families indulge in general merriment.
By the time that the Henniker family owned the property, the Hall had become both a farm (in the east wing) and a stately house. The house was used sparingly by the Hennikers and, by Queen Victoria's reign, was utilised for other purposes. It accomodated a ladies boarding school, whilst the farming operation of about 150 acres continued through Giles and Emily Borrett. The boarding-school was endowed by John Cordy for 20 years after his death - he must have felt strongly that a middle class teaching establishment was needed to support a demand from local farming families. Cordy must have been on good terms with Lord Henniker to be able to establish the school at the Hall.
A future tenant for Lord Henniker would be William H. Preston, a son of Henry Preston, land valuer and auctioneer who was concerned with the production of the Worlingworth Tithe Map. By the middle of Queen Victoria's reign, the house was unused by the Hennikers and the boarding school had shut down. Instead the land was farmed and the house was rented out.
Postcards of the early 20th century show us what the house looked like over one hundred years ago. After William Preston and Thomas Norman, tenant farmers, the Hall was the scene of a tragic event in which a mother and her 18 month old daughter drowned in a pond on the estate.
In 1901, the tenant farmer was Henry Pipe of Brundish and the stately part of the house was "not in occupation".