A community set on a hill
The origins of Worth lie in the foundation in 1814 of a Catholic Benedictine Abbey and school at Downside in Somerset. From that base, the Abbot – John Chapman – decided in the early 1930s to establish another monastic community and a junior school in West Sussex. The monks purchased a country estate then known as Paddockhurst, lying in 500 acres of landscaped grounds surrounded on a ridge of the High Weald with a view southwards over rolling countryside towards the South Downs.
Over the years, the Abbey and school flourished, despite being evacuated back to Somerset during the Second World War while Canadian troops were stationed in the house prior to the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944. In 1957 Worth Abbey became independent from Downside and two years later in 1959 the senior school was founded. The school now has over 650 students, both boys and girls, day and boarding. It has had a lay head since 2002 with the Abbot being President of the Board of Governors. Selected members of the monastic community also serve as Governors or as House Chaplains.
The iconic Church building at the heart of the Worth Estate was designed by the Catholic architect Francis Pollen and constructed in the 1960s, with a substantial programme of internal improvements taking place in 2010-11. The building will accommodate 900 worshippers and is used for the daily offices, parish worship, school assembly and worship as well as various other ceremonies and concerts throughout the year at the Abbot’s discretion.
The Estate also includes the monks’ residence and offices, the parish office, the school and all its facilities, homes for various teaching and support staff, the retreat centre, and a farm and livery.