Worth School
Paddockhurst Road

, ,
RH10 4SD

TypePrivate school
Boarding school
Day school
MottoLatin: Gloria Dei est homo bene vivit
(The glory of God is a person fully alive)[1]
Religious affiliation(s)Roman Catholic
Established1617 (In Douai)
1933 (Current location)
FounderJohn Chapman
Department for Education URN126137 Tables
Chairman of the GovernorsJeremy Fletcher
Head MasterStuart McPherson
Age11 to 18
Colour(s)Worth blue & gold    
Worth Knowing
The Blue Paper
Former pupilsOld Worthians

Worth School is a private co-educational Roman Catholic boarding and day school for pupils from 11 to 18 years of age near Worth, West Sussex, England. Until 2008, Worth was exclusively a boys' school.[2] The school is located within Worth Abbey, a Benedictine monastery, in 500 acres (2.0 km2) of Sussex countryside.[3] It is one of the three prominent Benedictine independent boarding schools in the United Kingdom; the other two being Ampleforth and Downside.[4] For the academic year 2015/16, Worth charged day pupils up to £7,275 per term, making it the 42nd most expensive HMC day school.[5]


In 1617 the Benedictine community of English and Welsh monks that had founded Downside School in Douai established a preparatory school to educate the younger pupils. At the time, both schools were located in France due to the severe penal laws in England imposed against Catholics. This way, English Catholics were able to send their children to study across the channel. After an incident with French revolutionaries in 1790, the school had to move back to England, where laws against Catholics had become more flexible. After several years in Acton Burnell, the monks finally settled in Stratton-on-the-Fosse, Somerset, in 1814; this is the current location of Downside School.[6]

In 1933 the Paddockhurst country estate of Lord Cowdray was purchased by Downside Abbey. John Chapman, Abbot of Downside, relocated the junior school to the estate, thus establishing a preparatory school for boys aged 7 to 13 named Worth Priory.[7] This school, set in the mansion house of Paddockhurst, was a junior school for Downside School. Having 60 pupils at foundation, numbers rose to 100 in 1939 when the school was evacuated and moved to Downside Abbey for the duration of the Second World War. In 1957 pupil numbers rose to 256, the school becoming the second largest preparatory school in the country.

Carving at the entrance during the school's early years.

In 1957 Worth Abbey became independent from Downside Abbey, and shortly after this an independent senior school, Worth School, for boys aged 13 to 18, was founded (1959). The former Worth Preparatory School remained separate from the senior school and was progressively scaled-down until in 1965 it became The Junior House for boys aged 11 to 13.

Worth remained a purely boarding school until the 1990s, when day students were first admitted, and two day houses were founded, one inheriting the name of Worth's founder, Chapman, the other named for its first Abbot, Farwell. Worth was the first English Benedictine school to combine the boarding and day traditions in this way.

In October 1999 the School hosted the first International Conference on Benedictine Education. Over one hundred Benedictine educators, monks, nuns and lay people came from sixty Benedictine schools in fifteen countries to work together on developing the Benedictine tradition of education.[8] At this meeting work began on establishing The International Commission on Benedictine Education (ICBE) which was founded in November 2002 to support those schools which promote a Benedictine vision of education.[9]

In 2002 Worth School was established as a separate charity from Worth Abbey, with its own Board of Governors and a lay chairman. This was the first time that a Benedictine school in England had established a fully independent lay Board of Governors.[10]

Girls were accepted into the sixth form from September 2008. Girls were admitted into the lower years in 2010. A boarding house and a day house for girls were subsequently founded.[11]

Main House at Worth School

Main article: Independent school fee fixing scandal

In 2005 the Office of Fair Trading found fifty independent schools, including Worth, to have breached the Competition Act by "regularly and systematically" exchanging information about planned increases in school fees, which was collated and distributed among the schools by the bursar at Sevenoaks School.[12] Following the investigation by the OFT, each school was required to pay around £70,000, totalling around £3.5 million, significantly less than the maximum possible fine. In addition, the schools together agreed to contribute another £3m to a new charitable educational fund. The incident raised concerns over whether the charitable status of independent schools such as Worth should be reconsidered, and perhaps revoked.[13] However, Jean Scott, the head of the Independent Schools Council, said the schools were following a long-established procedure in sharing the information with each other because independent schools were previously exempt from anti-cartel rules applied to business and that they were unaware of the change to the law (on which they had not been consulted). She wrote to John Vickers, the OFT director-general, saying, "They are not a group of businessmen meeting behind closed doors to fix the price of their products to the disadvantage of the consumer. They are schools that have quite openly continued to follow a long-established practice because they were unaware that the law had changed."[14] In March 2009 the school celebrated its 75th anniversary, with a special mass for the whole school community in Westminster Cathedral. The school was welcomed by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and the mass was celebrated in the presence of Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain. It is the first time that a Benedictine school has ever assembled for such an occasion at Westminster Cathedral. The school choir performed a specially composed motet by Colin Mawby, a former Director of Music at the cathedral and one of Britain's leading liturgical composers.

In July 2009 racing driver Henry Surtees, age 18, had just finished his A-levels at Worth, when he died in an accident during a Formula Two race at Brands Hatch, Kent. The school commemorated this former pupil by naming a school social centre in his honour, and by a cross-Channel swim to raise £15,000 for Sussex Air Ambulance, the Surtees family's nominated charity.[15]

During 2011 extended sports facilities were opened, including the school's first Astroturf. In the same year the Abbey Church, used daily by the school for a wide variety of functions, was extensively refurbished.[16] The Abbey Church (constructed between 1965 and 1975) was designed by the English architect Francis Pollen, and "is considered by many to be the best example of his style".[17] The refurbished interior, by Thomas Heatherwick Studios, won the West Sussex County Council Design and Sustainability Scheme Restoration Award for 2011. Judges found that "Thoughtful design and superb execution make for a wonderful restoration, proving that in the right hands contemporary architecture can be used to create an exceptional place for prayer and contemplation".[18]

The school's entrance through Paddockhurst Road.

In November 2011 a 13-year-old pupil, William Avery-Wright, died in a road accident on the B2110 Paddockhurst Road while crossing unsupervised.[19] His funeral was held in the Abbey Church in December of that year.[20] Subsequently, the bereaved family have been critical of the school and in January 2014 the Conservative MP for Wealden, Charles Hendry, called for the resignation of the school's Headmaster, Gino Carminati, and Chair of Governors, Alda Andreotti.[21]

In September 2012 a new building for the boys boarding house, St Bede's, was opened in a woodland setting near the school golf course. Designed by architects Miller Bourne (Hove), the building houses 60 boarders, along with a housemaster's family house and a flat for a residential tutor. The St Bede's building won the 2012 Sussex Heritage Trust Award in the large commercial category.[22]

In 2012 Tatler reported that 8% of the school's students later go on to study at either Oxford or Cambridge Universities.[23]

In June 2013 in co-operation with The Jesuit Institute,[24] the school was host to an educational conference on the Identity and Mission of Catholic Schools. Attracting over 40 international participants, the two-day event focused on sustaining and developing the ethos of Catholic schools. This was the first time that schools in the UK from the Benedictine and Jesuit traditions of education had co-operated in such a manner.[25] Later in the same year, the school opened a pedestrian footbridge across the B2110 Paddockhurst Road, thereby more directly linking its main site with its nearby playing fields. Because the school is located in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty the bridge was designed so that its impact is minimised.[26]

Detail of the Whitehead Room at Worth School.

In August 2015 Stuart McPherson (an Eton College former housemaster) assumed the leadership of the school community as Head Master.[27] McPherson is the school's third lay Head Master, and, by co-incidence, its third Australian Head.[28]

In 2017 The National College for Teaching and Leadership banned David Brown indefinitely from teaching. Brown, then a part-time singing teacher at the school had an affair with a Sixth-Form pupil in 2015. It was reported that Brown, had messaged the student encouraging her to take drugs in order to improve the sexual side of their relationship, whilst also sending the student images containing nudity.[29][30][31]

In December 2018 Worth was named among the 100 cricketing schools in Britain for the first time. In 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023, Worth was again included in the annual list compiled by The Cricketer.

In the summer of 2019 a former student, Michael Spencer, made an extraordinary gift of £6.25 million for the school to build a new sixth form centre, which opened in April 2022. In July 2022, the new building won a Sussex Heritage Trust award.


In 2014 Worth pupils gained places at the Junior Royal Academy of Music as well as an organ scholarship at Keble College, Oxford.[32] In April 2016, the school's choir were the first to sing at a papal mass alongside the Sistine Chapel Choir. Thirty six pupils sang the liturgy celebrated by Pope Francis with a special focus on young people for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.[33] The school's choir returned to Rome in July 2018 when they became the first school choir ever to sing alone in the Sistine Chapel. In 2022, the schola cantorum had the honour of signing Mass at Westminster Cathedral.

Media coverage

Main article: The Monastery (TV series)

Although neither the school nor pupils were involved, the BBC documentary titled "The Monastery" was filmed in the abbey in 2005, and showed part of Worth's campus from the air in its introduction.[34]

Robert Whitehead

Robert Whitehead, inventor of the torpedo, built the school's clocktower and model farm, having thereafter a room named after him.[35]

Head Masters

The Head Master is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference.


House Age Colours Motto Gender Boarding/Day
Rutherford Year 9–13 Burgundy & black Latin: Milites Castelli Chartacei
Soldiers of the Paper Castle
M Boarding
Butler Year 9–13 Navy & pale blue Latin: Omnia Possibilia Sunt Credenti
All things are possible to him that believes
M Day
St. Bede's Year 9–13 Dark green & old gold Latin: Pax et veritas
Peace and truth
M Boarding
Gervase Year 9–13 Green & yellow
M Boarding
Chapman Year 9–13 Red & yellow Latin: Crescit sub pondere virtus
Under the weight of growing strength
M Day
Farwell Year 9–13 Black & white Latin: Per angusta ad augusta
Against all odds
M Day
St. Mary's Year 9–13 Violet & lilac Latin: Monstra te Esse Matrem
Show yourself to be our Mother
F Boarding
St. Anne's Year 9–13 Pale blue & sky blue Latin: Gratiam et Sapientiam
Grace and Wisdom
F Day
St. Catherine's Year 9–13 Pearl mystic turquoise & mint Latin: Studium et diligentia
Effort and diligence
F Day
Austin Year 7–8 Blue & gold
M/F Day


Notable alumni

Main article: List of Old Worthians

Former pupils include Formula Two driver Henry Surtees,[37] comedian Harry Enfield, actor Robert Bathurst,[citation needed] rugby union players Tom Mitchell (rugby union, born 1989) and Nick Walshe,[38] executive Sir John Chisholm[citation needed], baronet Sir Dermot de Trafford[citation needed], humanitarian and diplomat Prince Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel, historian Michael Aris,[39] antiques expert Philip Mould,[40] and various members of the Zobel de Ayala family[41][42] and Marcos family including Bongbong Marcos[43]

Fictional alumni

Tory Boy, a notorious character from a sketch by Harry Enfield, is a fictional Old Worthian. It was a satirical portrayal of those boys from prominent catholic families that Enfield attended school with. The term Tory Boy has since been used as a caricature of young Conservative MPs.[44]

Old Worthian Tie: Navy with Worth blue and gold stripes.[45]

Notable staff

Further reading


  1. ^ none (20 June 2013). Independent Schools Yearbook 2012-2013. A&C Black. ISBN 9781408181188. Archived from the original on 7 August 2016. Retrieved 29 May 2016 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ "Contact Information - Worth School". www.worthschool.org.uk. Archived from the original on 11 May 2016. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  3. ^ "Worth's Head Master - Independent School Sussex". www.worthschool.org.uk. Archived from the original on 17 May 2016. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  4. ^ "New role for an old Rule". The Tablet: 12. 19 October 2013. Archived from the original on 21 September 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  5. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2016.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  6. ^ Condon, Ian; A House Called Paddockhurst: A Short History of Worth's Victorian Mansion. Worth School (February 2010) pg 8
  7. ^ Condon, Ian; A House Called Paddockhurst: A Short History of Worth's Victorian Mansion. Worth School (February 2010) pg 9
  8. ^ "News about Catholicism and Christianity in the Tablet". Weekly News. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2016.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  9. ^ "Welcome". Osb-icbe.org. Archived from the original on 5 January 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ "Girls at Worth". Archived from the original on 13 May 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  12. ^ Clare, John (10 November 2005). "Private schools found 'guilty' over fee cartel". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 14 November 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
  13. ^ Smithers, Rebecca (27 January 2006). "Slap on wrist for private schools in fees cartel". The Guardian. London. p. 11. Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
  14. ^ "Private schools send papers to fee-fixing inquiry". The Daily Telegraph. London. 1 March 2004. Archived from the original on 25 June 2013. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
  15. ^ "Worth School students to swim Channel for Surtees". BBC. 14 June 2010. Archived from the original on 31 March 2012.
  16. ^ Archive (28 February 2012). "Worth Abbey Church by Heatherwick Studio – Icon Magazine". Iconeye.com. Retrieved 26 February 2016.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Worth Abbey by Heatherwick Studio". Dezeen.com. 5 November 2011. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  18. ^ "West Sussex Design and Sustainability Awards 2011" (PDF). Lodsworthlarder.com. Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  19. ^ "William Avery-Wright's death was an 'accident'". BBC News. 9 July 2013. Archived from the original on 15 July 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  20. ^ "Family Announcements, AVERY-WRIGHT WILLIAM HENRY – Funeral Directors and services – Kent & Sussex Courier Announcements". Thisisannouncements.co.uk. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  21. ^ "William Avery-Wright: Worth School head 'should resign'". BBC News. 28 January 2014. Archived from the original on 31 January 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  22. ^ "Design for the future, respect for the past". Sussex Heritage Trust. Archived from the original on 2 July 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  23. ^ "Worth School - Tatler". Archived from the original on 24 June 2016. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
  24. ^ "The Jesuit Institute London". Jesuitinstitute.org. Archived from the original on 17 February 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  25. ^ Catholic Independent Schools’ Conference (CISC) News, Volume 13, Issue 68, Autumn 2013
  26. ^ "NEWS". Miller Bourne. Archived from the original on 15 March 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  27. ^ "Teacher to leave Eton to take on top job at Worth School". Crawley Observer. 4 January 2015. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  28. ^ "Worth School appoints new Head Master from Eton – Independent Catholic News". Indcatholicnews.com. 12 December 2014. Archived from the original on 24 November 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  29. ^ "Teacher struck off after affair with pupil". BBC News. 25 April 2017. Archived from the original on 13 August 2018. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  30. ^ Reporters, Telegraph (25 April 2017). "Singing teacher at Catholic boarding school had sex with student and encouraged her to take drugs". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 13 August 2018. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  31. ^ "Teacher, 47, struck off for relationship with teenage pupil". The Argus. Archived from the original on 13 August 2018. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  32. ^ "Worth School - Public School Fees, Results & Alumni - 2015 Guide - Tatler". Archived from the original on 23 June 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  33. ^ "British school choir makes history in Vatican". 25 April 2016. Archived from the original on 29 April 2016. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  34. ^ "BBC Two - The Monastery". BBC. Archived from the original on 16 December 2016. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
  35. ^ "News – National Garden Scheme". National Garden Scheme. Archived from the original on 2 June 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  36. ^ "Overview | Worth School". Worthschool.fluencycms.co.uk. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2016. [dead link]
  37. ^ "Students swim Channel for Surtees". BBC News. 14 June 2010.
  38. ^ "Worthian wins UK Rugby Coach of the Year Award". Archived from the original on 27 August 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  39. ^ TheBiography.us. "Biography of Michael Aris (1946-1999)". Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  40. ^ "Worth School Achieves its best ever IB results - Sussex Living Magazine". Archived from the original on 17 August 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  41. ^ "JessicarulestheUniverse - Readers' Bloc 2010: the CEO edition". www.jessicarulestheuniverse.com. 23 December 2010. Archived from the original on 16 September 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  42. ^ "St Bede's run to Africa! for Kids for Kids on MyDonate". MyDonate. Archived from the original on 27 October 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  43. ^ "ELECTION WATCH: Rep. Bongbong Marcos will not stop his three sons if they decide to join showbiz". Archived from the original on 21 August 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  44. ^ UK | 'I'm a trendy Tory – and I don't fit in' Archived 22 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine. BBC News (5 August 2002). Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  45. ^ "Worth Society Merchandise - Worth Society". www.worthsociety.org.uk. Archived from the original on 22 June 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  46. ^ Allied Newspapers Ltd. "Process for beatification of Grand Master Andrew Bertie initiated". The Times. Malta. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2016.

51°05′32″N 0°07′10″W / 51.09222°N 0.11944°W / 51.09222; -0.11944