This is a history of the Worleston Dairy Institute situated at Aston Hall, Worleston and near the Cheshire market town of Nantwich.
Much of the material has been kindly provided by local historian Andrew Lamberton. It’s a work in progress, with lots more material to be added soon…
The Start of the Worleston Dairy Institute
The Worleston Dairy Institute was founded as a dairy school in 1883 by Thomas Rigby, with the backing of local landowners. There’s a press report covering the opening here. It was the first educational establishment in the world to specialise in the training of dairymaids in the art and science of cheesemaking. It quickly became popular and attracted female pupils from all over the county and further afield.
The school was established at Aston Hall in Aston-Juxta-Mondrem with a 180 acre estate with 60 cows producing 200 gallons of milk each day, most of which was converted into cheese. Any surplus milk was sent to nearby towns and cities via the railway station at Worleston close by:
It was more widely known initially as the Cheshire Dairy Institute and by 1892 William Buckley had succeeded Thomas Rigby as Farm Manager. In an advertisement of that year “boarders are welcomed at the very moderate rate of £1 per week.”
Cheshire County Council was formed in 1893 and it immediately took over the running of Worleston. In 1894, Miss Jane Forster was a pupil here, who then went on to study at Reading. She came back as a tutor under Miss Pedley and after one year took over as Principal on Miss Pedley’s retirement. Miss Forster continued as Principal at Worleston for the next thirty years. During this time she earned the respect of all in the industry for her forthright no-nonsense approach to everything she did. Her high standards stood her in good stead and by 1913, when King George V and Queen Mary visited the Dairy Institute she could state with great pride that her pupils were in all parts of the Commonwealth.
During the first fifteen years of County Council ownership, 1150 students were admitted. The house was fitted up for boarding and lodging of twenty pupils and none were admitted under fifteen years of age.
The students’ day at Worleston in all the years MissForster was head there, began in the early morning with students detailed to learn how to milk, and the instruction then was concerned with the detail of cheese and buttermaking. Buttermaking was a relatively minor part but in cheesemaking it was the full round every day from vat to cheese room. There was early- ripening, medium-ripening and in the autumn, long-keeping cheese. The itinerary also included instruction in domestic duties and farmhouse management. From six to seven cheeses were produced daily. There were three terms, and nearly ninety students passed through Worleston every year.
The picture below, of the Worleston Dairy Institute, shows:
The principal, Miss Forster in the centre
On her right is R P Ward, the Director of Education of the County of Cheshire
Behind, on her left, is Roger Bate, Chairman of the Council
and Worleston Dairy Institute staff and pupils
In 1914 Henhull Hall in Nantwich was purchased, and the Dairy Institute moved there in 1916.
Reaseheath Hall was purchased in 1919 to form the County Agricultural School and Worleston Dairy Institute closed in 1925 when it became part of the Cheshire School of Agriculture (now Reaseheath College).