Elizabeth Denward, wife of the Revd Thomas Denward, founded the school now known as Stelling Minnis School in 1784.
Already a wealthy lady, she received further money when her sister Frances, widow of Sir William Hardres, died in 1783. She decided to use some of this money to establish a school for instruction of 20 poor boys and 12 poor girls of the parishes of Great Hardres and Stelling.
She chose to buy property near the boundary between the two parishes. This probably consisted of farm labourers cottages, a barn, outhouses and a stable. She had one of these buildings converted into a classroom.
The rector of Upper Hardres and Stelling and five other trustees were appointed to administer the school with the dwelling house and three pieces of arable land, known by the name of Old Hardres, about six acres in all.
She stipulated that the headmaster should occupy the half of the house adjoining the classroom, have two meadows for his use and receive £20 a year. The schoolmistress had the other half of the house, half the garden, and the other meadow for her own use and was paid £6 a year.
Elizabeth Denward transfered £729.11d in five percent Consoles stock to the trustees to enable them to pay the master and the mistress. Any remaining income was to be spent on the purchase of two chauldrons of coal each year for use in the classrooms, on hats and greatcoats (grey with green capes for each boy to be worn at devine service twice a day), at Easter each year and the purchase of books and any other necessities for the school, or on repairing the school and the school house.
The 1852 census described Thomas Thorn as the school master and farmer of six acres employing one labourer, these six acres being the present cricket field and the paddock behind the school.
By 1881 all 5-13 year olds were listed as scholars with some children of 14 still attending school. The Victorian era saw large numbers of children at the school and Mrs Agnes Uden recalls that there were 184 children on the roll in 1895. How that little school housed so many children defies imagination, and what is more the children did not leave until they were 13 - 14.
Mr James Walter Elliot was the headmaster and retired in 1910 after 31 years to be followed by Mr William Whaler who stayed for a similar period. The 1944 Education Act changed the role of the school.