I was a pupil at St Mary’s School, Bungay, from 1955 until 1959. This independent school was for boys and girls up to eleven and girls only from eleven to fifteen. It closed in 1964. It belonged to two spinster ladies, Miss Maudsley and Miss Doble. Miss Maudsley was the older of the two and was the headmistress, Miss Doble her deputy. Each year ended with a service in St Mary’s church; in the 1950s this was a fully functioning establishment with a parson and regular prayers. We marched in a crocodile along a back alleyway from the school on the corner of Outney Street past the castle to the church.
A typical morning began at the bus stop outside my home, which could not have been more convenient, being just opposite our front gate. It was eleven miles from my home in Poringland to Bungay. At Bungay we stopped under the weather vane in the main square. The figure on top represents Old Shuck, the mythical black dog who appeared on 4th August 1577 in the middle of a thunder storm. From there it was a walk along the length of Earsham Street to the school. This was in St Mary’s house, the former rectory of the church. The garden with two beech trees, one a copper beech, was our play ground.
Our playing field was Outney common, a short walk across the railway bridge and next to the golf club. We kept the goal posts in the golf club’s shed. It seems that I was destined to spend my earliest game-playing years watching railway engines. As at Bungay, my afternoons at Holt were passed to the accompaniment of engines shunting. At both places a signal box adjoined the watching area for sports spectators. It was not surprising that my attention was more often drawn to events off the field of play than on it. At Bungay passenger services had already been withdrawn in 1953, but goods traffic continued. In the 1950s all the operations were still done by steam engines. My memories are rather hazy after all these years, but I seem to remember the shunting was carried out by tender engines, not tanks. Possibly they were J15s, like the preserved Great Eastern locomotive at Sheringham.
This part of my childhood has vanished under the Bungay Bypass. The Chicken Roundabout has replaced the level crossing at Ditchingham where Rex Hancy’s grandfather was the crossing keeper. This fact I only found out 50 years later in talking to my neighbour Rex. Ditchingham Dam is no longer the way into Bugay and Broad Street is no longer a dead end. And even the chickens have disappeared.