BUNGAY, Suffolk (3)

Canon Walter Lummis receiving a watercolour of St Mary's at the Chaucer Institute.

Canon Walter Lummis receiving a watercolour of St Mary’s at the Chaucer Institute.


The picture that introduces this post is of the Parson of St Mary’s receiving a watercolour painting of his church from the head girl of St Mary’s School. It must date from 1957 or 1958. The school uniform of St Mary’s School was brown and gold, which you would see on the head girl’s tie (if this were a colour photograph). Her gym slip would have been brown. St Mary’s was a girls’ school, taking female pupils through from ‘babies’ (the title of the Kindergarten, or what would nowadays be called Reception) to age 15. For boys it was Preparatory only; from ‘Babies’ until age 11. I left when I was 10.

They did not consider education beyond the age of 15. My first teacher when I arrived in 1954 was Miss Walker. We always called her Miss Chalker because she was always holding a stick of chalk in her hand.  We did not of course call her that to her face, but my mother thought it was her real name! There were three sections to her class; Babies, Division two and Division one, in ascending order. I rushed through Divisions two and one because my sister had already taught me to read at home. Consequently I missed out on my grounding in Arithmetic which my sister had NOT taught me. I don’t think I have ever caught up.

When I got into the next form, Transition with Miss Beasley, I couldn’t tell the time, which all the other members of the class could do.  This inability to tell the time was another result of being taught to read by my sister Margaret. As well as doing sums badly, in this other essential area of learning I was seriously deficient. This led to another intensive learning session, this time of reading the home clock face.

Later on I remember learning about the herring industry, including crans. A cran is  a box of about 1,000 uncleaned fish. It was all relevant then when there still was a fishing industry at nearby Yarmouth. The herring industry is long gone so it is odd that I remember it so well. We had an Art Class for which we were provided with jam jars full of water to dip out paint brushes in. I even won a prize at Bungay Horticultural Society for a painting of a cuckoo pint.

Basil Kybird in Bungay Grammar School Uniform.

Basil Kybird in Bungay Grammar School Uniform.

An Old Boy of Bungay Grammar was Basil Kybird whose memories of the school in wartime have aready appeared (April 4 2012) in this blog. This is a picture of him in his Bungay school uniform. He has a cap,  with short trousers and long socks. He would have been 12 years old in 1940. The Grammar School building is pictured below. It was still like this when I remember it in the 50s. The building has now I learn been conveted into flats; the school has been a comprehensive for many years of course and is now on another site. When Basil was a pupil you did not have to pass the 11 plus to attend. In his day you could still go there without passing the scholarship, only then your parents had to pay! Basil’s Dad had to pay; for the bright majority it was free.

I was recently talking to another Bungay Grammar  School pupil of the 1950s. This was Brian Jarvis of Bedingham, a cousin of my wifes’s. He told me that they called the St Mary’s schoolgirls Brownies, a reference to colour of their uniformsThey were the only girls allowed to Grammar School dances (though obviously they needed girls from somewhere as the Grammar was for boys only). There was apparently no local grammar school for girls, and I do not know where they went.



When St Mary’s School closed in 1964 at least one member of staff transferred to the nearby private school for girls, All Hallows School at Ditchingham. This was just across the county boundary into Norfolk. This teacher was Miss Peatman who taught me French at St Mary’s. I always had to leave her class early to catch the bus home, which didn’t please her at all. “How will you ever learn French?” she demanded. The only French word I remember her teaching me was oiseau, and even then I thought the word for a bird was spelt ‘wazo’. She lived until 2004 when she was aged 90. Late in life she took up flying, and had clocked up  70 flying hours by the time she died. A remarkable woman.

ELLEN PEATMAN, born 1914.

ELLEN PEATMAN, born 1914.

Undoubtedly several of the female pupils also joined the school in Ditchingham when St Mary’s closed. All Hallows was a boarding school, but took day girls as well. Although the school was run by the Anglican nuns of Ditchingham Convent the teaching staff were not in holy orders, although most were unmarried. My sister Margaret taught there for a number of years beginning in  1980, which was only a year after Miss Peatman retired. In common with all the  schools mentioned here this school too is now closed.


Joseph Mason




2 responses

  1. Margaret Morris,nee Williams. | Reply

    It is very interesting reading about Miss Peatman. I remember her well from being a pupil at St Marys from 1953- 1958. She was a very serious woman. Her French was Paris French she told her class. Her Mother was the piano teacher at the school.


    1. I had music lesson at the school. but they were for the violin. I had a little 1/4 size instrument. I remember the lady who taught me – might she have taught piano as well? There was a lovely antique globe in the room where I had my music lessons – I must have been more interested in geography at that age. Joe


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