Culford, a Suffolk village near Bury St Edmunds, is best known as the location of the Public School of the same name. This was founded as a Methodist school in 1873 and it moved to Culford Park, the former home of the Earl of Cadogan, in 1935. From the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s my cousin David Anderson was the deputy head at Culford. This is the record of a day spent there with his family in August 1980.


Cousin David

We got up and had salami for breakfast. My sister Tiggie and I set off from home in Poringland for Thetford, along the A11 (which in 1980 was nearly all single carriageway). There we turned off the London Road and took the A 134 towards Bury. It was raining which made the driving rather nasty, but Tig was at the wheel and I sat in passenger seat, while the dogs sat on the back seat. The rain had ended by afternoon, to produce a dry end to the day. We had set off at 9.30 and got to Culford on the stroke of 11. David was there to greet us at his house. It had been newly built for him in Culford Park, so it was pleasingly surrounded by grass and trees. The rest of his family were either in Bury (his wife Diana and son William with his friend from Cyrille France), out for a walk with a friend’s dog (Jonathan, David’s youngest son aged 16), or in Norwich shopping (daughter Rachel). The Bury contingent got back in time for coffee and then we all walked off across the park to the Greyhound pub in the next village of Flempton. My dog Fido came too, but got a shock from an electric fence put up to keep the sheep in!

At the Greyhound we were met by Jonnie who had returned the dog to its owner and had cycled down to join us. After the adults had drunk a pint or two we returned to David’s house quite late and, as no one had been there to prepare lunch, it was after 3 p.m. when we eventually sat down to eat. We had Toad in the Hole which Tig translated as crapaud dans le trou for the benefit of Cyrille, our French companion;  I wonder what he made of it? This was followed by peaches and cream.

After having eaten we talked till about 5, when David drove Tig and me to Hengrave Hall. This is not far away, and is a beautiful Tudor mansion. It was lived in by two recusant (i.e.Catholic) families, including the Gage family (of greengage fame). The Catholic monarch King James II visited them there several times, and Mary Tudor (King Henry VIII’s first wife, also a lifelong Catholic) may also have done so. By 1980 it was an ecumenical centre called the Hengrave Community of Reconciliation. The Community was dissolved and the hall was sold in the early in the 21st century, by which time it needed much money spending on repairs. At the time we visited it was running a violin summer school hosted by the notable teacher Yfrah Neaman. We sat in the library while David conducted some business with the Community. [It has since been run a place for holding weddings, a distressing decent from a notable past.]

We then returned to Culford for tea and jam tarts by the outdoor fireplace. Rachel and her boyfriend arrived at 6; we left soon after that to drive home, stopping in Attleborough on the way. For some reason we were looking in estate agents’ windows, although I am sure that I never intended to live there and I don’t think my sister did either. We stopped in Norwich and bought fish and chips for supper. Later I practised the double bass while Tig accompanied me on the piano.

Hengrave Hall




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