Brandon Schools

Brandon’s Free Grammar School, Market Hill

In 1844 White’s Suffolk Directory has this to say about the schools in Brandon:-

“In 1646, Robert Wright [of Downham Hall] devised his real estates to John Wright, for six years after his decease, upon trust to employ the rents, after payment of testator’s debts, and the legacies, &c., named in his will, in the purchase of lands, to be vested in trust with six or more of the most substantial inhabitants of Brandon, that the rents thereof might be employed, in the first place, in the payment of £30 a year to an able schoolmaster, to instruct the youth of Brandon, Santon-Downham, Wangford, and Weeting, in grammar and other literature; and that the residue of the rents might be employed towards building and repairing a school-room, and a house for the master…

In 1664, the sum of £767. 16s. 3d., derived from this bequest… [of which] £167. 16s. 3d. [was laid out] in the purchase of a large house, with out-buildings, yards, and a garden, which have ever since been occupied by the schoolmaster and are worth £20 a year. The school-room is in the house, near which is an allotment of 3A. 2R. 11P., awarded to the school at an enclosure, and now let for £2. 17s. a year. An allotment of 8A., awarded to the school under the Bedford Level Act, is let for about £8 per annum. The estates, &c., belonging to this charity were conveyed to new trustees, in 1825, after an expensive suit in Chancery. They pay the master a yearly salary of £40, for teaching 40 free scholars in the ordinary branches of education taught in English schools, few, if any of them, ever requiring to be taught Latin. Thirty of them are boys of Brandon, four are chosen from Weeting, and the other six from Downham and Wangford. E. Bliss, Esq., F. K. Eagle, Esq;, and others, are trustees. The old workhouse was converted into a National School in 1843.

In 1818 only 20 children attended the Free Grammar School but this had risen to 40 poor and 40 day and boarders by 1833.

Brandon Board School

The 1874 edition of White’s Suffolk Directory tells us that:

“The SCHOOL BOARD, elected under the provisions of the ‘Elementary Education Act, 1870,’ was formed here in 1873, and consists of the Rev. W. F. Crocker (chairman); and Mssrs. C. W. Goodson (vice-chairman); Edward Balding, Wm. Owles, and John Wood; Mr. W. R. Rolfe is clerk. The National School premises have been let for three years from October 1873, to the Board, by the rector, churchwardens and overseers, who have reserved to themselves the use of the buildings on Sundays.”

The Free Grammar School was subsequently transferred to the above mentioned School Board for administration and was demolished in 1877 to make way for the new buildings built in 1878.

This is what Kelly’s Suffolk Directory of 1883 has to say on the matter:-

“[B]y a scheme of the Charity Commissioners, in 1876, the land, school & teacher’s house & other buildings were vested in the Brandon School Board: the foundation & endowments are administered by seven governors, five representatives & two co-optative, under the name of the Brandon Exhibition Foundation: the income of the foundation to be applied in advancing the education of boys residing in Brandon, Wangford, Weeting & Santon Downham, by exhibitions of £20 each yearly, tenable at any place of higher education two of such exhibitions in the first instance to be competed for by boys of Wangford, Weeting & Santon Downham: the other exhibition, in default of fit candidates from the three parishes, to be competed for by boys residing in Brandon: the governors decide respecting the age of candidates, & no boy to be excluded from religious scruples.

The same directory gives further details about the new school that had been built:-

“[The] Board School, facing High street (mixed & infants), erected in 1878, for 300 children; average attendance, 250; at a cost of £3,350, is a handsome red brick building with stone dressings, partly in the Elizabethan style having in the tower an illuminated clock; William Pelling, master; Mrs. Louisa Pelling, mistress; Miss Isabelle Beer, infants’ mistress”

The infants school to the rear was for ages 5-7 and the junior school was for ages 8-14 (or 16).

Meanwhile the National School premises had been let for three years from October 1873, “to the Board, by the rector, churchwardens and overseers, who have reserved to themselves the use of the buildings on Sundays.” [White’s 1874]. Kelly’s Directory of Suffolk, 1883 says that though the National School had been intended for 120 children, at that time the average attendance was 91 under Miss Edgington, mistress.

Some extracts from the Board School Log Book give some idea of school life in those days:-

1891 Prize-giving in an attempt to increase attendance. Presentation by Mssrs. Rought, Crocker, Lingwood and Rolfe.

1893 H.M. notices a great fault amongst the boys – they open their mouths but do not speak out

1894 Truanting – boys on errands in the town. Can be seen by H.M.

1898 Large scale absences – 2 circuses, 1 menagerie

1900 Outbreak of war in South Africa – male teachers volunteer for service

1900 Truancy to visit a fair – children caned, miss playtime

1903 H.M.I. visit – fair in town – most children absent

1906 H.M. notices a growth of insubordination and disobedience – further caning

1909 Due to lack of furniture, 2 teachers share one room

1911 Empire Day – Raising of Union Jack. Drill display with staves. Address by an important person.

1912 Sept. 10 Military manoeuvres – large scale absences.
Sept. 16 School closed for children to gain an insight into Military Training.

1912 Infant School opened.

1914 School M.O. visited and took samples of discharge from noses

1921 Girls and Boys School combined [controversially by Mr Coe HM]

1923 Mother came in because son was being kept in. Ranted and raved.

1927 Caretaker fell down a well and died.

1927 Domestic science started.

1930 Teacher refuses to teach R.I.

1930 More specialisation in subjects.

1931 Maypole Dancing.

1932 Fame for the school football team. Semi Final of the Suffolk Schools Cup.  Beat Feoffment by 14-0

1932 Football Team reach Final, but lost to Bury St. James 5-1

1933 Much evidence of gardening etc.

1935 Classrooms very hot 90º Lesson taken outside

1938 Evacuees arrive from London.

1940 Classroom roof pierced by enemy machine gun bullets. No one hurt.

1941 Bombs dropped – poor attendance.

1941 Gas masks checked.

1942 Diptheria immunisation.

1942 Air-raid alert 10.50 a.m.

1942 Request for boy to be medically examined. He is holding little children’s heads under the water tap.

1943 Nursery closed.

1943 Headmistress had to unblock drains – children filling them up with flint.

1943 Headmistress told to resign by a parent, as she would not allow parent into classroom.

1943 Much trouble from evacuated children.

1944 Headmistress has a great deal of discipline problems.

1946 Headmistress resigns at suggestion of the managers.

1947 School is given a wireless.

1947 Christmas concert abandoned because of noise from parents and very young children.

1950 Nursery reopened.

1950 School telephone installed.

1952 Flushing toilets.

1953 Electricity installed.

1953 First school secretary appointed.

1955 H.M.I visit – everything found to be of a high standard.

1955 Boy from this school gained highest marks throughout West Suffolk in the Grammar Selection Exam.

1956 Inspection of cycles by police.Cycling Proficiency Scheme introduced.

1958 Because of heavy snowfalls, staff spend the night at school School Badge – kindly donated by Mrs Newell.

1960 T.V. introduced

1963 School badge adopted – a red squirrel

1966 Gas heating installed after open fires.

1967 School trip to Belgium – 44 children and 8 adults.

1973 Reorganisation. Infants joined Juniors to become Brandon Forest C.P. for children aged 5-9.

1973 Intercom-telephone installed.

1974 Swimming pool opened.

1977 Opening of adventure playground.

1978 Centenary year.

These extracts from the School Log Book have been taken from a leaflet produced by Forest School and handed out to pupils to mark the School’s centenary in 1978. Kindly lent by Mrs Ashley.

One of the most popular Headmasters of Brandon Board School was Mr. Walter Percy Coe. Here is a transcription of his obituary from a local newspaper:-

Work For School and Brandon Activities

It is with regret that we record the death of Mr. Walter Percy Coe, headmaster at Brandon Council Schools, who was also known as an expert violinist. Mr. Coe had been headmaster at Brandon for fourteen years.

He was first taken ill last September, and after treatment in the Mount Vernon Hospital, Northwood, he returned home in November in much better health. Soon after he had a relapse and was removed to the Royal Masonic Hospital, Ravenscourt Park, London, for further treatment. He died there on the night of Thursday week.

Mr CoeA member of a well known Swaffham family, Mr. Coe was trained as a teacher at St. Mark’s, London, 1898-1900. He was afterwards a teacher at Bedford and headmaster at Northwold School. On August 21st, 1921, he was appointed to succeed Mr. Appleby as headmaster at Brandon Council Schools. During his fourteen years there he made many advantageous changes in educational facilities for the children. He also altered the upper portion of the school to a senior school run on eleven plus lines.

For Sports purposes Mr. Coe introduced the “house” system, the houses being named after the patron saints. A few years ago Mr. L. D. Wigan of Brandon Park, presented the school with a large and handsome shield as an inter-house trophy. This is competed for annually by the children. Football, cricket and other sports have also been introduced by Mr. Coe in order to foster a love of games. For two years the young footballers have been fortunate in getting into the final of the West Suffolk Schools Championship.


Thanks to the enterprise of Mr. Coe and his wife, the children have been infused with a great interest for music and drama. Every year since 1921 up to last year (when Mr. Coe was ill) the scholars have given an operetta, and by this means have raised several hundreds of pounds for the school. Mr. Coe also established a woodwork centre with about a dozen benches. He brought into being a School Saving Association. Possessing the certificate of the Royal Horticultural Society, he imparted his enthusiasm to the boys. With regard to the older scholars, Mr. Coe specialised in gardening, woodwork, mathematics, and English literature.

Soon after coming to Brandon, Mr. Coe formed a choral society, of which he was conductor. In 1923 “Merrie England” was presented, with Mr. Robert Naylor, the famous tenor, taking the leading part.

As a violinist Mr. Coe was always in great demand at concerts and entertainments. He was a member of the Norwich Philharmonic Society, and he played in the orchestras of the Bury St. Edmunds and Thetford Operatic Societies. He was also of great assistance to the Brighter Brandon Revues a few years ago, and was a teacher of violin playing at Thetford Grammar School.

Mr. Coe was connected with many organisations in the town. He was secretary to the Children’s Festivities Committee for many years, and a member of the Ouse Side Bowling Club, of which he was champion on more than one occasion. He also served on the committee of the Brandon Conservative Club, and was a Past Master of the “Ceres” Lodge of Freemasons. Mr. Coe was a member of Brandon British Legion. He formed a branch of the West Suffolk Free Library and a school library.


There was a large and representative gathering at the funeral on Tuesday. The cortege was headed by brethren of the “Ceres” (Swaffham) and “Thet” (Thetford) lodges of Free- masons. The choral service at St. Peter’s Church was conducted by the Rev. S. Rogerson (Hepworth), assisted by the Rev. N. C. Smith. The organist the Rev. T. H. Cronchey, of South Pickenham played “O rest in the Lord,” Beethoven’s Funeral March and Chopin’s Funeral March. Two hymns were sung, “Jesu, Lover of my soul” and “Abide with me.” The Rev. Smith read the lesson, and the Rev. Rogerson read the committal sentences at the graveside. The Masonic funeral oration was read by Bro. L. J. Isbern and the last rites observed. The breastplate of the coffin was embossed with the Masonic emblem. Mr. Coe’s age was 55 years.

The family mourners were Mrs. Coe (widow), Mr. Cyril Coe, Mr. Lawrence Coe (sons), Mr. A. J . Drakes (son-in-law), Mr. H. W. Coe (Swaffham), Mr. E. A. Coe (Kelling), Mr. F. C. Coe (Frinton), Miss A. M. Coe (Welwyn), Miss E. M. Coe (Kew Gardens), Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Hoyle (Wolverhampton), Mr. and Mrs. P. M. Hoyle (Coventry), Mr. L. Hoyle (Wanstead).


The staff of the School were represented by Mr. F. C. Astle (acting headmaster), Miss S. Purser (infants’ head teacher), Mr. H. W. Jack- son and Mrs. A. A. Brearley, and the following senior scholars were present: Barbara Dorling, Patricia Edgington, Edmund Caban and Harold Glaister. Brandon School managers were repre- sented by Mr. Harry Lingwood, Mr. F. Holmes, Mrs. Oscar Lingwood and Mr. J. T. Capron. Mrs. W. Clark represented here husband, the chairman. The West Suffolk Education Com- mittee representatives were Mr. F. R. Hughes (secretary), Mr. Creek (Horticultural Inspector), and Mr. Rumbelow. The school’s caretaker, Mr. Joe Ashley, also attended.

The “Ceres” Lodge of Freemasons was repre- sented by: Past Masters C. S. King (W.M.), H. R. Heyhoe, R. S. Purdie, R. Deer, H. W. Coe and R. J. Lawrence, with R. E. Wilson (S.W.), A. R. Richards (J.W.), Rev. T. H. Cronchey, and the following brethren: Bros. W. B. Rix, W. E. Green, G. Brearley, H. P. Stone, C. Brewster and T. Smith and the “Thet” Lodge by Bros. R. J. Woodrow, A. E. Osborne, A. C. Rivett, F. J. Mount, G. Whitta, L. J. Isbern and F. W. Gentle. The Ouse Side Bowling Club was represented by Mr. C. Carter, Mr. F. W. Rids- dale and Mr. H. Berry. Brandon British Legion: Mr. A. J. Gascoyne and Mr. L. A. Whalebelly. Conservative Club: Mr. A. W. Parry and Gen. de Lotbiniere, Mr. W. J. Murrell and Mr. J. S. Cooper.


Those present in church were Mrs. de Lotbiniere, Mr. C. J. Capper, Mr. O. Lingwood, Mr. B. A. Lingwood, Rev. Tyrrell H. Green, Mr. H. Edwards, Mr. I. Tilney, Mr. C. Lingwood, Mrs. F. W. Gentle, Miss Eileen Gentle, Mrs. D. P. Lingwood, Mrs. G. Clark, Mrs. G. Whitta, Mr. T. Teed, Mrs. C. H. Harvey, Mrs T. A. Green, Mrs. Mills, Mrs. A. Stapley, Mrs Foyster, Mrs H. Berry, Mrs. Young, Mrs. W. Woodrow, Miss E. Coveney, Miss M. Payne, Mr. Heather -ington, Mrs. S. Rogerson, Mr. F. Neep, Miss E. Toombs, Miss Quinn, Miss Scott, Miss Catch- pole, Mr. P. L. Burgess, Mrs. W. Challiss, Mrs. F. Tash, Mrs. Dorling, Mrs. Wheat, Mrs. H. Dorling, Miss Hewson, Mrs. Currie, Mrs. J. Caban, Mrs. J. Miles, Mrs. W. Norton, Mr. Talbot, Mr. G. Lambert, Mrs. A. Armiger, Mrs. W. Pettitt, Mr. C. Green, Mrs. W. Bullock, Mrs. Windward, Mrs. J. Newton, Mr. H. Snare, Mrs. E. Whistler, Miss M. Green, Mr. H Cox, Mrs. W. Wells, Mrs J. Wells, Mrs. G. Snare, Mrs. E. Norton, Mrs. Mercer, Mrs Tarbet, Mrs Dunger, Mrs. W. Arnold, Miss Q. Arnold, Mrs. H. Kent, Mrs. B. Mutum, Mrs. E. Wharf, Mrs. W. Carter

After more than 300 years of continuous education on one site Brandon’s school on the Market Hill finally closed its doors to pupils at the end of the Summer Term 2002. An attractive new Forest School has been built (attached to the infants school portion of the old school) allowing all children to be taught within one building once more.

The NEW Forest School

The two-thirds new Forest School building (one third being the old infants school which is the section on the right-hand side of the picture above) opened its doors to pupils at the beginning of the Autumn Term 2002.