I'm a Feoffee!posted on 12 May 2012 | posted in Blog
Bungay is an old market town, steeped in history. Though there is evidence of an ancient Roman settlement here, (we have a Roman well, for example), and we have both Saxon and Norman churches, the town is more associated with its mediaeval and Georgian history. The Great Fire in 1688 saw off many of the old thatched and timber framed buildings, replaced with some fine Georgian houses which are much admired today. It was around this time that the Corn Cross and Butter Cross trading places were built. The Corn Cross became the site of the Town Pump and is now just a roundabout (albeit an attractive one, with plants and an urn) in the centre of town. But the Butter Cross still stands, topped with a leaded dome roof with a figure of Justice presiding over all she sees (our Justice is not blindfolded!).
Bungay Market Place
Civic affairs were handled from ancient times until the formation of the Urban District Council in 1910 by the Town Reeve and his Feoffees (feoffee is pronounced feffy). Records go back as far as 1639 when 24 of the "most honest, discreet and sufficient" inhabitants of the town were appointed as feoffees to administer the charity lands owned by the town. This became the Town Trust, now a registered charity, which is headed by the Town Reeve, supported by 34 feoffees, a further ten being added with the formation of the new urban district council - now Bungay Town Council.
As a Town Councillor I was nominated as a Feoffee and have now attended my first Town Trust meeting! There was much ribbing and references to rolled up trouser legs and aprons but the Town Trust exists mainly to look after the land and the almshouses it owns and I am thrilled to have been appointed.
The Town Trust owns the Butter Cross where, every Thursday a market is held and I have joined the Market Committee to help make sure it continues to thrive. Like many small towns we struggle, but Bungay is blessed with a much higher percentage of small independent shops than most and, being on the River Waveney the town has a really lovely aspect, especially our Common - 400 acres of ancient heathland in a loop of the river which is also steeped in history. Alfred Munnings attended the horse races that used to be held here - which got him interested in painting horses!
We have much that attracts visitors who love to see our Town Reeve in all his (or her) glory. Bungay is unique in retaining the ancient Saxon office of the office of Town Reeve (although there are port reeves in a couple of other places). The Reeve is nominated annually by the current Reeve who keeps his or her successor's name secret from all but the nominee until after the annual Town Dinner. The only thing we know is that it will be one of the existing feoffees!
The Reeve, and the Town Mayor who heads the Town Council, attend many civic functions together, making a splendid sight in their robes. It is a great honour to be nominated as Reeve or elected as Mayor (many have been both) but not one I am ready for yet! Besides - I'm not sure the robes would fit (although the necklaces are rather fun)!
The then Mayor (left) and Town Reeve (right) at the opening of a new walkway by the castle