Somerleyton Hall opened its doors to children from the village primary school and invited them to receive pennies and buns as part of a tradition dating back more than 150 years.

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Pupils from Somerleyton Primary School collected a 50p piece and an iced bun from the Hon Hugh Crossley and his wife Lara on Tuesday.

The tradition has taken place since the 1840s when Lowestoft entrepreneur Sir Morton Peto lived at the hall, overseeing extensive refurbishment work inside the building and in the grounds.

It was also carried out by Savile Crossley, the former Lord Somerleyton, who died on January 24, aged 83.

Lord Somerleyton said he had been told two stories about the origin of the penny and bun day. The first was that is was a Victorian celebration linked to Valentine’s Day. The second was that it was a way of saying thank you to the children, who worked in the fields during the summer holiday.

The 34 youngsters linked the occasion with their studies on the second world war by wearing 1940s dress and singing war time songs for Lord and Lady Somerleyton in the ballroom of the hall. They also gave a performance of 1940s-style dancing.

Nyree Martin, the acting head of the school, said: “The children were really excited about the visit. They were quite overwhelmed by the grandeur of the building and knew it was a really special occasion.

“It was very special for them to perform in such a grand venue. They are really good singers. They performed a selection of nine songs from war time including Goodnight Sweetheart, The Quartermaster’s Store, Bless Them All and White Cliffs of Dover.”

As well as collecting their pennies and buns, the children also had the opportunity to explore the hall’s famous maze.

Lord Somerleyton said: “We always enjoy the day. It seems to get better and better as my interest in children gets greater now that I have had my own.

“It is a nice thing for us and the school to celebrate and a great opportunity for them to come to the hall, which doesn’t happen very often.”

He said he had invited the school to return for an event in the summer, when the children’s parents would also be invited.

“The weather is always cold for penny and bun day and it would be nice for them to enjoy it in the warmer months as well.

“We are looking forward to them coming back in the summer and expanding the range of activities the school can do throughout the year whether they are cultural, learning or fun.”

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