The day Kate Adie helped to say goodbye to closing Aylsham school

'We'll miss you': An emotional farewell for Cawston College's headmistress Barbara Harrison in the 1

'We'll miss you': An emotional farewell for Cawston College's headmistress Barbara Harrison in the 1999 speech day. - Credit: Archant

It was more than 15 years when the doors of one Norfolk school closed and the boys and girls left for the last time... this was Cawston College, near Aylsham.

Cawston College: A reunion is to be held in September for former pupils of the now-closed school nea

Cawston College: A reunion is to be held in September for former pupils of the now-closed school near Aylsham. - Credit: Archant

The last speaker at the last speech day and prize giving was award-winning television and radio presenter Kate Adie who said she had seen ruined schools in Sarajevo and Pristina where soldiers had destroyed books and burned equipment. But the teachers and pupils there were determined to carry on, knowing the value of education. 'They were wonderful examples of what education really means,' she said.

Turning to the Cawston College students she said: 'What you all have to do is look to the future and realise that a foundation has been laid for you here. Now you go onwards and upwards.'

The last speech day also marked the retirement of head teacher Barbara Harrison after 12 years at the school... it was the end of an era. A passionate campaign to save the school, which had opened in 1964, had been lost.

'Even with the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads we've had a superb and successful year. It's a sad irony that now everything is in place and running well it's being taken away,' said the retiring head, and she added: 'I wish I had a magic wand or a winning lottery ticket to give this current nightmare a fairytale ending.'

Journalist Kate Adie, guest speaker at Cawston College's final speech day in 1999.

Journalist Kate Adie, guest speaker at Cawston College's final speech day in 1999. - Credit: Archant


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Richard Pike, chairman of the parents' association and one of the most outspoken opponents to the school closure, added: 'It appears that the decision to put finance before the children was foremost in their minds. We still wait to hear why.'

The pupils then filed away for a summer of moving on to further education, employment, or finding a new school. One pupil, 13-year-old James Pike, was getting used to his schools closing. His first was Sutherland House in Cromer which merged with Runton Hill School in West Runton.

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James moved to Runton Sutherland but within a short time it also closed so he went to Cawston.

'I feel very unlucky. Having to keep changing schools has been difficult for me,' he said back in 1999.

Many ex-Cawston College pupils must have wondered whatever to their school friends. Well, now they can find out.

A reunion for all the Cawston College boys and girls is being held in Norwich on Saturday September 5 and the search is on for former pupils to come forward and former pupil David Robin is among those asking others to step forward.

Cawston College old boys and girls, along with teachers, will be gathering in Norwich on Saturday September 5, probably at the Premier Inn Nelson Bar near Foundry Bridge.

There is a Facebook page 'I went to Cawston College' which already has around 300 members.

For more details email mymail9410@yahoo.com or call 07887 7844022.

Cawston College was based in a manor house built in 1897 – although there are records of a house on the site dating back to the Domesday times with Queen Elizabeth I the most famous owner.

The American Cawston family took it over in Victorian times – as a suitable home in the village which bore their name. And another well-known owner was Col Herbert McDougall, of flour company fame.

The college, originally for 45 boys, was started in 1964 by the Woodard Foundation, which bought the manor for £23,000.

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