Bungay Loyal and Constitutional Society to reform after 216 years

THE unearthing of an old mug marking the establishment of a loyal Bungay society 216 years ago has led to plans to re-establish the ancient group.

And tomorrow a ceremony will take place at the Fleece Inn to re-inaugurate the Bungay Loyal and Constitutional Society – which was set up at that same inn in St Mary's Street on June 4, 1795, in response to uncertainties posed by the Napoleonic Wars.

Those joining tomorrow will have the chance to buy replicas of the mugs made to mark the first meeting of the original society – as with the original design, it will include on it the Fleece Inn sign.

Pottery expert Russell Sprake, who has instigated the plans to re-establish the society and who will be its charging officer, made the decision after coming upon a Lowestoft porcelain mug inscribed 'Bungay Loyal and Constitutional Society, Established June 4th, 1795' while carrying out a valuation on porcelain items six months ago.

'The family knew nothing of its origins but it was of great interest to me, because my late brother and I purchased an identical mug at the Portobello Road street market in London in 1967, and we gave it to our Uncle Percy,' said Mr Sprake, who lives at Earsham.

When Percy Sprake died at the age of 95 in 1982, the mug was bequeathed to Bungay Museum.

'The family was willing to sell me the second mug and, my interest rekindled, I asked Chris Reeve, local historian and curator of Bungay Museum, and Martin Evans, a former Town Reeve, for help in researching the origins of the society,' he said.

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Mr Reeve discovered that it was formed on June 4, 1795 in response to the Napoleonic Wars and the tide of republicanism sweeping through Europe. Ethel Mann's book, Old Bungay, records that it was largely a society for local gentlemen and tradesmen, but it appears that members also trained as amateur militiamen – a sort of precursor to Dad's Army. But with the threat of invasion over, the society officially disbanded on April 4, 1814.

Now, through the efforts of Mr Reeve, Mr Evans and Mr Sprake, the society will be officially re-established tomorrow, 216 years to the day after it was first set up.

'We hope to raise money for local causes, including training young people, but we will look to members for ideas for its aims and for fundraising events,' said Mr Sprake.

Mr Reeve said: 'We have got what we thought was the only mug in existence, given to us by Percy Sprake. Now Russell has found this other one – it is interesting that he came up with the only two we now know to exist.'

Mathias Kerrison, who made his fortune as owner of the navigation rights on the River Waveney to Bungay, is known to have been one of the society's original members, and a descendant of his, Peter Kerrison, who lives at Haddiscoe, will be among those at tomorrow's ceremony.

There will be no membership fee as such, but members will be asked to buy one of the replica mugs, made by Blundeston potter Susan Holmes. The mugs will be individually numbered and cost �55.

Ethel Mann's book says the society met on alternate Mondays and members dined together once a year at the Old Theatre on June 4.

Mr Reeve will become events co-ordinator for the society, and Mr Evans will be armourer.

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