Old boys remember a great centre of learning

The school may be long gone but the memories are as vivid as ever. The Bracondale Boys gather for a great reunion.

It was almost as if the old school had come back to life – there were sporting honours and house shields on display along with various old photographs dating back to the 1920s.

And there were the men, with pictures of themselves and their classmates with form masters, in the days when they were all Bracondalians. They were joined by others who worked at the much-loved and still-missed Bracondale School in Norwich for a highly successful reunion at Park Farm Hotel, Hethersett.

More than 100 former pupils and guests, including Jim and Margaret Stansby from Australia attended the get together organised by Steve Buckle, a pupil in the 1960s.

'We had 'senior' old boys in their 80s and 'junior' old boys in their 40s and we also had former teachers and catering staff keen to share their memories of a very happy school,' he said. For more than 170 years this proud centre of learning educated tens of thousands of young men, shaping the rest of their lives, before it ran out of money and closed its gates for the last time in 1993. It was back in the early 1820s when Mr D B Hickey announced he was devoting his talents to the education of young gentlemen at his school, which he described as being in a 'house standing on Bracondale Hill, the most beautiful and healthy situation in the environs of Norwich'.

Some years later, Dr F D Wheeler brought his boys from Paragon House School up the hill and together they formed a school which played a leading role in the lives of thousands of young men who went on to make their mark all over the world.

Bracondale and the grounds is now owned by Norwich Housing Society and Steve Buckle said he wanted to thank Nicholas Bagshaw for his help in providing some of the memorabilia for the reunion, which could now become an annual event.

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It is now hoped to produce a Bracondalian Newsletter to help old boys keep in touch with each other. If you want to get involved in keeping the memory of the school alive email stevebuckle@sky.com

The next reunion is at Park Farm, Hethersett, on April 10, 2013.

Aims and objectives of Bracondale

To produce happy and decent young gentlemen who do their best, and have consideration for the welfare and feelings of others.

In 1975, nine-year-old pupil Michael McVean won �2 in a competition organised by a national newspaper for his version of what he thought the Loch Ness monster would look like.

One former Bracondale boy, described by one ex-pupil as a 'right little tinker' was Bill Edrich, who went on to became a world class England cricketer. Other members of the famous Norfolk cricket family also went to the school.

Another famous old boy was the brilliant writer, poet,historian and former Lord Mayor of Norwich, Ralph Mottram.

Norfolk writer, Eric Fowler, President of the Bracondale School Old Boys' Union, described Bracondale in 1963 as a 'school of manners and character'.

Telling the story of the old school

It's back again – only this time on DVD.

The Bracondale Years Video has moved with the times and become The Bracondale Years DVD and it tells the story of the rise and fall of this much-loved old school.

The two-hour film was made by Peter Ibbett of Thorpe End. His father, the late Ralph Ibbett, was a Bracondale boy.

Peter runs Pegasus Video and when the school closed in 1993 he was asked to make this film for the Bracondale Old Boys.

'I set about filming all the buildings both inside and outside before any changes took place,' he explained.

'I was shown around by Mr Wicks, a long-term member of the teaching staff who, at the time, was clearing out his desk, as were the other teachers. They had all been made redundant by the sudden closure,' said Peter. The next few years were spent collecting interviews with former staff and old boys, collecting photographs and researching the fascinating history of the school – which survived bombing raids in the second world war.

'The two main schoolhouse buildings were listed and had to stay, but the surrounding extensions and gymnasium were all demolished to make way for the current owners, The Norwich Housing Society, to build new and convert existing buildings into homes,' said Peter.

'All this was recorded for the story, which also features the famous school wooden war memorial which has been carefully restored and is now back on display in the offices of the society and available for old boys to take a look at,' he added.

The film also features film and video of the boys going back to the 1960s and photographs from 1900 onwards. The Bracondale Years costs �13.90, including p&p in the UK. You can send a cheque made out to Pegasus Video, to 23 Broadmead Green, Thorpe End, Norwich, NR13 5DE. State whether you want a video or DVD.

For more details call Peter on Norwich (01603) 435084 or email prhibbett@aol.com