Bungay welcomes new town reeve to unique and ancient role

Olly Barnes, chairman of the Castle Trust. Picture: Archant library.

Olly Barnes, Bungay Town Reeve - Credit: Nick Butcher

Upgrading the Castle Hills to a town park amenity will be a key focus for the year ahead as Bungay welcomes a new town reeve.

Olly Barnes was installed into the unique and ancient office at the annual town meeting on Tuesday night, December 7.

Looking ahead to a busy year in the role, he said: “My focus will be to make open spaces accessible to everyone.

"I have already made a start with The Drift in Outney Road, which is nearly done.

"Getting improved lighting under the Butter Cross is important, and I have plans for the Castle Hills, to make then into a town park.

"It can be a beautiful place. The Town Trust needs to focus on that and the other areas of land it owns.”

Mr Barnes, who is 51 and lives in Nethergate Street, said he was looking forward to getting started, and to getting volunteers from throughout the town to work on the project.

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The identity of the new Town Reeve is a strict secret until the outgoing reeve names their successor at the Town Meeting, as Judy Cloke did on Tuesday night.

It is a long-standing Bungay tradition that the outgoing reeve chooses his or her successor from the feoffees (members) of Bungay Town Trust, which the reeve heads.

Bungay is the only town anywhere in the country that retains the ancient office.

Mr Barnes said he was quite surprised and honoured to be asked to succeed Mrs Cloke, who he said had done a sterling job in the role over two years, with her time in the role extended because of the pandemic which severely curtailed activities.

“I shall endeavour to work with all organisations in Bungay, and be involved collaboratively with the many plans for the Queen’s platinum anniversary,” he said.

“I am looking forward to the year with some trepidation but I am excited to get going.

"It will be good to give the parks a kick-start, and start work in earnest post-Covid.”

During his year Mr Barnes will be supporting Crisis, the charity for the homeless.

Born in Thurlton, Mr Barnes moved from Norwich to Bungay in 1997, and soon became involved with town organisations.

He became a member of the town council after being disgusted at the state of the River Waveney through the town and, during his five years as a councillor, also served as Mayor in 2016.

Olly Barnes during his time as mayor of Bungay in 2016

Olly Barnes during his time as mayor of Bungay in 2016 - Credit: Nick Butcher

He also became a member of the Castle Trust and was chairman for three years.

For some years he was involved with boat-building. Later he worked in the maintenance side at Blickling Hall, and is currently in the grounds maintenance department at South Norfolk District Council.

Mr Barnes is married to Alice and they have two children - Hannah, 23, who lives and works in Norwich, and Henry, 21, who is working in the Caribbean.

Mrs Cloke welcomed Mr Barnes to the role as “the best candidate for the job.”