Meet Bungay’s new town reeve

IT is 136 years since Bungay had a clergyman in its figurehead role as town reeve.

But that changed on Tuesday when the Rev Roger Allen was installed in the unique and ancient office at the annual town meeting at the Chaucer Club – and he is looking forward to representing the town far and wide, and heading the Bungay Town Trust.

Mr Allen, who runs his own firm of solicitors, with offices in Bungay and Halesworth, was ordained in 1993, and is assistant priest in the team of clergy in the Bungay benefice – Holy Trinity Church, Bungay with Barsham and Shipmeadow and Mettingham.

He said he was thrilled to be asked to take on the role, which he saw as an honour and the opportunity to serve the town, representing it at engagements throughout Suffolk and the surrounding area.

One idea he has is an event to celebrate the work of the town’s many societies, clubs and volunteer organisations, perhaps with a summer exhibition.

“They are vital to the town, providing hobbies and interests for people in the evenings, and they encourage people to learn and do things together,” he said.

He is also hoping that he and the Town Trust can be part of a town celebration of the Royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in April.

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“I shall fulfil as many engagements as I can, because this is an important role in promoting the town,” said Mr Allen, who is 66, and has no plans to retire yet. “Sue (his wife) and I are looking forward to it – you get to know a bit more about what is going on.”

In taking on the role he is following the lead of his grandfather, who was the first charter Mayor of Romford.

Born in Brentwood, his family were in the motor trade, and in fact he went into that business initially, gaining a degree in engineering at Loughborough University.

But soon after he met Sue, who was an articled clerk to a firm of solicitors and training to be a lawyer, it prompted him to take up a career in law.

Having qualified, the couple moved to the area in December, 1978 when he joined a sole practitioner at Halesworth, and a year later started his own firm, Allen’s, at Bungay.

He soon joined Bungay Rotary Club.

He has two sons and a daughter, and two grandchildren and is involved in the town’s life in many ways and has been a feoffee of the Town Trust for 10 years.

He is currently secretary of the Rotary Club of Bungay, and was its president in 2006-07, he is a long-standing member of Bungay Choral Society, a governor at Bungay High School, and a member of the Bungay Grammar School Trust.

Mrs Allen is lay chaplain at All Hallows Hospital, Ditchingham, treasurer of the Bungay Society, and district secretary of the Inner Wheel.

The office of town reeve is believed to date back to Saxon times, and Bungay is now the only town anywhere which retains the title, that goes back long before the office of mayor was established.

The last ordained town reeve of Bungay was the Rev Frederick Bothway, who filled the role twice – in 1865-66 and again in 1873-74.

He was curate at Bungay and at Ilketshall St Andrew.

Outgoing town reeve John Groom, who by tradition chooses his successor but keeps it a secret till he hands over, installed Mr Allen with the robes and chain of office.The bells of St Mary’s Church were pealed to welcome him into office.