School ties for nuns

PUBLISHED: 11:30 13 May 2002 | UPDATED: 11:55 03 March 2010

SCHOOL dinners, silence in the corridors, and long thick bloomers…these were some of the memories aired at the 50th anniversary of the Convent Old Girl's Association of Ipswich.

SCHOOL dinners, silence in the corridors, and long thick bloomers…these were some of the memories aired at the 50th anniversary of the Convent Old Girl's Association of Ipswich.

Past pupils of The Convent of Jesus and Mary on Woodbridge Road met in Felixstowe where they reminisced with classmates and nuns to celebrate the milestone year.

More than 70 people attended the event, which included old girls from the 1940's to 1970's.

Jenny Clements, nee Strange, chairman of The Convent Old Girls Association, was delighted with the turnout at the reunion, which has become a twice-yearly event.

She said: "People come from all over the country to meet in May and October to come back and see the nuns and catch up with friends.

"The nuns really are remarkable people as they always remember our names and are always pleased to see us."

People enjoyed swapping tales from the old school days. "Some of the amusing things that are remembered from the good old days are games like hopscotch in the playground, trying to drink milk from bottles where the cream at the top had frozen, school dinners and long thick bloomers," said Mrs Clements.

"There was no one talking in the corridors, no eating sweets in the street, only talking to the person next to you in the bus queue, climbing on the cloister roof and hats had to be worn on top of the head even when cycling against the wind."

The school was founded in 1860 after a group of French nuns moved into a small house on Albion Hill (which is now Woodbridge Road) and formed a day school in the house next to the church.

A year later an orphanage was founded and 1862 saw the start of boarding. A new larger building opened in 1868 and the Convent of Jesus and Mary grew and prospered. Generations of girls grew up under the caring and watchful eye of the nuns.

However times changed and in the 1975 the nuns no longer taught there. Instead an Independent Trust took over, known as The School of Jesus and Mary.

Sadly in 1996, after 136 years, the school closed and the buildings were demolished and turned into a housing development.

Benita Pigeon, from Colchester, one of the last boarders in the 1960's, had an amusing recollection of the night of a thunderstorm.

"I remember there was a power cut so all the ice-cream had to be eaten by the boarders that night. I remember swapping the holy water. The nuns used to bless us with it before they turned the light off at night and we swapped the holy water with ginger beer."

The Association stopped during the war years and reformed in 1952, when former pupils of the Convent were invited to tea with the nuns on the second Sunday in each month.

The reunions continued until 1975 when the nuns left Woodbridge Road and since then annual get-togethers have been held each spring, with visits to the Felixstowe Convent in the autumn.

Past pupil Linda Powell, nee Bennett, who came all the way from Scotland for the 50th anniversary.

"The school had a loving atmosphere all the way through and there were lots of laughs," she said.

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