It is not known when the tradition of the annual Town Dinner and Town Reckoning events commenced, because no records survive before 1726. But they are mentioned in the 18th century accounts, and at that time the Dinner, and the ‘Reckoning', when the income and expenditure of the Trust for the year is made public, were held on the same evening, usually the first Tuesday in December.
At the dinner on December 5th, 1820, the Reeve on that occasion was Richard Mann, and he presented a silver medal to be worn as an emblem of the Reeve's office . The inscription reads:
Presented to the Feoffees and Inhabitants of the Town of Bungay by Richard Mann, Town Reeve, 1820. As a Token of his Esteem and to commemorate the accession of George the Fourth to the Throne of Great Britain.
Since then, the Town Reeve has worn this medal on his chain of office, and in subsequent years, silver discs have been added inscribed with the name of each successive Reeve. Gradually, the number and weight made the chain too cumbersome, so some have been removed and are on display in Bungay Museum.
The Town Reckoning dinners tended to be long drawn-out affairs, often lasting from 3pm. until midnight. For this reason, perhaps, the dinners ceased in 1873. Dr. Leonard Cane, the Reeve in 1933, was very keen on researching and reviving the ancient customs and privilege of the town, and re-instated the dinner, as a separate event on the Friday evening before the Town Reckoning. The event is now the climax and highlight of the Reeve's year before he hands over his or her chain of office to his or her successor. Separating business from pleasure has made the Dinner a very popular occasion, eagerly awaited as the prelude to the Festive season. The Reeve delivers a speech summarising his or her year of office, other speeches are made by distinguished invited guests, and the Town Song is sung, with new words added recalling significant events in the town during the current year. The assembled company joins in the chorus of the song, first performed by Mr. Fisher at the old theatre in the Castle Yard, in 1816:
“Then, of all places, this is the place of renown;
Oh, what a place is Old Bungay !
Old Bungay's a wonderful Town !”
Pictures below are from the 2019 Town Dinner, held at the Fisher Theatre, with Stephen Baker, CEO of East Suffolk Council as Guest speaker.