Situated in the picturesque Waveney Valley, St Benet’s Catholic Parish was founded towards the end of the century by Benedictine monks of Downside Abbey (Bath, Somerset). The architect who designed the minster, in the first decade of the twentieth century, was Frederick Banham. The land was provided by John George Kenyon, owner of the Gillingham Estate. The area covered by the parish extends from Haddiscoe in the north to Brampton in the south; Barnaby to the east and Kirby Cane to the west.
The link between the school and the parish has always been close. The school and the church are on adjacent sites, so that the parish church can serve as a school chapel. The church was built between 1900 and 1908, and was planned as the minster church of a large priory. The parish continues to be served by monks of the Benedictine Abbey of Downside Abbey and our present parish priest, who also serves as School Chaplain and as a Foundation Governor is Father Martin Gowman.
St Benet’s school first opened in 1898. For many years the school was entirely in the building on the upper playground that is currently the Early Years setting. Later the senior class moved into the hall (which had originally been built as a temporary church). In 1955 Fr Benet Innes, Parish Priest and monk of Downside arranged for a new bungalow presbytery to be built and handed over the large presbytery to the school to be adapted for use. After £2300 was raised by appeal, the new buildings were officially opened. The School then consisted of the hall, the current offices and Class Two. School numbers were around 100 and the ages were 5 to 15 year olds. Two new classrooms were later built, which are currently Class 3 and 4. In the late 1950s St Benet’s became a 5- 11 Primary school, and is as we see it today.
In 2010 St Benet’s school was federated with St Edmund’s School in Bungay, which is just 6 miles away to the east. Together we became The Federation of Catholic Primary Schools of the Waveney Valley. We have a single governing body and an Executive Headteacher running both settings. Both schools, continue to be supported by the Benedictine community at Downside Abbey. The school is now an academy and run by the ‘St John the Baptist Multi Academy Trust’.