Lives Remembered: Peter Northeast & Caroline Briscoe

Peter Northeast

Few pupils at Rattlesden primary school near Bury St Edmunds during the long headship of Peter Northeast, who died on 29 August, will have realised what a fine scholar guided their early years, but surely their English benefited. Peter, never a graduate, but a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, had over many years transcribed thousands of medieval Suffolk wills in Latin and English. He published the Tudor churchwardens' accounts of Boxford as well as the wills of the Baldwyne register at Bury, 1439-74, the second volume of which will be launched in July next year. Thus three volumes published by the Suffolk Records Society will bear his name as author and editor.

Born on 29 January 1930, he was the Society's secretary for six years around 1990, working hard for far longer, and becoming a vice-president both of the Records Society and of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History. He was either Secretary or Chairman of the Suffolk Local History Council for many years.

Peter was a tireless worker, meticulous and thorough, but always willing to neglect his own programme to help others; nobody was more generous with their time and energies in that cause. University scholars came to him for discussion and the opportunity to use his unpublished materials. He was also an equal partner in other works, notably a History of Suffolk in 1985 and Decoding Flint Flushwork on Suffolk and Norfolk Churches in 2005. His detailed knowledge of life and death in medieval Suffolk and of Suffolk churches was unrivalled.

He was a devoted family man who will be greatly missed by his wife Judy and their three children and six grandchildren. The garden of Green Pightle at Hightown Green, Rattlesden, was Judy's creation and their home was a warmly welcoming place for all. His cheerfulness and good humour persisted during his brave four-year fight against disabling illness, and to the end his mind was clear and alert to new discoveries in East Anglian history. His voluminous notes, photocopied extracts and transcripts, destined to become "The Northeast Collection", will undoubtedly prove an invaluable resource for future historians.

David Dymond and John Blatchly

Caroline Briscoe

Doris Caroline Briscoe died peacefully on 25 July, 10 days before her 99th birthday. Born on 5 August 1910 to George and Ada Castle, she was very proud of her father's career as an engine driver and of his promotion to an A1 Class Driver of Locomotives, including the Royal Scotsman.

She was educated at Queen Anne's Grammar School in York and at Manchester University, where she was awarded a First Class Honours degree in organic ohemistry, followed by a masters degree. She then chose a career in education and, having originally taught in Birmingham and Liverpool, was appointed in 1953 as headmistress of Rotherham High School, from which post she moved in 1959 to become the first headmistress of Crewe County Grammar School, where she stayed until her retirement in 1969.

Former staff and pupils in each school still remember her with great respect and comment on the high standards she expected and followed – including her own linen napkin with her packed lunch on a school outing. Many had remained in regular contact with her.

She was an accomplished sportswoman and, in addition to horse riding, she played cricket and hockey for Manchester University and hockey for England, each in the name of Castle.

In 1962 Caroline Castle married a local school principal, John Briscoe, which caused quite a stir in their respective schools. She announced her forthcoming marriage initially to the staff and then to all the girls without the staff. At first there was a stunned silence, until she told them to take a break outside where every one of the girls was given an ice-cream !

Eventually, they both retired to live in a listed Long house in Parracombe, North Devon. Until shortly before her admission to Eastleigh Care Home in Minehead, where she was looked after very well until her death, Caroline Briscoe had amazing knowledge and memories of her former pupils their achievements and families. She will live on in the memories of hundreds throughout the world.

Jean Macfarlane

If you would like to contribute an obituary of a friend, family member or colleague, please send a piece of no more than 500 words to Obituaries, The Independent, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF, by fax to 020 7005 2399 or by email to We reserve the right to edit copy for length and style.

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