Former pupils of Devizes School are holding a reunion to remember the day 30 years ago when two lions invaded their school.

The lionesses, named Girlie and Jessie, escaped from Chipperfield’s circus, which was pitched on The Green in front of the school.

Alun Wright, who was 16 at the time, recalled: “I was within ten or 12 yards of the lion. It appeared round the corner. I was terrified. Absolutely rooted to the spot.

“It went into one of the mobile classrooms. There were children in there. They very quickly got out of a door at the back.”

Although police marksmen were called, the circus workers managed to recapture the lionesses. The drama will be the talking point at the reunion Mr Wright is organising at the Bell by the Green pub in Estcourt Street on May 22 at 7.30pm.

He has set up a site on Facebook and there are already some memories of the incident posted there.

Joyce Lewis said: “I remember this day very well. We were doing rounders when Whack Scruse came over to us to say that two lions were wandering round the school grounds. Of course we didn’t believe him until we saw a circus lorry coming in the school gate.”

Helen Willis remembered: “One of the two beasts could now be plainly seen sitting on a desk in Mr Turner’s room, while the other had jumped through a glass paneled door into one of the cookery rooms where it had surprised a pupil eating her lunch. Fortunately the lion was more interested in her sandwiches than anything else.

“The police arrived and many of us were evacuated into the library block on the first floor, from where we could see lots of flustered teachers running around.

“Not only did we miss most of the afternoon’s history lesson, but we were lead story on John Craven’s Newsround that day too.”

The school newsletter of May 2 1980 included a comment from circus owner Mary Chipperfield. She said: “Jessie and Girlie have been reared in the circus. They are used to people and that’s why they did not cause real trouble.”