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Suffolk - Beccles

Kelly's Directory for Cambridgeshire, Norfolk & Suffolk, 1883, pp.802-807.

[Complete entry. Transcription Copyright © E.C."Paddy" Apling]


BECCLES is an ancient market town, municpa; borough, and polling place for teh Eastern division of the county, situated on the borders of Norfolk, 100 miles from London, 40 north-east from Ipswich, 17 south-east from Norwich, 14 south-west from Yarmouth, 10 west from Lowestoft by road and 8½ by rail, and 6 east from Bungay, in the hundred, union and rural deanery of Wangford, archdeaconry of Suffolk and diocese of Norwich. There is a station on the East Suffolk branch of the Great Eastern Railway, with diverging lines to Lowestoft, and through Bungay amd Harleston to the Eastern Union line at Tivetshall. The town is situated on the river Waveney, which is navigable for vessels of 100 tons burthen from Lowestoft, and by which a considerable traffic has been carried on, though now much affected by the railways.

The town is pleasantly situated; the streets mainly converge to the New Market place in the centre, and are broad, well paved, sewered, and lighted with gas. A great many private residences have been built within the last few years.

The borough possesses an extensive estate, which precludes the necessity for borough rates, as the costs of paving, highways, sewerage, police and lighting are paid from funds arising from this source: the land was formerly part of the possessions of Bury Abbey, and was then rented by the inhabitants for ten marks annually: at the dissolution of the monasteries, after much contention among the inhabitants upon the subject of the land, it was granted by Henry VIII. to William Rede. merchant, in trust for the benefit of himslf and other inhabitants of Beccles: the sum paid for this grant was about £120: this grant was not giving satisfaction to the inhabitants. in consequence of the exclusive powers given to the Rede family, contentions and lawsuits again commenced, the expenses of which had to be met, as were the expenses of previous dissensions, by enclosing and demising some of the land: the essential issue of the dispute was a surrender of the fee to Queen Elizabeth. in order that it might be regranted in a more effectual manner to a select body of the inhabitantsm to be incorporated under the name of the "Portreeve, Surveyors, and Commonalty of the Fen of Beccles:" letters patent were accordingly granted in July, 1584, by which the corporation was constituted in this form, and which was retained till altered by the Municpal Act of 1935. The fee is held of the Crown by fealty and a yearly fee farm rent of 13s. 4d. The estate consists of about 958 acres pf marsh and common land. The value of the town's estate has been considerably augmented by the use of a powerful steam engine with Appold's centrifugal pump for the better draining of the marshes: it was erected by Messrs. Easton and Amos; the whole cost was £1,332: the improvement was commenced in the year 1857.

The original incorporation of Beccles is supposed to have referred only to the management of this fen for the benefit of the town, and the body consisted of the portreeve and thirty-six burgesses: the corporate body (as remodelled by the Municipal Act of 1835) now consists of a mayor, four aldermen and 12 councillors. The Corporation act as the urban sanitary authority.

The church of St. Michael stands near the New Market, overlooking the meadows, through which the Waveney flows: it is a strucure of flint in the Perpendicular style, and consists of chancel, nave, aisles, north and south porches, with detached stone tower standing a short distance from the south-west angle of the church: the tower was built about 1515, is 92 feet high, but unfinished, probably owing to the dissolution of Bury Abbey, and contains a peal of 10 bells: the south porch is a fine specimen of Florid Gothic, and has on the front the arms of Bury Abbey: the north porch is of plain architecture. The living is a rectory, yearly value £330, with residence, in the gift of the Rev. Edmond Holland M.A. and held since 1882 by the Rev. John Rowsell M.A. of Trinity College, Cambridge.

There is an interesting library over the south porch of the church, containing some standard works in divinity, under the trusteeship of the rector for the time being; his consent being obtained, the parishioners may have books out gratuiously for a specified time.

The Mission Hall in Ingate street is a Gothic red brick building, erected in 1881 by the Rev. Edmond Holland M.A. at a cost of £1,000; it will seat 200 persons: services are held on Sundays by the rector or his curate; and on week days lectures and other meetings are held here.

The Baptist chapel, in Station road, is a memorial of the three Beccles Martyrs, viz. Thomas Spicer, John Denny and Edmund Poole, who were burned near this spot on the 21st May, 1556; it was erected in 1860.

The Wesleyan chapel is in Station road and was built in 1871. The Congregational chapel is in Hungate street; it was built in 1815, and enlarged in 1836; a school, with lecture room was built and a new organ placed in the chapel at a cost of £2,300, in the year 1878. The Primitive Methodist chapel is in Smallgate street, and was erected in 1872.

Cemetary for the parish has been formed under the Burial Acts; it comprises five acres, and has two mortuary chapels; and is under the control of a Burial Board of 9 members. There is also a churchyard and a burial ground at Ingate closed by the Secretary of State's order, both of which are held in trust for the purposes of reserved graves under the rector and churchwardens, in whom the sole rights are vested, save and except those imposed under the Cemetery Acts, which require that the Burial Board shall keep them in decent order: the churchyard has been fenced round and greatly improved of late years: seats are provided for wayfarers.

The school founded by Sir John Leman knt. alderman of London, by his will, dated 8th July, 1631, is for 50 scholars, wherof 44 from time to time to be of the inhabotants of Beccles before others, two of Ringsfield, two of Gillingham, and two of Barsham; the property consists of residence, schoolroom, and land in the vicinity of Beccles, now let at the annual gross rent of £196 12s.; the school is now worked under the Charity Commissioners and governed by 12 governors under the name of Sir John Leman's school, and is open to all boys in the parishes of Beccles, Ringsford, Barsham and the two Gillinghams: there are five scholarships of £5 each, and three exhibitions of £20 each, to be awarded at each yearly examination.

The Grammar School was founded by Dr. Fauconberge in 1712, who endowed it with an estate, which now produces about £200 yearly: the head master is nominated by the Bishop of Norwich, the Archdeacon of Suffolk and the rector of Beccles; the testator's object was rather to induce a person qualified to give instruction in the higher branches of education, to reside in Beccles, than to found a Free Grammar school.

The Corn Hall is at the back of Messrs. Lacon's bank, with entrance in Sheepgate street. The Town Hall, a large building at the corner of the Station road, is used for public purposes, religious, social and political of all kinds; it is held in trust by the mayor, to whom all applications must be made for its use. The Council Chamber is a small building in Smallgate street. The old Town Hall, near the church tower, has been appropriated for the use of the Town Library; under the same roof is the Literary Institute with reading room, where also a small library is maintained, The Old Gaol, or House of Correction, was altered in 1879, the centre being converted into a spacious court house, and the left wing into a residence for the police; the right wing is used as a lock-up, the prisoners being sent to Norwich, Petty Sessions and Cointy Corts are now held at the Court House.

A hospital was erected in 1874 near the Fair close, at a cost of about £1,500; the expenses were chiefly raised by voluntary contributions, the Beccles Corporation and Feoffees subscribing £150; the site, valued at £100, was presented by John Crisp esq.

An extensive sale for stock is held every Friday by Messrs. Henry and John Read, at their Beccles Stock Mart, Blyburgate street; and Messrs. Boutell and Durrant, at their Beccles Auction Mart adjoining the railway station alternately. Messrs. Gurney, Birkbeck, Barclay & Co. have a handsome bank in the New Market place.

The Beccles Water Works Compamy was incorporated in 1870; the reservoirs from which Beccles is supplied are upon the highest ground in the vicinity, three-quarters of a mile from the town and 50 feet above the level of the higher and 90 above the lower streets: the water, which is pumped into the reservoirs from deep wells on the same site, is excellent in quality and valuable for all purposes, especially for brewing and malting.

There are several fine maltings, especially one of John Crisp & Son; extensive tannery works of Messrs. J. K. & W. H. Garrod; the celebrated Beccles brewery. of which Messrs. Harwood & Co. are the proprietors; coach building factory of Messrs. Charles Horsley & Son; the agricultural implement works of Mr. Samuel F. Field and Mr. John Oldrin; nursery grounds of Messrs. T. A. Laws & Son; the pottery of Mr. William Aldous: there are also several wind & steam corn mills; and bricks, tiles, earthenware and tobacco pipes are manufactured here. Messrs. William Clowes & Sons, Limited, the eminent printers of London, have their country branch establishment here.

The market for corn is held on Friday, and the town is well supplied with provisions of all sorts.

In addition to the estate of the Corporation there is the Feoffment Estate, which produces about £300 yearly, and though strictly speaking the trust is for "the benefit, profit and common utility of the inhabitants of Beccles," it is principally applied in different ways for the benefit of the poor residing in the town; the Corporation funds partly providing for cleansing, lighting and other public and general expenses. There are many other charities and a few almshouses. Robert Girling, by his will, dated 20th May.1676, left the sum of £50 to the Corporation of Beccles, the interst to be applied towards apprenticing young boys; this charity produces £3 yearly. Ward's legacy of £2 12s. yearly is distributed in bread, the poor receiving one shilling's worth weekly. The Hermitage inn, Staithe, Poors'. Pightle and Clerk's piece, produce an amount which is placed in the hands of the churchwardens for the repair of the fabric of the church and defraying clerk's salary.

Near the town is Roos, or Rose Hall, an ancient mansion in the Elizabethan style, lately restored, the property and residence of Frederic William Darby Robinson esq.

An avenue has been made by the Corporation from the Station road to the common, at a cost of about £1,000; it is 60 feet in width and a quarter of a mile in length : and along it there have been planted elm trees, and likewise shrubs and flowers; thr whole is enclosed with iron fencing.

The largest landowners are the Corporation of Becccles, who are lords of the manor. There are other owners, among whom are the Rev. Sir Charles Clarke bart. Frederick William D. Robinson esq, and John Crisp esq.

The area of the parish is 1,767 acres. including marsh and common lands; rateable value, £20,385; the population in 1881 was 5,721.

Offical Establishments, Local Instutions &c.

© Transcription Copyright E.C. ("Paddy") Apling, partial (County Court & Wangford Union only) November, 2009; full transcript June 2010; links updated January 2011.

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