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A historic market town on the southern Broads


Beccles Quay
Town Hall
Beccles Fen
A small but thriving historic market town, Beccles is situated beside the River Waveney and the Broads waterways in Suffolk. It is thought to date back well beyond 960, when it was first mentioned in the granting of its manor to St Edmundsbury monastery by King Eadwig. William the Conqueror's 1086 Domesday survey describes Beccles as having one church and 24 acres of glebe land, with the Abbot of Edmundsbury paying rent to the crown of 60,000 herrings! The Waveney estuary was at that time a wide expanse of water stretching back from Great Yarmouth to Beccles and must have been dense with fish to meet such demands. Eventually it all silted up and the herring trade dried up, leading to the area being drained and turned into marshland.

Beccles Town Sign
The name Beccles is thought to have come from the word Beck, meaning stream, and leas meaning meadow. Records show that in the year 960 the monks of Bury St Edmunds owned Beccles, however Henry VIII dissolved the monastery in the 1500's causing great unrest for the people of the area. William Rede a prominent merchant at the time gained a grant of the fen from the king with 120 raised by members of Beccles guild but Rede's reputation suffered as claims of fraud followed the deal and much falling out ensued. To restore order, Beccles surrendered its rights to Queen Elizabeth I, who in 1584 granted the town a charter under which it was run by a Portreeve (warden), steward and burgesses until 1835.
The town itself has a wide range of architectural styles, dating from medieval to modern times. 18th Century buildings are especially prominent and a sign of the towns prosperous history. One such building is the Grade II listed octagonal Town Hall built in 1765 on the site of the original medieval market cross. Years gone by the building was a Shire Hall and a Court House before becoming the venue for Beccles Town Council.

Beccles Town Hall

Pretty Streets in Beccles

Cottages in Beccles
The large gothic St Michaels Church dates back to 1369 and dominates the town with its 97 ft tower, not attached and at the wrong end of the church so its not too close to the cliff. The church is the tourist Information point with organised tours and trips. The tower can be climbed up and has panoramic views over the beautiful surrounding countryside.

Beccles Church Tower

The view of the surrounding countryside from the top
Sir John Leman (1544-1632) was a tradesman from Beccles who became Lord Mayor of London. He never married and retained a strong link with Beccles providing a free school in his will of 1631. The 17th Century Leman House in Ballygate, a Grade I listed building was once the John Leman School and its wall still bears the motto: 'Disce aut Discede' (roughly translated as 'learn or go'). Leman House is now the Town's museum with Victorian exhibits and photographs and memorabilia regarding milling and malting, the river, printing, the railway, workhouse and prison. There is also a superb detailed model of the town as it was in 1841. The town's high school is now on the Ringsfield road but still bears his name.
Beccles Fen borders the town, and is a mix of marsh, wildlife, farmland, a common, and golf-course. The area lends itself to walking and cycling, and the Beccles Marsh Trail (established by Suffolk Wildlife Trust) provides varied routes to explore the countryside.

The River Waveney and Beccles Fen
Visitor Information
Beccles Tourist Information Centre, The Quay, Fen Lane, Beccles, NR34 9BH. Tel: 01502 713196
Beccles Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, from April to October (closed Mondays), 2.15pm to 5pm. Entry is FREE. Beccles and District Museum, Leman House, Ballygate, Beccles, NR34 9ND. Tel: 01502 715722

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