Beccles (/ˈbɛkəlz/ BEK-əlz) is a market town and civil parish in the English county of Suffolk.[2] The town is shown on the milestone as 109 miles (175 km) from London via the A145 and A12 roads, 98 miles (158 km) northeast of London as the crow flies, 16 miles (26 km) southeast of Norwich, and 33 miles (53 km) north northeast of the county town of Ipswich. Nearby towns include Lowestoft to the east and Great Yarmouth to the northeast. The town lies on the River Waveney on the edge of The Broads National Park.

St. Michael's Church, Beccles, Suffolk, South and east faces of the tower - - 219880.jpg
Beccles is located in Suffolk
Location within Suffolk
Population10,123 (2011)
OS grid referenceTM428897
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townBECCLES
Postcode districtNR34
Dialling code01502
AmbulanceEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
52°27′29″N 1°33′47″E / 52.458°N 1.563°E / 52.458; 1.563Coordinates: 52°27′29″N 1°33′47″E / 52.458°N 1.563°E / 52.458; 1.563
Arms of Beccles Town Council
CrestOn a Wreath of the Colours in front of a Clump of Rushes proper issuant therefrom a demi Lion Azure a Dolphin Argent.
BlazonAzure a Bend wavy between two Ancient Crowns each enfiling two Arrows in saltire points downwards all Or.
SupportersOn the dexter side a Dragon wings inverted and addorsed Gules gorged with a Mural Crown and supporting a Staff Or flying therefrom a Banner Argent charged with a Cross pommée Gules and on the sinister side a like Dragon Or gorged with a Mural Crown Gules and supporting a Staff Or flying therefrom a Banner also Gules charged with two Keys in saltire Or.
MottoProsperity Through Fidelity
Granted 23 February 1956[1]

It had a population at the 2011 census of 10,123.[3] Worlingham is a suburb of Beccles; the combined population is 13,868. Beccles twinned with Petit-Couronne in France in 1978.


The name is conjectured to be derived from Becc-Liss* (Brittonic=Small-court). However, also offered is Bece-laes* (Old English=Meadow by Stream), as well as a contraction of Beata Ecclesia, the name of the Christian temple erected c. 960 by the monks of the monastery of Bury.[4] Once a flourishing Anglian riverport, it lies in the Waveney valley and is a popular boating centre. The town was granted its Charter in 1584 by Elizabeth I.

Sir John Leman (died 1632) was a tradesman from Beccles who became Lord Mayor of London.

Long associated with Beccles (including recent mayors) is the Peck family.[5] Among those Pecks who have made a place in history is the Rev. Robert Peck,[6] described by Blomfield in his history of Norfolk as a man with a 'violent schismatic spirit' who led a movement within the church of St Andrew's in nearby Hingham, Norfolk, in opposition to the established Anglicanism of the day.[7] The Puritan Peck was eventually forced to flee to Hingham, Massachusetts, founded by many members of his parish, where he resided for several years, until King Charles I had been executed and Oliver Cromwell had taken the reins of government.[8] Robert Peck then elected to return to Hingham, Norfolk, and resumed as rector of St Andrew's Church. He died in Hingham but left descendants in America, including his brother Joseph Peck, who settled in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. Robert's daughter Ann Peck (16 November 1619 – 30 June 1672) also remained in Massachusetts, and married John Mason, who led colonial forces in the Pequot War.[9][10][11]

In 1794, François-René de Chateaubriand, while in exile, taught here French language and literature. He fell in love with Charlotte Ives, daughter of Bungay's reverend. (See: first part of Mémoires d'outre-tombe, book 10, chapter 9 "Charlotte".)

Under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 the borough was reformed, Beccles retaining municipal borough status until the reorganisation of local government in 1974, when it was merged with surrounding authorities to become Waveney District. The successor civil parish has adopted town status.

Beccles was struck by an F1/T3 tornado on 23 November 1981, as part of the record-breaking nationwide tornado outbreak on that day.[12]

Buildings and industryEdit

Beccles Town Hall

There is an 18th-century octagonal town hall.

Beccles Museum is housed in Leman House, a Grade I listed building and has a collection of agricultural, industrial and domestic items, including collections of tools, boat building, printing, costumes and natural history.


Construction of the Southern Relief Road, in the summer of 2018
Beccles Southern Relief Road
ProposerSuffolk County Council
Cost estimate£7.0 million (estimated final 2018)
Start date31 August 2017
Completion date25 September 2018
St. Michael's Church and bell tower

The townscape is dominated by the detached 16th century bell tower (known as the Beccles bell tower) of St Michael's Church. Like the main body of the church, the tower is Perpendicular Gothic in style and is 97 ft tall. The interior of the church was badly damaged by fire in 1586. It has a 13th-century font.

The tower is not attached to the church and at the wrong end of the church as the correct end would be too close to a large cliff.

It was at this church in 1749 that the mother of Horatio Nelson, Catherine Suckling, married the Reverend Edmund Nelson (a former curate of Beccles). The Suffolk poet George Crabbe married Sarah Elmy at Beccles Church in the 18th century.


The town is bypassed to the north by the A146 road between Norwich in Norfolk and Lowestoft in Suffolk. The bypass was built in the 1980s and the main road previously ran through the town, crossing the River Waveney at the narrow Beccles bridge. The link road between the A146 and the town is George Westwood Way, in memory of a Deputy Mayor, George Lionel Westwood, who fought hard for the construction of the bypass. The A145 used to run from the A146 through the town centre to link with the A12 at Blythburgh, 11 miles (18 km) to the south of Beccles; the official route of the road now runs via the Beccles Southern Relief Road to indicate to drivers, particularly those of HGVs, that they can avoid the town; this is intended to make the relief road effective in keeping unnecessary traffic out of the town. A number of bus services link the town with both Norwich and Lowestoft as well as surrounding villages. Many of the modern streets have the suffix 'gate'; for example, Hulvergate, Smallgate and Blyburgate. This is derived from the Old Norse for "street", and is similar to the modern Danish word gade.

The town is served by Beccles railway station on the East Suffolk Line between Ipswich and Lowestoft. Services run hourly in each direction on weekdays following the completion of the Beccles rail loop in 2012. This rebuilt the disused island platform and relaid track to allow trains to pass at Beccles, the only point north of Saxmundham where this is possible. Services are operated by Abellio Greater Anglia. The town was formerly the eastern terminus of the Waveney Valley Line linking to the Great Eastern Main Line at Tivetshall in Norfolk and the southern terminus of the Yarmouth to Beccles Line which ran across the River Waveney marshes to Great Yarmouth. Both lines closed between 1954 and 1966 as a result of the Beeching cuts.

Beccles Airport is located around 3 miles (4.8 km) southeast of the town. Originally built as a wartime airfield, this was the site of a heliport servicing the North Sea petrochemical industry and is now a base for light aircraft.

National Cycle Route 1 (which runs from London to the Orkney Islands) passes through Beccles. Along with Regional Route 30 (Wells-next-the-sea to Brandon) and Regional Route 31 (Reedham Ferry to Southwold).[13]

Beccles Southern Relief RoadEdit

In 2006, a southern relief road for Beccles was approved, running from a roundabout just south of the town towards Ellough where the A145 connects with an industrial area before joining with the A146 at North Cove.[14] The completion cost was around £7.0 million and the road forms part of Suffolk County Council traffic management plans.[15] It allows north–south industrial traffic to bypass the narrow streets of the town centre, reducing congestion and increasing safety and officially opened on 25 September 2018.[16] There are bodies of water at both ends of the road. The bodies either side of the Worlingham (east) end are called Isaac Lagoon and Carter Lake.


Beccles is served by Sir John Leman High School (11–18) and Beccles Free School (11–16) for Secondary Education.

There is a wider range of primary schools, including Beccles Primary Academy (formerly Crowfoot Primary School), and the Albert Pye and Ravensmere Infants School Federation. Recently, all of the primary schools have been turned into academies.

Sir John Mills, English stage and film actor, attended the (then) Sir John Leman Grammar School.


For many years, Beccles Sea Cadets[17] – and more recently, Beccles Royal Marines Cadets[18] – under their training ship name T.S. Brave have worked within the community by assisting organisations and activities such as the Beccles Carnival. They share a varied and colourful affiliation with HMS Brave.

Beccles is also home to 759 (Beccles) Air Cadets,[3] who take part in a variety of activities such as flying and gliding, expeditions and sports. Beccles Air Cadets play a small role in the community

Beccles' main football team is Beccles Town F.C., established in 1919. As of the 2012–13 season, they are members of the Anglian Combination Premier Division. Beccles also has a football team called Beccles Caxton.

Ellough Park Raceway is south-east of Beccles on the site of the old Ellough airfield. It is a local centre for kart racing.[19]

Beccles is home to two Scouting Groups: 2nd Beccles and 5th Beccles[20]

The annual Beccles Carnival and Family Fun weekend is held during the third weekend in August, which includes the popular Duck Race on the River Waveney.

Its local newspaper is the weekly Beccles & Bungay Journal, formed in 1933[21].

Notable peopleEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "BECCLES TOWN COUNCIL (SUFFOLK)". Robert Young. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  2. ^ OS Explorer Map OL40: The Broads: (1:25 000) : ISBN 0 319 24086 X.
  3. ^ "Check Browser Settings". Archived from the original on 9 June 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  4. ^ Suckling, Alfred (1846). The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk: Volume 1. WS Crowell, Ipswitch.
  5. ^ Fen, Beccles (1826). An account of the corporation of Beccles Fen, with a tr. of their charter ... – Beccles Fen. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  6. ^ "Peck, Robert (PK598R2)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  7. ^ The Nonconformist's Memorial: Being An Account of the Ministers, Who Were Ejected or Silenced After the Restoration, Samuel Palmer, London, 1775.
  8. ^ ), Hingham (Mass (1893). History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts. Retrieved 30 April 2015.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ A Genealogical History of the Descendants of Joseph Peck: Who Emigrated with ... – Ira Ballou Peck. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  10. ^ Old Houses of the Antient Town of Norwich [Conn.] 1660–1800 – Mary Elizabeth Perkins. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  11. ^ Mason, John (1736). A Brief History of the Pequot War. Boston: printed and sold by S. Kneeland and T. Green ..
  12. ^
  13. ^ " – the OpenStreetMap Cycle Map". Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  14. ^ Another step forward for relief road project, Beccles and Bungay Journal, 27 November 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  15. ^ Suffolk Local Transport Plan 2006–11 Archived 28 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Suffolk County Council. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  16. ^ Matchett, Conor. "Hundreds explore new Relief Road ahead of official opening". Beccles and Bungay Journal. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  17. ^ "Home – Beccles". Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  18. ^ "Who We Are – Beccles". Archived from the original on 9 June 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  19. ^ [1] Archived 15 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Scouts – Map page". Scouts. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  21. ^ "Digital and Print Advertising - Beccles and Bungay Journal". Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  22. ^ Michael Joyce (2004). Football League Players' Records 1888–1939. SoccerData. p. 90. ISBN 1-899468-67-6.
  23. ^ "Hartley, Charles (HRTY884C)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  24. ^ [2]Archived 12 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine

External linksEdit