Situated inland on the River Waveney, Beccles sits at the southern point of the Suffolk & Norfolk Broads.
Beccles offers a wealth of diversity, combining history with modern-day attractions, including the popular outdoor swimming pool, The Lido. The town is surrounded by fantastic views of the river and set amongst delightful countryside. The historic town centre provides a blend of independent shops, restaurants and other services that will make a trip to Beccles memorable. The town is within easy reach of the coast, with its award-winning beaches, nature reserves and theme park.
Beccles has been a flourishing market town since Anglo-Saxon times, being one of the relatively few places in England recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as having a market. In the Middles Ages Beccles was the third town of Suffolk, behind Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds. The town’s Old Market (now the bus station) once housed a great market for fish, particularly herring; and on the west side of Old Market the remains of the 11th century towers of the former St Peter’s Chapel are visible, incorporated into St Peter’s House. New Market, founded in the 14th century, still has a weekly market – on a Friday.
There are many other buildings of architectural interest, including Leman House in Ballygate, home of the Beccles and District Museum. This Grade 1 Listed Building was a school from at least the early 17th century. On the east side you can see the school motto ‘Disce aut Discede’ (Latin for ‘Learn or Leave’), as well as the coat of arms of Sir John Leman, former Lord Mayor of London and Prime Warden of the Fishmongers’ Company, who bequeathed the building to found the school named after him. The name persists in the title of the town’s Sir John Leman High School, which educated Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, the UK’s first (and, as yet, only) female recipient of the Nobel Prize, and the actor Sir John Mills.
Beccles and District Museum is open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday afternoons, 1.45 – 4.30 (admission free). As well as its displays, the museum has an extensive archive which visitors can access electronically.
Beccles was also home to Catherine Suckling who was married in the town’s Grade 1 St Michael’s Church to Revd Edmund Nelson, a former curate at the church. They became the parents of England’s greatest naval hero, Lord Nelson.
Among the town’s other notable historical landmarks is the Bell Tower. It stands detached from the main body of the church and, at 97 ft tall, it offers spectacular views across the surrounding countryside. Details of opening times can be found on the Town Council’s website at https://becclestowncouncil.gov.uk/the-town/beccles-bell-tower/
The town’s roads with the ‘gate’ suffix, such as Blyburgate and Hungate, are its oldest streets, the ‘gate’ element being a Norse word for a street. Also notable are the Scores, paths running down to the river which take their name from an ancient word meaning ‘cut’ (as in the scoring of a joint of pork).
Visitors will find plaques on a number of the town’s historic buildings, provided by The Beccles Society. The plaques give information about the buildings and/or their past owners.
The popular Quay of the town is the Southern Gateway to The Broads. This area is not only very popular with water users but is also ideal for families, walkers and those interested in wildlife. A new play park for children opened in 2022 and a trim trail for adults is planned.
The town also benefits from having extensive marshland through which walks can be taken (including from the Quay) and the large Common which once housed a race course. The Common includes ‘Boney’s Island’ (not accessible to the public), named after a great bonfire made there in 1814 to celebrate what was thought to be Napoleon Bonaparte’s final defeat. The people of Beccles were not to know that he was to escape from his imprisonment on the island of Elba the following year – and be defeated at Waterloo.
One of the best ways to explore the River Waveney and its countryside is by boat. The Big Dog Ferry offers trips along the river where kingfishers and other birds and wildlife can be spotted. Those visiting by water can book mooring spaces in advance (contact the Harbour Master: 01502 712225 firstname.lastname@example.org) or on the day; half day mooring is also available, although visitors will need more than half a day to experience all of the town’s attractions. Day boats can be hired locally, as well as kayaks and paddle-boards.
The Quay is home to a number of events throughout the year, including the Beccles Carnival and Antique Markets.
Beccles is also known for The Duck Race and the Christmas Lights Switch On (held on the last Friday of November).
For more information:
Visitor Information Points VIP
Beccles Quay & Deli
Bear & Bells restaurant/Pub