"BECCLES, a parish, market town, and municipal borough in the hundred of Wangford, in the county of Suffolk, 16 miles to the S.E. of Norwich, and 98 miles to the N.E. of London. It is a station on the Great Eastern railway; and now, by the completion of the line between Halesworth and Ipswich, has a direct communication with the metropolis, instead of the previous circuitous route by way of Norwich. A branch line of railway is just completed, which unites this town with Bungay, Haresleston, and the Eastern Union line of railway to Bury St. Edmund's, Newmarket, and Cambridge. It is situated in a pleasant country on the right bank of the river Waveney, which is navigable for vessels of 100 tons from this place to Yarmouth, where it falls into the sea. At the period of the Norman survey, the manor of Beccles, with an extensive common adjacent to it, belonged to the abbey of Bury St. Edmund's; and, from the record in Domesday Book, it appears that the abbey received its supply of fish from Beccles. The town consists of several good streets, well paved, and lighted with gas. The marketplace is in the centre of the town, which is well supplied with provisions of all kinds. There is a convenient townhall, in which the quarter and petty sessions are held; a theatre, now used as the corn exchange; assembly-rooms, with a large public library attached; and a gaol, capable of containing 30 prisoners. A new cemetery for the borough has recently been formed, under the Health of Towns Act; it comprises above 5 acres, elegantly laid out, and has two chapels. The principal business of the place is the corn and malt trade. There are also several breweries, iron foundries, and a silk-mill, employing from 150 to 200 hands. A large traffic is carried on with the neighbouring towns in coals, &c., by means of the river and the East Suffolk branch of the Great Eastern railway, which connects it with the important districts of Yarmouth, Lowestoft, and Ipswich. Beccles was first incorporated by a charter of Queen Elizabeth, and is now governed under the Reform Act by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors. Before the town became a corporate municipal body, under the late Act for Constituting Provincial Corporations, it bore the style of "the portreeve, surveyors, and commonalty of the Fen of Beccles," which is held of the crown by fealty, and a yearly fee farm rent of 13s. 4d. The corporation have the management of this great concession, or "fen," containing 1,400 acres, which was granted at the Dissolution to William Reds, for the use and benefit of the inhabitants of the town, which precludes the necessity of having borough rates, as the cost of paving highways, sewers, &c., is defrayed from funds arising from this source. The port of Beccles is subordinate to Yarmouth., The revenue of the borough is about £2,000, and its population 4,266, according to the census of 1861, against 4,398 in 1851, showing a decrease of 132 in the decennial period, while the number of inhabited houses has risen from 954 to 985. Beccles is a polling place for the eastern division of the county, and the seat of a County Court, which is held monthly at the townhall. Quarter sessions are held here for the Gueldable district of Suffolk. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Norwich, of the value of £320, in the patronage of the Rev. Edmund Holland. The tithes have been commuted at £350. The church, a handsome structure in the perpendicular style of architecture, was founded soon after the middle of the 14th century, and is dedicated to St. Michael. It stands on elevated ground overlooking the Waveney. The porch is a beautiful example of the decorated style, built probably about 1455. The tower is of still later date, and stands detached near the south-east angle of the church. There are remains of another church at Endgate, the town formerly consisting of two parishes. This parish is the place in which the bishop of the diocese holds his septennial visitation, and the archdeacon his annual. The Baptists, Independents, and Methodists have chapels here. The charitable endowments are considerable, producing about £670 per annum of this sum, £272 is the revenue from the townlands; £184 the revenue of the grammar school, founded by Dr. Fauconberg in 1712, and endowed with his estate at Corton; and £197, the income of the free school established by Sir John Leman in 1631, for the education of 48 boys. There are also National, British, and infants' schools. Here was formerly a hospital for lepers, and a chapel connected with it dedicated to St. Mary Magdalens. The remains of the hospital are now a barn. Ashman's Hall, formerly the seat of the Rede family, is a noble mansion surrounded by well-wooded grounds, on the banks of the Waveney. Rose (or Roos) Hall is an ancient mansion near the town, once the seat of Sir Robert Rich Bart., but at present unoccupied. Friday is the market day. Fairs are held on Whit-Monday for the sale of cattle, and on the 2nd October for the sale of horses. There is a race-course near the town, on which races were held annually in September, but have been discontinued for some years."
Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)