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Beccles Society celebrates 50 years of protecting town's character

26 November, 2016 - 11:30
John Sayer from the Beccles Society presenting an award to the Lee Utting from the Kings Head Hotel in Beccles in 2013. Picture: Nick Butcher.

John Sayer from the Beccles Society presenting an award to the Lee Utting from the Kings Head Hotel in Beccles in 2013. Picture: Nick Butcher.

Fifty years ago this month, a group of eleven residents gathered for the inaugural meeting of Beccles Society.

Milestone gift given to Beccles Town by Beccles Society to celebrate the Elizabeth I Charter 400th Anniversary. Picture: Bob ArisMilestone gift given to Beccles Town by Beccles Society to celebrate the Elizabeth I Charter 400th Anniversary. Picture: Bob Aris

Brought together originally in August 1966 in an effort to halt the progress of the proposed Beccles Marina Development, the group met officially under the society name three months later in November to continue their opposition and to conserve the architectural heritage of the whole town.

And although the marina project came to an end in 1970, the society continued its work.

In the early years members helped to create the first conservation area plan, worked on a schedule of listed buildings, helped to establish a Beccles Museum and brought together interested parties to restore St Michael’s Church Tower.

Over the years the group’s membership grew to 130 members, and is still going strong today with 85 people helping in various different roles.

Beccles Society chairman Paul Fletcher and vice chairman John Sayer, with guest speaker Desi Reed. Picture: Bob Aris.Beccles Society chairman Paul Fletcher and vice chairman John Sayer, with guest speaker Desi Reed. Picture: Bob Aris.

Chairman Paul Fletcher, 73, moved to Beccles four years ago, and has been a member of the society for two years.

He said: “I wanted to get involved because I was interested in the conservation area and making sure that Beccles retained its character.

“The group is made up of mostly retired people but there are a few younger people and we are trying to get more to join.”

Beccles Society’s main aims are to stimulate public awareness and appreciation of the beauty, history and character of Beccles and its surroundings, conserve the architectural heritage of the town, its streetscape and the conservation area, and to raise awareness of the impact physical developments have on the social, cultural and commercial life.

The Pound in Beccles, which was rescued and refurbished in 1982. Picture: Bob Aris.The Pound in Beccles, which was rescued and refurbished in 1982. Picture: Bob Aris.

Bob Aris, 77, is responsible for producing the society’s newsletter twice a year.

He said: “The core of our activity is planning and we echo what the town council does looking at planning applications each month.

“We discuss all the issues, but there is a social side too and we try to get together two or three times a year.

“A lot of people are retiring and choosing Beccles because they think it’s a nice place to live. And we need those people to get involved and help us keep it nice.

“For people that are new to the area it’s a great way to meet people and to find out more about Beccles.”

Other projects include working in conjunction with the town council to rescue and refurbish The Pound, which was used to confine lost stray animals, publishing the Beccles Revealed booklet which acts as a guide to the town and its buildings, and offering comments on the design of the rebuilding of the Old Market bus station.

The group also presents awards to local architects, builders, schools and business people for projects which enhance or preserve the town. In the past, awards have been presented to Prezzo and The Kings Head Hotel.

Beccles Society members marked the milestone with a 50th anniversary celebration meeting at Hungate Hall in Beccles on November 9, with guest speakers Fiona Cairns from the Suffolk Preservation Society, and Desi Reed, planning policy and delivery manager for Waveney and Suffolk Coastal District Councils.

Anyone who would like to join the group can go along to their next meeting on December 14 at 7pm, held in the back room of Rosedale Funeral Home in Beccles.

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