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Town set to host historical charter weekend

PUBLISHED: 09:00 03 July 2015

River Waveney, Beccles.

River Waveney, Beccles.

© Archant 2015

Final preparations are taking place in Beccles for two days of celebrations to recognise the town's historical charter.

The event tomorrow and Sunday will showcase some of the best sites and attractions the town has to offer.

Historic town with roots dating back to Domesday Book

The ancient town of Beccles is mentioned four times in the Domesday Book, and the archaeological record shows that it was settled in prehistoric times and also during the Roman occupation of Britain.

The River Waveney, which runs through the town, has been of great importance for the town historically.

The herring trade was of great significance to the town until comparatively recent times and in medieval times the town “paid its dues” in baskets of fish – the town was once the major supplier of herring to the abbey at Bury St Edmunds.

Mayor of Beccles Hugh Taylor said: “The charter referred to in Charter Weekend is that granted to the town by Queen Elizabeth 1 dated July 2, 1584, in which the lands around the town, having previously belonged to the Church but taken from it by Henry VIII, were formally granted for the benefit of the townspeople and in 1605, following some attempts to invalidate it, it was confirmed again by James I.

“The current town council and councillors are the descendants of the ‘common councilmen’ who were formed into a ‘corporation’ by the terms of the original Queen Elizabeth charter.”

Although much has changed over the centuries since the charter was granted, some structures in the town remain.

By the time the historic charter was granted, the imposing St Michael’s Church in the centre of town had already been standing for around 130 years, having been completed in 1455.

Work began at the beginning of the 1500s on the free-standing bell tower, which sits alongside, and completed in 1540.

The weekend aims to mark the granting of the charter by Queen Elizabeth I on July 2, 1584.

The charter is a legal document establishing a municipality such as a city or town, traditionally the granting of a charter gave a settlement and its inhabitants the right to town privileges under the feudal system.

In the case of Beccles, the lands around the town were formally granted for the benefit of the townspeople and in 1605 it was confirmed again by James I.

The mayor of Beccles, Hugh Taylor, said: “The town will celebrate the granting of its charter over the weekend while the descendent body of the corporation set up under the terms of the charter,

“Beccles Town Council will be holding a ceremony to mark the current Queen Elizabeth becoming our longest-reigning monarch on September 9, 2015.”

Activities start tomorrow with Beccles Open Gardens and Spaces, which offers visitors the chance to enjoy more than 25 of the town’s most beautiful and original gardens.

Last year more than 400 people in one day came to explore the gardens and organisers hope this year’s event will attract even more visitors.

Programmes, which contain a map of the gardens, are available from Beccles Museum in Ballygate from 10am on both days, with the gardens open from 11am until 5pm.

The programmes cost £5, children are free, and include a river trip on the 1930s motor yacht, the Betsie Jane, tomorrow.

Mr Taylor said: “This was hugely successful last year. The Betsie Jane comes to the Waveney House Hotel, she can take 12 passengers at a time and members of the River Waveney Trust act as a shore party.”

Beccles and Bungay Area Community Transport will be available across both days to take people to the events, allowing them to hop on and off to visit all the attractions, and for those looking for a slightly different form of transport, heavy horses and carriages will available to visitors on Sunday.

On Sunday, the River Waveney takes centre stage, with a nautical fayre starting at 9am at Beccles

Quay.

Beccles Community Arts, the committee behind the annual Harvest Moon Music Festival, will present a free live outdoor music event at the quay from 10am to 5pm.

Up to 80 local instrumentalists and singers will offer an eclectic mix of community music-making. For two of the groups, Waveney Wind and the U3A Ukelele Experience, this will be their first performance in a local community music festival.

The afternoon will see the Beccles and Area River Cavalcade featuring a water bike race, while boats of historical and general interest will be sailing up and down the river before forming a flotilla and mooring up to permit visitors to view them and, if large enough, to go on board.

Proceeds from the day will go to local organisations which will be decided after the event.

For information on all the events visit www.becclescharterweekend.co.uk or call 07773493160.

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