When the fishy pong from the market might have put you off the beautiful view...
PUBLISHED: 18:55 19 November 2018 | UPDATED: 07:12 20 November 2018
One of the evocative images from ‘Beccles Through Time Picture: COURTESY AMBERLEY PUBLISHING
Is ‘change’ always ‘progress’? Take a look and decide
South Road was known as Bullock’s Lane at the start of the last century, when the picture was taken. The Bullock family ran a post mill in the road from 1804 to 1876. Picture: COURTESY AMBERLEY PUBLISHING
We don’t need to hot-wire the Doctor Who Tardis to take a trip back in time – not when we’ve got a passionate history fan with access to a pile of evocative old photographs and the patience to sift them.
A contemporary view of South Road. Picture: Barry Darch
We have just such a champion: former headteacher and university tutor Dr Barry Darch.
London Road, looking south. “When this photograph was taken in March 1899, the house on the right was occupied by the Buckenham family, who seem to have kept cows on the 3-acre meadow attached." Picture: COURTESY AMBERLEY PUBLISHING
His new book shows how his adopted hometown has changed over a century by presenting old photographs of a scene alongside one taken much more recently.
"Heavy snow still reduces traffic in London Road, but the southern relief road” – which opened in September – “may also have the same effect.” Picture: Barry Darch
Is “change” always “progress”? Take a look and decide.
The Council School, Peddars Lane. “What is now Durrants Auction Rooms was built as a silk factory in 1857, most of the employees being young women and girls as young as eleven." Picture: COURTESY AMBERLEY PUBLISHING
A bit of everything lies between the covers of the Beccles Through Time book: everything from buildings such as shops and cinema to the clothes and celebrations of yesteryear.
"The (silk) factory closed after around a decade and was converted into a school, which educated several generations of Beccles children.” Picture: Barry Darch
Barry points out in his introduction that by the time of Domesday Book in 1086 Beccles was an established trading community.
New Market, in the mid-19th century. “The detached tower, begun in 1500, was sold to the borough council for a penny in 1972.” It houses one of the finest 10-bell rings in East Anglia, says Barry. “The sign above the shop of the hatter and tailor W Holdron on the right proclaims that he is the agent for the European Life Assurance and Annuity Company." Picture: COURTESY AMBERLEY PUBLISHING
“If you had visited Beccles market then, you might have admired the twin towers of St Peter’s Church, built in the late Saxon or early Norman periods, but the odour of the plentiful herrings on sale might have shortened your gazing.
"The shop (W Holdron) was demolished in 1864 for road widening.” Picture: Alan Wheeler
“In the Middle Ages Beccles developed to be a significant market town, which it remains to this day.
DA Shields, New Market. “In the 1930s Donald Shields was a bookseller and stationer here, running a circulating library and selling ‘Beccles crested brass ware’ and the ‘largest selection of local view postcards in the district’." Picture: COURTESY AMBERLEY PUBLISHING
“For much of its history it was the third town of Suffolk, after Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds.”
"The shop (DA Shields) had been a bookseller’s since the 1830s… Today sweets and houses are on sale in the divided premises.” Picture: Alan Wheeler
In the 18th Century the building of a number of substantial houses (many still there in Northgate and Ballygate) were solid evidence of its affluence.
Beccles Station, 1897. “The station buildings were completed by the summer of 1854." Picture: COURTESY AMBERLEY PUBLISHING
It’s had its ups and downs since, like most places, but remains one of East Anglia’s jewels.
"More recently, after some time as a furniture salesroom, the (station) buildings reopened in 2016, providing a social enterprise café and rooms to hire for meetings as well as office space upstairs.” Picture: Barry Darch
As Barry writes: “its strength of community, amenities, fine views and fascinating history make it very hard for its incomers to leave”.
St Benet’s Minster and Priory, on the right in the old picture, was built at about the start of the 20th Century for a community of monks but “became the main school building when the idea of the community was abandoned”. Picture: COURTESY AMBERLEY PUBLISHING
Beccles Through Time is from Amberley Publishing at £14.99
The early illuminated direction sign has been replaced by the town sign that imagines Elizabeth I presenting the charter of 1584. Picture: Barry Darch
Life, as Dr Barry Darch found, certainly has the power to bowl us a googly.
When he came to Beccles in 1990 he had no idea it was going to be his “forever home on earth”.
He also had no idea he’d stumble upon an ancestral connection.
“As a keen family historian, with no apparent links to Beccles, it has been interesting to discover that my great-grandmother – who in 1881, aged fifteen, was working as a ‘copper mine girl’ in Cornwall – was descended from the Ros or Roos family, some of whom lived in Beccles in the Middle Ages.”
As he says, “genealogy is full of surprises and we sometimes return circuitously to our roots”.