Archived News & Events

The following are archived initiatives we have been involved in.

Beccles Royales Gymnastic Club

Like many other clubs throughout the country, Beccles Royales Gymnastic Club was unable to open for many months during the Covid pandemic. With no money coming in during this period and despite an understanding landlord, the Club’s funds were severely depleted as they prepared for the re-opening on 12th April 2021. Beccles Townlands Charity, among others, was pleased to contribute to ensure that this popular, thriving club could continue its work with the youngsters of Beccles and beyond.
The Club is affiliated to British Gymnastics and is run by two dedicated enthusiasts, Louise who is a qualified coach and Terry the secretary. The Club is open on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 5.30 until 9 pm and on Saturdays from 9 am until 1 pm. They are currently awaiting permission to open all day during the week, from 9.30 am until 9 pm when they will be able to put on more sessions. Current membership is £12 per annum and individuals pay £5 per hour for their classes. In addition to gymnastics for girls and boys from the age of 5, the club holds Parent and Toddler sessions as well as accommodating a Martial Arts Group. Coaching to Level 2 is also on offer. Participation in regional and county competitions in Bury and Ipswich enable the gymnasts to put their skills to the test.
Running a club such as this is an expensive business with the sprung floor costing £9,000 for which Sports England provided the funding. Crash mats and other essential equipment have added to the financial outlay and in addition to tapping into various funding sources the Club does a good deal of fundraising itself. Parties, Open Days and Craft Fayres enable the Club to boost their finances.
Clubs such as these are a huge asset to the town, offering healthy activity to young people from 5 to 18, while also developing their social skills and team-building awareness.


Beccles Commemorates a Royal Event

On 27th September 1671 King Charles II came through Beccles on his way to Great Yarmouth for an official visit. This was an occasion of great celebration for the inhabitants of the town and, to honour the King, Beccles Townlands Charity (the Feoffees) paid for the church bells to be rung and two loads of gravel to be laid, no doubt to assist his passage through the streets. Now, 350 years later, it seems pertinent to remember and celebrate this historical event.

Beccles Townlands Charity together with Beccles and District Museum have prepared a programme of activities to mark the anniversary. The church bells will be rung at 12 noon on Monday 27th September at the request of, and payment by, the Feoffees. In olden times the Feoffees took responsibility for the upkeep of the bells (which were rung on all important national and civic occasions) and rewarded the ringers for their services. In 2013 the Feoffees contributed to the restoration of the third bell which was found to have three large cracks. Now all ten bells can be heard each Sunday to welcome church goers and on Wednesday evenings for bell practice.

There will be a small display about Charles II’s visit in Beccles Library, writing and drawing competitions for children up to 16 and a creative writing ‘drabble’ competition for adults (17 and over). Details of the competitions are available at the library. Barry Darch, chairman of the museum trustees, will give a talk on ‘Beccles and Royalty’ as part of the library Top Time programme on Thursday 30th September at 2 pm (free entry, but a ticket will need to be obtained from the library in advance, as places are limited).

Collector Mark Jermey presenting a cheque for £350 to St Michael’s Church bell-ringers, a pound for each year to reflect the Feoffees’ support through the ages (29.10.2021)

Two projects which Beccles Townlands Charity was pleased to support in 2021 were badly hit by Covid-19 soon after they were completed. However, thanks to the great initiative and determination of their leaders they have survived the last 12 months of uncertainty to emerge ready once again to serve the needs of the Beccles community.

Beccles Sea Cadets

In September 2021 Beccles Sea Cadets will celebrate its 50th anniversary, a truly significant landmark for an organisation dedicated to the youth of the town. For most of those years it operated from buildings and riverside moorings at the Quay, which gradually outgrew capacity due to ever-increasing numbers of cadets. A new building was essential and through extensive fund-raising initiatives and with a 99-year lease granted on land by Beccles Town Council, the new building was officially opened in June 2019. The total cost was £750,000 and, together with other organisations Beccles Townlands Charity was pleased to contribute to the sum required. The state of the art facilities are a reflection of the hard work of so many and the generosity of others.

However, barely eight months later all activities came to an abrupt halt with the onslaught of Covid-19 and the organisers were faced with a struggle to cover the running costs with no opportunity to generate income. Fortunately they were able to access a Covid grant from the Council to tide them over until they could safely reopen. In April outdoor activities commenced and in May they were once again able to meet indoors.

The facilities are indeed impressive, as the photograph illustrates, and it was fitting that one of the classrooms was named after Monty Pitkin, a Trustee of our Charity for many years and a dedicated supporter of Beccles Sea Cadets since its inception. The Wardroom is a magnificent backdrop for official functions and celebratory occasions while the up-to-date kitchen facilities enable catering for both in-house and other events.

Sources of income include regular sessions by the Dance Academy, monthly quiz nights and bookings through U3A.

Beccles Lido

Another Beccles success story is that of the Lido in Puddingmoor, a heated open-air swimming pool which has existed since 1959. When the Town Council was no longer able to support it local volunteers worked tirelessly to ensure its future and re-opened it in 2010.

However, it was not all plain-sailing and over the years it became increasingly apparent that considerable work needed to be carried out if it were to continue as a viable operation. Beccles Lido Limited (BLL) sprang into action and started an intensive fund-raising campaign which Beccles Townlands Charity was pleased to support. Our grant was used in part to resurface the road leading down to the pool which enabled the Lido management to convince various other funders that the project was real and well supported in Beccles. This led to significant funding from other organisations which enabled the project to go ahead.

What started as a £200,000 repair and relining project turned into a £600,000 complete refurbishment of every aspect of the pool. Excellent project management meant that all works were completed to schedule in Spring 2020 with a view to opening in May as usual. Sadly Covid-19 put paid to those plans as the country was put into lockdown. Finally the Lido re-opened on 20 July for a successful summer season. This included an increase in the number of swimming clubs from 2 in 2019 to 6 in 2020, due to the ability to remain open until 10 pm thanks to the new underwater lighting.

An immediate effect of Covid was reduced income due to lockdowns and reduced numbers allowed in the pool at any one time resulting in only 25,000 swimmers in 2020 compared to nearly 50,000 in 2019. Swimmers were only allowed one hour so admission prices had to be reduced and opening the café was no longer viable. However, there were positives. The decision was taken to extend the season by remaining open for the first time during the Autumn and the introduction of Winter Chill Swims which proved very popular. After the third lockdown the pool reopened on 29 March, heated, two months earlier than ever before and the plan is to stay open and heated until the end of October. There will then be cold water swimming throughout the winter. So the Lido is now an all year round facility.

The intention now is to continue with the booking and lane systems, which in many ways is more efficient and will prevent the build-up of long summer queues while enabling individuals to be more appropriately catered for – particularly the disabled or those with special needs.

Recent experience has shown that Beccles Lido is so much more than just a swimming pool. It provides both physical fitness and mental well-being to swimmers and the opportunity to meet and socialise. As Shaun Crowley, BLL Managing Director, puts it: ‘We are a community hub and we enrich people’s lives. When we finally get back to normal, post-Covid, it will be a new normal, but we believe it can be a better normal, for our swimmers and their fitness and their mental well-being, for Beccles Lido Limited and for the sustainability of Beccles Lido. BUT also for the whole UK open air and open water swimming community, of whom we are proud to be a part’.

Beccles Townlands - Beccles Lido after dark
Lido_from river
Courtesy of Beccles Lido

TRIBUTE TO ROBERT PECK Secretary to Beccles Townlands Charity 1999 to 2020

It was with sadness that we learned on 1st February 2021 that Robert had died after a long period of illness.

In April 2020 Bob, as he was known to us, retired as our secretary due to failing health. He had served from December 1999 until April 2020 and was by any measure an outstanding secretary. His attention to detail and exceptional memory, backed up by meticulous record keeping, ensured that he had an answer to any query at any given meeting. He gave tremendous support to each Collector in turn and, as his retirement approached, he ensured that his successor was well briefed.

Born in Barsham, Bob attended the Leman School, Beccles. He followed a career in banking, rising to manager level and then spent a period of time as Bursar to the Leman School.

Bob Peck

TRIBUTE TO MONTY PITKIN Long-serving member of Beccles Townlands Charity

It was with sadness that the Charity learned of the death of Monty Pitkin on 15 December 2021, after a lifetime of dedicated service to the town of Beccles.

From 1977 to 2018 Monty had been an invaluable member of our Charity, known commonly as the Feoffees, with his wide knowledge of Beccles town and its inhabitants being his greatest asset. During his period of service Monty saw the Charity develop from one providing basic and limited support to its current position of being able to help fund major projects that are of benefit to the town and its people. Looking back, he saw the sale of a large plot of land, bequeathed to the Feoffees many years before, as a turning point. The land was sold to a local builder who went on to develop the housing estate known as Townlands. The money raised from this sale has enabled the Feoffees to help fund major projects in the town such as the Public Hall, Beccles Lido, the new Sea Cadet building, to name but a few, as well as helping a large number of individuals in need.

Monty was known throughout the town for the many ways in which he served its people. He served two periods as Mayor and retired from the Council in 2004 after 25 years’ service. He will be missed by many and the town and its people are the better for his years of dedicated service.

Beccles Townlands Charity - Monty Pitkin

TRIBUTE TO MONTY PITKIN on his retirement from Beccles Townlands Charity

26th November 2018.

During the course of 2018 Monty Pitkin reluctantly made the decision to retire from Beccles Townlands Charity (The Feoffees) after a service of 41 years. Having lived with an artificial leg since the age of 29, his mobility was now much restricted and he felt it was time to leave. “I always felt it an honour to serve as a Feoffee and feel great pride in what we, as an organisation, have been able to achieve over the years.”

From 1977 to 2018 Monty had been an invaluable member of the Committee, with his wide knowledge of Beccles town and its inhabitants being his greatest asset. During his period of service Monty saw the Charity develop from one providing basic and limited support to its current position of being able to help fund major projects that are of benefit to the town and its people. Looking back, he saw the sale of a large plot of land, bequeathed to the Feoffees many years before, as a turning point. The land was sold to a local builder who went on to develop the housing estate known as Townlands. The money raised from this sale has enabled the Feoffees to help fund major projects in the town such as the Public Hall, Beccles Lido, the new Sea Cadet building and many more such projects, as well as helping a large number of people in need.

Montegu David Pitkin was born in 1933 the youngest of three sons. His father had moved to Beccles after World War 1 and set up in business. He opened a General Store in Northgate but after a number of years decided to change direction and produce and sell ice cream. Those of us of a certain generation will remember Mr Pitkin’s ice cream parlour at 34 Northgate, where one could purchase ice cream from a selection of eight varieties including peach, crème de menthe and maple and walnut as well as Knickerbocker Glories, Banana Splits and ice cream sodas.

Monty left school at 15 and for a while assisted his father in the family business before being taken on as Office Boy by Darby’s Timber Merchants, located just over the bridge at Northgate. From such humble beginnings he rose through the ranks and was appointed Managing Director in 1978. He was by any measure an authority on timber and his many customers knew they could rely on his judgement as to the type of wood they needed for a particular job. Monty retired in 1992 and it was a sad day for many in Beccles when Darby’s finally closed its doors just five years later.

During his youth motorbikes were his passion and in 1953 at the age of twenty Monty travelled on his motorbike to watch the Isle of Mann TT. This became a regular event with a group of friends visiting other such race meetings throughout Europe. However, in September 1962 he was involved in an accident in Norfolk resulting in the loss of a leg. He spent seven weeks in hospital and after only two and a half months’ recuperation he was back at work on crutches. Not much has deterred Monty over the years from living a normal life, evidence of his enormous strength of character and determination.

During his working life, Monty became active in other aspects of Beccles life. In 1979 he was elected onto the Beccles Town Council, initially serving as a Conservative and later representing Common Ward as a member of United Beccles. He served two periods as Mayor, in 1991 and 2001, and retired from the Council in 2004 after 25 years. In 1967 he joined the Regatta Committee and eventually served as Vice Chairman and Chairman. He is an Honorary Life Member of Waveney Stardust, and, together with another crew member, went to Buckingham Palace to represent Waveney Stardust when it received the Queen’s Commendation for Volunteering; he also served on Ringsfield Hall Trust, was a Trustee of the 5th Beccles Scouts and was Church Warden in Gillingham over many years. He has met the Queen, Prince Philip and Princess Ann on two occasions – when she opened the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and the refurbished Blyburgate Hall.

Finally, another great honour was bestowed on Monty by the Royal Humane Society for ‘his praiseworthy action’. Late one evening while outside at his waterside property he became aware of someone in the river and launched his dingy to investigate. He found a man had fallen into the river and was able to keep him from drowning until further help arrived. Monty, despite his physical handicap, has indeed been a Man of Action during his 85 years and is now well deserving of a somewhat more tranquil life at his riverside home.


On Thursday 29th November 2012 a small group of interested parties awaited the arrival of a newly re-cast bell from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London – one of the oldest such foundries in the country and where Big Ben itself had been cast.
The third bell, which had originally been cast in 1804, was recently found to have developed three cracks. The decision was taken to recast the bell rather than repair it and on 20th August it was returned to Whitechapel for the work to be done. The metal from the original bell was incorporated into the new 6 ¼ cwt bell before being returned to the Belfry, from where it will ring out for the first time on 12th December – the first bell practice since August.
Naturally this came at a great cost and a total of £40,000 was needed for this restoration work. Credit should be paid to all those involved in raising funds, from the ringers themselves to local authors Anne Frith, Vivienne Os borne and Dorothy Smith for their fascinating history of the Beccles Bells, ‘Hark to the Bells!’ Historically the Beccles Feoffess (Beccles Townlands Charity) have contributed to such appeals and the book mentioned above records that the Feoffees paid towards the bells from the mid-1600s. It records that ‘the celebration of the failure of the Gunpowder plot continued to be rung on November 5th through this time, paid for by the Feoffees’. As is in keeping with their commitment to the people and historic buildings of Beccles, the Feoffees were once again happy to contribute in 2012 so that Beccles should not be deprived of the sound of its magnificent bells.
The Beccles Bells will continue to ring out both in celebration and sorrow and two such events are worthy of mention here. In 1909 the sixth bell was recast and re-hung, known as Queen Victoria’s Death Bell, and in 2012, the year of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, the 3rd bell was recast and re-hung with the inscription ‘Beccles Townlands Charity, Beccles Feofees, Founded 1544’. The people of Beccles have a Bell Tower to be proud of and one that is full of history.