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New book celebrating the history of Beccles Public Hall hopes to raise funds for the prized community asset

PUBLISHED: 09:09 28 February 2018 | UPDATED: 17:37 28 February 2018

Hall manager James Aggett with Lynda Ayres, Rosemary Hewlett, Alan Townsend and Barry Darch. Photo: Beccles Public Hall.

Hall manager James Aggett with Lynda Ayres, Rosemary Hewlett, Alan Townsend and Barry Darch. Photo: Beccles Public Hall.

Archant

A team of amateur historians have joined forces to produce a book which showcases the rich history of one of Beccles’ most iconic buildings.

Beccles Public Hall through the ages. Image courtesy of John GallagherBeccles Public Hall through the ages. Image courtesy of John Gallagher

A team of amateur historians have joined forces to produce a book which showcases the rich history of one of Beccles’ most iconic buildings.

‘History of Beccles Public Hall’ charts the building’s ever-evolving story - from 1785 right up to present day.

It took three years of research to produce and all profits from book sales will go towards further enhancing and preserving the prized community asset.

The book was written by four dedicated members of the town’s University of the Third Age (U3A) group - Barry Darch, Lynda Ayres, Rosemary Hewlett and Alan Townsend.

Hall manager James Aggett with Lynda Ayres, Rosemary Hewlett, Alan Townsend and Barry Darch. Photo: Beccles Public Hall.Hall manager James Aggett with Lynda Ayres, Rosemary Hewlett, Alan Townsend and Barry Darch. Photo: Beccles Public Hall.

Mr Darch, 65, said: “The hall has been, for a long time, a very important place.

“It has provided entertainment, education and a sense of community for the people of Beccles and to this day showcases local activities and local talent.

“Today it is run by volunteers and is still very much at the heart of Beccles.”

The hall was first built in 1785 to bring “people of independent means to Beccles”.

Beccles Public Hall through the ages. Image courtesy of John GallagherBeccles Public Hall through the ages. Image courtesy of John Gallagher

It functioned as an assembly room for the more wealthy members of society – a place for fashionable assemblies and balls.

However during the 1800s it came to be used by people of all different classes and served a variety of roles including as a school, town library and a venue for lectures and entertainment activities.

The book also highlights some of the many famous faces who have appeared at the hall through the ages – for instance it is believed to be the first venue in which legendary actor Sir John Mills performed when he was just a schoolboy.

Mr Darch said: “One of the most interesting aspects of the building was in fact the shows and the people who performed there.”

Local residents were also interviewed for the book and provided a rare insight into the role of the hall during the Second World War.

It was used as a British Restaurant and acted as a communal kitchen to help those who had lost their homes to bombs, had run out of rations or needed simply aid.

Copies of ‘History of Beccles Public Hall’ are available now for £2 from the hall box office.

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