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Great Bealings History

Although there has been plenty of evidence of Roman occupation and they were known to navigate up to Clopton, the name "Great Bealings" is believed to be of Saxon origin, meaning the area where the Beda or Bela people lived. It was known as Belinges Magna until 1674 when the current spelling appeared, although Magna remained until much more recently.

The Church

The village is geographically split into two areas, with the church set in isolation above the water meadows and marshland. The church has some remnants from the 13th century, but is mainly 14th and 15th century including the tower with its flushwork decoration. Inside there are monuments to John Clench and Thomas Seckford amongst others. Seckford was born in Woodbridge in 1515 and was a senior member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. He also founded seven almshouses in Woodbridge. John Clench was the son of the great Elizabethan Judge John Clench, and died in Great Bealings in 1628. Canon Moore (son of Edward Moore of Bealings House) was rector for forty years and was responsible for the restoration of the church in 1842 -1851 making it much as we know it today. Pew ends were then carved by Henry Ringham and were so well done that many people think they are 15th century. Stained glass includes a west window by H.Hughes (1879), a chancel south window by Mayer of Munich (1886) and a chancel north window by Ward & Hughes (1882). The pulpit is Jacobean with back panel and tester. The North door has tracery and three small figures (a rarity).

Buildings etc.

Great Bealings Seckford Hall was the seat of the Seckford family from the time of Edward I to Charles I. It was rebuilt in 1530 as a country residence by Thomas Seckford and described by Norman Scarfe as having the most romantic 16c façade in England. It was then rescued from decay in the late 1940s by Sir Ralph Harwood who turned it into a first class hotel.

Bealings House sits in splendid isolation and is a red brick mid Georgian building of seven bays with parapet and pitched roof. Its doorway has Ionic columns and pediment. The Lodge, listed Grade II, is essentially unchanged since 1849. Its origins are probably a farmhouse, of the 17th or 18th century. The Croft, a Victorian house, was lived in by Admiral Pelham Aldrich and The Old Rectory, with many distinguished occupants, is early Victorian and sits high overlooking the church.

Annesley House, originally mid Victorian, was partially demolished and rebuilt much larger for Colonel and Mrs Downing in 1912 to the designs of well known Suffolk architect Harold Hooper. The roadside gateway is a copy of Cardinal Wolsey's gateway in Ipswich.

The characteristic hump back bridge was built in 1841. There are now occasional accidents there, and there have been incidences of people using the bridge as a place to show a car in mid-air. There was a prosecution for this in the late 1980s/early 90s, following an accident caused by the driver losing control owing to going fast over the bridge and taking off. His photographer was also prosecuted for aiding and abetting.

The village has had at least two pubs, "The Boot Inn" in Boot Street and the "Live and let Live" in Lower Street. It is thought that two windmills existed in Great Bealings during the 1800s.

Residents

Admiral Pelham Aldrich, buried in the churchyard, was Admiral Superintendent of Portsmouth Docks and was also on several surveying expeditions around the world. Lord Hatherley, a former Lord Chancellor, is also buried in the churchyard.

Major Edward Moor bought Bealings House on his retirement from the army, in 1806. He had served in India, being wounded three times. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and an author on Indian mythology. He constructed the stone folly to the front of the house reputed to contain his collection of heathen idols so that they might come to no harm. He also wrote the mystery, "Bealings Bells", in 1834.

The writer Lady Winifred Fortescue (nee Beech) was born in the Old Rectory in 1888 where her father was then rector of Great Bealings. In her autobiography "There's Rosemary There's Rue" she describes her early life in the village and the people who lived there.

More recently, the Old Rectory was home of the late Lord Belstead, who was a local farmer, but also Leader of the House of Lords, Northern Ireland minister, Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk and a major benefactor for the new sports field and playground. His grave is in the churchyard.

For further information on the residents of around the 19th century, please see the details extracted by Phil Holmes from all the available census records for the village.