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 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).
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.
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