THE BECCLES CENTENARIAN
A CHAT WITH MRS. BUCK

10 January 1899
On Saturday, the 7th inst., Mrs. Charlotte Buck completed her hundredth year. The venerable lady was in the

enjoyment of perfect health, and held a levee of friends whose kind remembrances were a source of great gratification
to her. Their visits kept her so busy that she merrily remarked at the close of the day that she had never done so much

talking before in all her life. The birthday of a centenarian, and one, moreover, who can be claimed as Beccles’ very
own, since she spent the greater part of her life in the town, was an event so remarkable and unique that a representative

of this journal called upon Mrs. Buck to congratulate her upon the auspicious occasion and to join in the good wishes
which cheered her natal day. He found the good old soul seated in front of a comfortable fire, evidently well cared for
and beaming with contentment. She was dressed in sober black and wearing a nice warm shawl which some kind friend

had sent her, and to a young gentleman who brought her a birthday gift she remarked that site had had nothing but
presents all day long, and such a lot of cards! To some young friends, the grandchildren of a highly, respected
townsman respecting whom she had many pleasant things to tell, she chatted merrily and was as garrulous as any

younger lady of fifty might be. An extraordinary woman, indeed if Life’s cares have left but few lines upon the kind
and intelligent face, which showed out from an old-fashioned but shapely cap which Mrs. Buck wears well over her
ears, while her courtly manners and pleasant vein of reminiscence lent a charm to her conversation which has but one

drawback, and that arises from her deafness. Mrs. Buck is extremely deaf, and pencil and paper are convenient
mediums for conversation. Site can see well with the aid of glasses, which as we all know I are often necessary in these
days for young children, so that these cannot be said to indicate failing powers even in a centenarian. Almost any kind

of writing—the most cribbed—Mrs. Buck deciphers with ease, and she has a wonderfully good memory. On Saturday
she found boundless delight in the birthday cards which had come by post and otherwise, and in congratulatory letters
which rained in upon her. In showing some of the cards to her young friends she seemed quite concerned when she

noticed she had mixed them up in wrong envelopes, and somewhat dolefully remarked that it would take her a week to
get them right again. Not less gratifying to her was a nice birthday cake which a kind friend had sent her, with the
inscription” 100.” Mrs. Buck’s great age is well authenticated. It is no mere romance. She was born in the parish of

Woodton, in Norfolk, on January 7th, 1799, and was named after Queen Charlotte, the exemplary consort of George
III.,. whose career carries us as far back as 1743, and visions of the great Duke of Marlborough. Mrs. Buck was very

young when her parents removed to Beccles. Her father was huntsman to Mr. Robert Rede, a gentleman of opulence,
who kept a pack of hounds down Blyburgate-street “ where old Mr. Crisp lived” (now occupied by Mr. Angel) No, oh

no, her father did not live to be very old, nor her mother either. Her grandfather lived till he was 88 he was the oldest
relation she had. She had two brothers and one sister; hut she was the only child when they came to Beccles. That must

have been very early in her life, for Mrs. Buck has a vivid recollection of Nelson at the zenith of his glory when
preying upon the French fleets, and the eagerness with which the public awaited the issue of the Battle of Trafalgar.
That was fought in September, 1803, when our centerian was less than six years of age.

The Post Office used then to be in Ballygate-street, near the old bank premises, only on the other side of the street, and
when news of the fleet was received it was fixed up over the side of the door— so many killed and wounded, and so on.
When the last news of all came—that the battle, which had raged for days, had been won, but that the hero Nelson—

whose last words were “Thank God, I have done my duty! “—was killed, there was a whole row of people in the street
waiting for the news. Many of them were crying. “My mother cried,” said the old lady simply, “and I cried too.” “I
can’t tell you exactly,” she resumed after a pause, “I am tired of talking so much all day; and I shouldn’t like to tell you

wrong. I never told a story in my life, and I late stories beyond anything.” Mrs. Buck recalled the fact that some ladies
took a fancy to her as a young and no doubt pretty little girl, and sent her to a young ladies’ boarding school kept by a
Miss Madell, at the house occupied by the late Miss Mary Crowfoot in Ballygate-street. One stirring episode of her

girlhood left deep impress no her memory. It was a fire which occurred at Roos Hall Farm, how long ago she could not
remember, but probably ninety years. Mr. Rede occupied the Hall at that time. The fire broke out at night, and the
firebells clanging forth, a large crowd of people soon assembled, but the poor beasts in the outbuildings were fastened

up and could not be got out. It was horrible, she said, to hear them cry! They were roasted where they stood, and the
next day the meat was given away.
A few years later Mrs. Buck was sent out to service at Frostenden, and afterwards to Herringfleet Hall, where she lived

with the Leathes family for twenty-eight years or more. She has treasured pleasant memories of those days.
Occasionally she went to London with the family. There were no railways then, and indeed, the old lady has only once

travelled by the more modern conveyance. She has not a very high opinion of train-service, which she has been heard
to describe as “flying in the face of Providence.” The stage coach conveyed Mrs. Buck to London in those leisurely

times, the journey occupying three days. ‘Do you remember Bishop Davys ?’’~ the old lady inquired. Of course no one
did, but she went on to explain that it was his influence that helped to make Queen Victoria so good a woman. he was

such a good man. She knew him well, for he used to visit Herringfleet Hall. The Bishop of Peterborough always
travelled about with the Queen, who esteemed and respected him very highly. Before her Majesty came to the throne
she said that Miss Davys, the Bishop’s daughter, should be one of her bridesmaids. She had a letter at the time from

Miss Davys, who told her what she did. Mrs. Buck also recalled an incident relating to the Queen which she witnessed
one day at Broadstairs. When the future Queen was a little child, she used to ride do a donkey with a servant leading it.

The Princess came into a shop one day with her governess, and bought a lot of toys to carry home. But she found she
bad not enough money to pay for them. The shopman said, “Of course it is no consequence, they can be paid for
another day” But the governess said the Princess would not be allowed to do so, and she had to leave part of the things

on the counter. “But I hope,” added the old lady, “ this gentleman is not putting all this in the newspaper! I had
forgotten he was present.” She was assured that all she had said would not be reproduced, and with this was content,
frankly admitting that she always did like to read the East Suffolk Gazette. Of course Mrs. Buck’s memory carries her

back to a period when Beccles was strangely different to its present. She speaks of it as a quiet little village mostly
populated by fisher folk, till the soldiers used to be billeted about here. Mrs. Buck married the estate carpenter at

Herringfleet hall, when she was well advanced in middle life, and has survived him for nearly if not quite half a
century, which she has spent here at Beccles, having lived in [No 50] Northgate-street for 40 years [1850-90], and for

the last nine years [1890-99] in Alexandra—road with Mrs. Ayres, who tends her as carefully as though she were her
own mother. Our readers will be interested to learn that Mrs. Buck rises regularly at half past nine or ten, after having

had breakfast in bed. She eats her meals heartily, and usually retires for the night about half-past six. The weather being
somewhat inclement on her birthday she did not go out, but during the past summer she has enjoyed many rides in her
bath chair, and hopes to have many more.

JUBILEE
“EAST SUFFOLK GAZETTE.”

16 April 1907
“A weekly newspaper for the People! On Tuesday, the 21st of April, 1857, will be published the Beccles Weekly
News, containing 20 columns of letterpress of the latest home and foreign intelligence, the local news of the principal

towns in Norfolk and Suffolk, the corn and cattle markets, and a variety of useful and interesting information.” In these
terms this Journal was inaugurated by the late Mr. Read Crisp fifty years ago, and the first number is of pathetic interest
if only because of the story of change and mutability which its pages suggest For instance, of the advertisers only one

or two remain among us of venerable age—Mr. Samuel Steel, who long ago gave up his business as a dispensing
chemist, and Mr. David Soanes, boot and shoemaker, “Bank-street,” more recently retired into private life. We still
have the services of one who, as an apprentice lad, took part in the preparation of this first number. Glancing through

the advertisements in the small sheet of four pages, two of which sufficed for local requirements, what a veritable
graveyard they now appear! To cull some once familiar names—Mr. Thomas Laws, of the Beccles Nursery Grounds ;
Mr. Joseph Mayhew, bank manager, clothier, and in later years Mayor of the borough; Mr. John Norman, sen.,

advertising the disposal of the building and carpentering business then established for upwards of 80 years, and “lately
carried on by Mr. Joseph Norman, deceased;” Mr. Boast, builder, offering to let a family residence in Smallgate-street

in the occupation of Mr. James Crisp; Messrs. Bohun and Rix, solicitors, a freehold farm; Mr. William Harper, inviting
attention to his agricultural machinery; Mr. William Vyse returning thanks for the support he has received as a boot and

shoemaker in Northgate street ; Mr. J. Robinson Brooks, of Shipmeadow, accountant and general agent; Mr. J. B.
Corbyn, then chemist in the Market-place, notifying “prescriptions accurately and carefully prepared;” and Mr. Robert

Block, as “the cheapest and best place for groceries.” All these are but memories to-day!
Messrs. Thornton and Co. were then at heyday as famous brewers and merchants in the town. And among other
tradesmen several of our older readers may remember there were Mr. R. Claxton, Mr. R. S. Leftley (late Chenery), and

Mr. R. Martin, millwright, who also carried on an iron and brass foundry in Peddars-lane. We also find Mr. W. H.
Leavold informing his friends and the public that he had always on sale, at the Corporation wharf, coals, salt, slate, tar,
and cement. Mr. J. Ross, baker and confectioner, had then succeeded to the business of the late Mr. F. Shreeve in

Saltgate-street; and the identity of Mr. A. Pigg, whose name is found appended as auditor with Mr. George Fenn of the
Burial Board accounts, is established by his advertisement respectfully informing the ladies of Beccles and the
neighbourhood that his millinery and mantle business continues to be carried on under competent superintendence,

”&c. His address was New Marketplace, Beccles. Continuing our research we observe Mr. F. R. Newson intimating
that he has opened a branch depot for the sale of tea, grocery, and provisions, next door to Mr. Woolnough, cabinet-
maker, New Market-place; while Mr. Isaac Green, “having engaged two first-class workmen, intends making ladies’

and gentlemen’s boots and shoes,” and so forth. The whirligig of time is strangely illustrated. We hear that the “old
limekilns, for many years carried on by the late Mr. Chenery,” were under the control of Mr. Fenn, who announces the
sale of coals at the railway station, bricks, tiles, pipes,, and other articles of the trade at the Ingate-street brick kiln.

Other old and familiar names are those of Mr. C. Hadingham, Who advertises agricultural seeds; Mr. J. Harmer, watch
and clock maker, who had then been in  business at Beccles three year.. Mr. Samuel Darby, coal and timber merchant,
who thanked  the public for patronage conferred upon him for eleven years, and stated that, in addition to his coal and

timber trades, he had commenced the brick, tile, and drainpipe business. Mr. William Whitehead had at that time stone
and marble works somewhere in Northgate street, “established in 1815 by the late J. F. Whitehead “; and Mr. Henry

Haken was in business as saddler and harness maker.

Our first issue also affords evidences of the stress of controversy by Nonconformity on the question of Church-rates, as
more recent numbers have done as to religious teaching in State-aided schools, and at the Easter vestry meeting in 1857

Mr. Alfred Pigg was heard solemnly protesting against the principle of such rates, and Mr. W. E. Crowfoot enunciating
the sound opinion that “whilst it was right to use every constitutional means to repeal the law of Church-rates, so long
as that law remained it should be carried out.” Yet so strangely perverse is the human understanding, that even the

Chief Magistrate of the borough, Mr. George Fenn, declared” he himself was fully prepared to oppose a Church-rate.”
The Rev. J. Talbot Johnson was the then Rector of the parish, and Mr. W. Cowles was his warden with a record of
thirteen years service, while Mr. H. Kerrison, the parish warden, had served the office for seventeen years. A lady

(Miss Laws) was organist. The Rev. John Flower was the minister at the Congregational Church, and the Rev. George
Wright, one of our most distinguished townsmen, was pastor of the Martyrs’ Memorial. All these worthies have long

since gone to their rest!
But it is not the sole or principal intention of the writer of this jubilee notice to call dead memories to life. A certain

reminiscent humour is natural to the occasion ; and it leads to contrasting with pardonable pride the youthful
beginnings, the steady growth, and the present attainments of this Journal. We do not expatiate on these for obvious

reasons. Suffice it to say that the Beccles Weekly News altered its designation to the Beccles and Bungay Journal
Weekly News in October, 1858, and about ten years later the present title, as more befitting its extended size and
circulation, was adopted. “It is the higher and wider promise of the historian,” we read in that first number fifty years

ago, “to narrate the rise and fall of States, and, dealing with principles and results, to portray the social, political, and
religious progress of mankind: the chronicler performs a more humble, but not useless office, whilst he records the
occurrences of the passing day, separately and comparatively unimportant, but contributing to mark the characteristics

of the age, to assist in its development, and to promote its improvement.” The spread of education among the working
classes has opened up a wide field for newspaper enterprise, in the endeavour to provide, at a cost within the reach of
all, reading for the leisure hour of an amusing and instructive, or at least harmless, character, in addition to those daily

records of changeful life. These objects have been the consistent aim of those responsible for the conduct of this
Journal through successive developments, and we are thankful to be able to say that, “useful and interesting to all, and
objectionable to none,” the East Suffolk Gazette has made itself acceptable throughout the district of which Beccles is

the centre, and enjoys an ever increasing circulation. Our advertising friends have not been slow to recognize the
advantages which the regular issue of this newspaper into every family in the district most certainly affords ; and we for
our part are grateful for the support which enables the carrying on of this Journal on enterprising lines to our natural

benefit. Our readers may rest assured their requirements will not be lost sight of, and that we shall continue to do our
best to provide them with a bright and cheerful family newspaper, carefully posted with accurate and reliable news, and
in other respects true to the traditions of fifty long and eventful years.