Recent Acquisitions

The Museum frequently acquires new objects, kindly donated by members of the public, local businesses and organisations. We are very grateful for donations though regrettably it is not possible to accept every item. In particular the focus must be on objects from Beccles and the 29 villages in the Museum's district, and we usually try not to duplicate items.

Here are just some examples of our recent acquisitions. Members of the public who would like to comment on any of these items are warmly encouraged to do so by emailing the Curator at

Images can be enlarged by clicking on them.

National Canine Defence League Medal National Canine Defence League MedalMr Frank Ling and Nell

National Canine Defence League Medal, inscribed on the reverse: 'To Nell For Sagacity 1936'.

Right: Mr Frank Ling (1894-1969) and Nell. 

This medal was awarded to Mr Frank Ling's dog 'Nell', who rescued a 15 year old girl from the River Waveney early in 1936. 


Belgian or French double-barrelled pin-fire pistol

Remains of Belgian or French double-barrelled pin-fire pistol, c.1860

This was a discreet weapon, small enough to be concealed in a coat pocket or a hand-held bag, or perhaps secreted away in a drawer or a bedside table. It had folding triggers  that flipped down ready for action when the hammers were cocked. It has a spring-loaded bayonet mounted on top of the barrels.

The triggers are now missing, along with all the woodwork.

(With thanks for identification to Robert Tilney of R.Tilney and Son, Gunsmiths, Smallgate, Beccles).



Demolition of Beccles prison
These three photographs are of the demolition of Beccles prison in 1937 (acquired April 2016)
Demolition of Beccles prison
Demolition of Beccles prison
There had been a prison on the site since 1679 and over the centuries the building was extended and improved as prison reforms demanded more facilities and better conditions for the inmates. The building ceased to be a prison in 1863 and was used as a police station and court room until 1931. It was subsequently purchased by Clowes the printers and pulled down to make way for their printing works. The site is now under the car park at Tesco in the town centre and the location of the former prison is remembered only through the name of the adjacent street, Gaol Lane. Clowes has moved to the industrial estate on the old airfield at Ellough.


Memorials of B.U. Dowson of Geldeston and his Family

Memorials of B.U. Dowson of Geldeston and his Family, compiled by his Grand-daughter Sarah Susanna Dowson of Geldeston in 1915 (acquired January 2016).

These two booklets, written a hundred years ago, record the life of Benjamin Dowson, with information about his forebears, his wife and 15 children, and their descendants.
Benjamin Dowson was a corn merchant and maltster and a Freeman of Yarmouth. He was born in 1763 and bought an estate in Geldeston known as Old and New Staithe in 1788 . The estate included The Old House, a granary, two malthouses, the Wherry Inn, seven cottages, stables and buildings on the wharf.
He thought nothing of riding the 14 miles to work in Yarmouth and he would drive his wife and children to Norwich by carriage to attend plays, lectures, concerts and balls. They could stay over in Norwich in rooms at his wharf in King Street.
The booklets also include some interesting more general information, for instance about the importance of the rivers for transport before the age of the railways. Before the railways arrived the corn and malt grown in the Waveney Valley was sent from Geldeston and Beccles to Yarmouth on black-sailed 20 ton wherries and from there the malt was shipped to London and the corn to other ports all over Britain. Meanwhile coal was shipped in by sea and distributed inland by the same wherries, calling at the various staithes along the rivers, there to be collected by farmers in their wagons.


Suffolk Regiment Cap Badge
Suffolk Regiment Cap Badge, 1901-1952 (acquired October 2015).

The Suffolk Regiment was formed as the XII Foot in 1685 to counter the threat of Monmouth's Rebellion. In 1782 it was redesignated the 12th (East Suffolk) Regiment and in 1881 it became The Suffolk Regiment.
The crest on the cap badge comprises the arms of Gibraltar, adopted in recognition of the Regiment's leading role in breaking the Great Siege of Gibraltar, when Spanish and French forces besieged the British garrison from 1779 to 1783 (at 3 years and 7 months the longest siege ever endured by British forces). The arms of Gibraltar include a castle and a key and the legend 'Montis Insignia Calpe' (the Arms of the Rock of Gibraltar).
In 1959 the Suffolk Regiment was amalgamated with the Royal Norfolk Regiment to form the East Anglian Regiment, and then in 1964 it was further amalgamated with other old county regiments from the East of England to form today's Royal Anglian Regiment.
The cap badge can be dated to 1901-1952 because the crown surmounting the crest is a 'King's Crown' (convex on the top) and not a 'Queen's Crown' (concave on the top), so cannot have been from the reign of Queen Victoria (pre-1901) or after the accession of Elizabeth II (1952).


Wards of Beccles stoneware bottle for Ginger Beer
Ward's of Beccles stoneware bottle for Ginger Beer, c. 1896-1920 (acquired October 2015).

The ginger beer in this bottle would have been an alcoholic, brewed ginger beer. This beverage probably originated in England in the mid-18th century and was a very popular drink by Victorian times.

Watson Chemist baby-feeding bottle
Watson Chemist baby-feeding bottle, 'The Beccles Feeder' (acquired August 2015).

Kelly's Directory for 1883 lists 'Watson, Edward, agricultural and family chemist, stationer and dispenser to the Beccles Hospital' as being in Blyburgate Street.
In April 1868 Mr Watson was advertising in the East Suffolk Gazette: 'Edward WATSON, dispensing and family chemist, has an extensive assortment of elastic stockings, knee caps, trusses etc at very moderate prices. Feeding bottles, breast pumps and glasses, in great variety. Agent for Leath and Ross Homoeopathic Medicine. Genuine patent medicines. Horse & cattle medicine. Agent for the Clerical, Medical, and General Life Assurance Society'.
The advertisement adds: 'For rheumatism, lumbago, sprain etc, try WATSON's Celebrated Embrocation. It has been extensively used in this neighbourhood for upwards of fifty years. Thousands can testify to its efficacy. Sold in bottles, one shilling each'.
A further advertisement in April 1868 announces that Mr Watson is now manufacturing ginger beer and that he has also been appointed 'Wholesale Agent for CALEY's Celebrated Norwich Soda Water, Lemonade, Potash and Seltzer Waters, Vichy Water, Lithia, & Ammonia Water'.

Elizabeth I Sixpence Reverse Elizabeth I Sixpence
Elizabeth I Sixpence (acquired May 2015).

This Elizabeth I hammered silver sixpence is dated 1582, the fifth coin issue of her reign. The obverse shows a bust of the Queen facing left with a rose (the Tudor rose) behind. The legend reads ELIZAB DG ANG FR ET HIB REGI: Elizabeth by the Grace of God Queen of England, France and Ireland.
The reverse shows a long cross over the arms of Elizabeth I, with the date over the shield. The legend on the reverse reads POSVI DEV ADIVTOREM MEV (ie POSUI DEUM ADIUTOREM MEUM: 'I have made God my helper'). Elizabeth I reverted to the arms used by Henry IV (1406-1422) showing both the arms of England (the lions) and the arms of France (the fleurs-de-lis).


IMG_5246 Childs cut work dress and jacket

Child's cut work dress and jacket, c.1870 (acquired September 2014).

The type of clothing worn by children of well-to-do families in the mid-Victorian period. The attention to detail in the decorative work and the stitching would have made these expensive items.