The History of the West Beckham Village Sign
The first sign 1984
The first West Beckham Village Sign was unveiled by Mrs E Perone, the county Chairman of the Norfolk Federation of Woman’s Institutes, on Wednesday, 18th December 1984 at 11am, followed by coffee and mince pies at Chestnut Farm supplied by members of the Bodham and District WI.
The first idea for a village sign for West Beckham came from Bodham and District WI in November 1980 when it was agreed to donate the profits from the savings fund, a sum of £18 to start the project. A village sign for Bodham had been donated to the village in 1977.
After an open meeting on November 18th a WI sub-committee was formed. During the following year two successful coffee mornings were held, followed by a strawberry tea and mini Garden Fete. Also several donations were received from the villagers, thus by the end of the year there was a sum of £500 on deposit.
The committee visualised a double-sided carved wooden sign depicting Beckham past and present with a brick and flint base, and the site chosen was the triangle of land at the junction of Sheringham Road and the Street.
Mr Paul Hilliard agreed to design and make the sign but owing to pressure of work he was unable to give a fixed date for completion.
Much research was done into the history of the village by asking residents, the County Archives and even the Ministry of Defence, and eventually the Committee in consultation with Mr Hilliard agreed on a design. the sign was finally finished in December 1984 at a cost of £460. The Committee was very fortunate in the support of local firms including in particular Mr Rushmer, of built it; C&H Quickmix who supplied the concrete; CT Baker who gave the concrete blocks and G. Clifton-Brown who provided a quantity of flints.
The Village sign is double-sided. Beckham has always been an agricultural village so both sides illustrate agricultural scenes.
On the medieval side appears the spelling as it was in the Domesday book, BECCHEHAM, from the Anglo-Saxon meaning homestead. The old church, which was in ruins by 1603, is shown in the background, the beck or stream runs through the middle and in the foreground was a man reaping with a sickle and a woman gleaning. The small roundels on the sides of the main panel show a begging bowl and coins to represent the Erpingham Union Workhouse (Beckham Palace) built in 1851. Below the nameplate are three shields, the centre one being the Woman’s Institute emblem; the shield on the left is the arms of Mautby that were displayed in the west window of the original church of All Saints at West Beckham; and the shield on the right is that of Sir Roger de Beckham Kt 1379, one of the principal members of the gentry in the County whose arms were displayed in the window of St Helen’s Church, East Beckham.
The modern side shows in the background the present parish church of St Helen and All Saints consecrated in October 1891. The church is constructed from materials taken from the two ruined churches of East and West Beckham and includes much mediaeval material. The fine entrance porch arch and the chancel arch are mainly from St. Helen’s East Beckham and the square windows are from All Saints West Beckham. The unique pebble construction both inside and out comprises of material from the two churches, thus the dedication of St. Helen and All Saints. In the far background are two pylons, now demolished, but illustrated to recall the part played by RAF West Beckham, the site of a 'chain home' station set up as one of the first radar stations immediately before the Second World War. It was referred to by Lord Haw Haw during his wartime broadcasts as “those beastly things at Beckham”. The corn bins and the tractor ploughing represent modern agriculture in the village. The small roundels either side of the main panel depict the silver chalice and the assay mark on the chalice. This small piece of Norwich silver dated 1549 is still used by communicants in the parish on special occasions to this day. The lower arms display the gold cross of St. Helen on the left, the shield of All Saints on the right, and the WI logo in the centre.
The second sign 2000
This was a new sign incorporating parts of the original, and created by Ray Smith, a West Beckham resident, with the help of other members of the village. The restoration started in 1998 and the finished restoration was put up in the year 2000. Large photographs of this sign are on display in the Bodham and Beckham Village Hall.
The third sign 2020
The new sign contains the main design features of the original and the details of the shields and roundels are given above. The design has been updated to show the current understanding of the name meaning Beocca's homestead in Old English and the church is shown with the round tower of the original, All Saint's church, on the site which is now used as the cemetery. On the modern side are daffodils which reflect one of the main crops grown in the fields around the village, together with a view of the current church as seen from the road. The logo on this side shows a solar panel which reflects the source of the finance for this new metal sign.