West Beckham Village Sign

The West Beckham Village Sign will be unveiled by Mrs E Perone, the county Chairman of the Norfolk Federation of Woman’s Institutes, on Wednesday, 18th December 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 aching side appears the spelling as it was in the Domesday book, BECCHEHAM, which may possibly be derived from the Norse Bekk for a brook or from the Danish Beck. The old church which was pulled down in 1890 is shown in the background, the beck or stream runs through the middle and in the foreground is 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 Beckham workhouse 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 principle gentry of 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 a from All Saints West Beckham. The unique pebble construction both inside and out comprise materials from the two churches, thus the noble dedication of St. Helen and All Saints. In the far background are two pylons now demolished but illustrated to recall the part played by West Beckham which was a chosen site in the setting-up of the first radar chain immediately before the Second World War and 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.