A briefe sonet declaring the lamentation of Beckles, a Market Towne in Suffolke


This ballad describes how a fire destroyed much of Beccles, Suffolk on St Andrew’s Day Eve 1589. 

Click here for an easy-to-read transcription and a recording of the ballad being sung.

What is a broadside ballad?

Ballads are lively narrative verses or songs. They were recited and sung to familiar tunes in alehouses and public places. They were circulated widely on broadsides as a kind of tabloid press in early modern Britain. Broadsides are cheaply-produced single sheets of paper, printed only on one side and designed to be pasted on walls or thrown away after reading.

What does this woodcut tell us?

The woodcut is unusual because it directly depicts the events described in the ballad. However, while there are no other extant broadsides also featuring this illustration, it would be a stretch to suggest that this woodcut was designed exclusively for this ballad. Typically, woodcuts featured on ballads were generic by design, as it was both cost and time effective for publishers to reuse the same printing blocks for a variety of broadsides especially when the event in question – a town or house fire – was a common occurrence during the early modern period. 

Full title:
A briefe sonet declaring the lamentation of Beckles, a Market Towne in Suffolke which was in the great winde vpon S. Andrewes eue pitifully burned with fire to the value by estimation of tweentie thousande pounde. And to the number of foure score dwelling houses besides a great number of other houses. 1586. To the tune of Labandalashotte. [With a woodcut.] B.L.
1586, London
Broadside ballad
D. Sterrie
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

Full catalogue details

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