Why Beckhithe, a Norfolk hamlet, is fighting to keep its postal address (and its identity)

Residents of Beckhithe, near Norwich, are resisting a proposal by Royal Mail, which was in turn triggered by a South Norfolk Council request, to have their hamlet's name deleted from the postcode address file.

What’s in a name? A village’s entire identity, if you ask the people of Beckhithe, in Norfolk, who are fighting a change that would see the hamlet’s historic name struck from the postal address.

Beckhithe, which is situated a few miles east of Norwich, may only have 17 properties but its history as a separate hamlet goes a long way and locals are understandably loathe to lose it. The hamlet’s name, which appears on a cottage plaque, has been in continuous use from at least the 1970s, as attested by residents who have been living there since then, and may be centuries old.

Despite this, no reference to it appears in any official record, according to the South Norfolk Council — so, earlier this year, the authority asked Royal Mail to erase the hamlet’s name from its postcode address file. The service then wrote to residents to inform them of the proposed change.

‘Royal Mail has received a request from South Norfolk Council to delete the locality of Beckhithe from the postal address,’ the Address Management Unit stated in a letter, before going on to explain that, as a result, the postcode for local properties would be subsumed into the neighbouring — and larger — Little Melton (the current address reads Beckhite, Little Melton, Norwich).

Although Royal Mail reassured people that the move would have no impact on the delivery of their mail and could ‘indeed ease possible confusion for visitors and companies making deliveries,’ the letter caused an uproar, with Beckhithe residents telling a local newspaper, the Eastern Daily Press, that they didn’t ‘want to be swallowed up by a big village, and to have some bland name.’

There may yet be hope for the hamlet, however, because the change would have required unanimous (if silent) agreement from Beckhithe’s 17 properties to go ahead — but 13 people have now signed a joint reply to Royal Mail to reject the proposal. The service’s Address Management Unit will reach a decision in the next few days.