Beckley was part of the Wealden iron industry. An iron furnace was built in 1578, at the small settlement still called Beckley Furnace. A watermill powered the bellows. Production ceased in 1770.
The 1830s saw a mass emigration of Beckley residents to New South Wales. At the time, the developing colony of New South Wales was in need of skilled agricultural labourers, whilst the English labourers were suffering hard times. Various schemes were introduced to provide finance for workers to emigrate. 165 Beckley residents took up the offer and emigrated. Amongst those residents were Thomas and Maria Ann Smith (née Sherwood), the cultivator of the Granny Smith apple. Another of those residents who emigrated at this time was Henry Charles Packham, whose son Charles, in Molong, New South Wales, was the cultivator of the Packham pear.
The parish church is the All Saints church, which is located at the far west end of the town. Its isolated position indicating that the main village has relocated during its history.
The lowest level of government is the Beckley parish council which meets once a month. The parish council is responsible for local amenities such as the provision of litter bins, bus shelters and allotments. They also provide a voice into the district council meetings. The parish council comprises seven councillors with elections being held every four years. The May 2007 election was uncontested.
Rother District council provides the next level of government with services such as refuse collection, planning consent, leisure amenities and council tax collection. Beckley lies within the Rother Levels ward, which provides two councillors. The May 2007 election returned two Conservatives councillors.
East Sussex county council is the third tier of government, providing education, libraries and highway maintenance. Beckley falls within the Northern Rother ward. Peter Jones, Conservative, was elected in the May 2005 election with 49.7% of the vote.
The UK Parliament constituency for Beckley is Bexhill and Battle. Gregory Barker was re-elected in the May 2005 election.
At European level, Beckley is represented by the South-East region, which holds ten seats in the European Parliament. The June 2004 election returned 4 Conservatives, 2 Liberal Democrats, 2 UK Independence, 1 Labour and 1 Green, none of whom live in East Sussex.