by John | Apr 10, 2009 |

Aldeburgh in the 19th Century


It is often said that Suffolk's landscape has changed little over the past century but what of its towns and villages? Taking A Tourist's Guide to Suffolk as our reference and with the help of postcards of the period, we will try to take you back in time to Aldeburgh at the end of the Victorian era.

"Aldeburgh: An ancient borough and fishing town, and now a favourite seaside resort.
It is The Borough of Crabbe, who resided here; and in that poem, several of the ancient town buildings, such as the church and the curious Moot Hall (or Town Hall), are referred to.
They have remained practically unaltered since his time. 

Aldeburgh is famous for its sprat and sole fisheries. It contains some good mansions and capital boarding-houses, but has suffered, along with all other towns on the east coast, from the encroachments of the sea. Last century it lost its Market Place and Market Cross thus. 

The beach is not more than a hundred yards from the line of lodging houses and between them is the Crag Path - a well-metalled promenade, which skirts the sea for a mile.
There is a picturesque quay at Slaughden, in the suburb, on the Alde. The river does not join the sea at Aldeburgh but at Shingle Street.
At Slaughden this large tidal river is only separated from the sea by a strip of land a hundred yards broad, over which the sea frequently breaks. It is therefore proposed to cut through this slender barrier, and thus convert the Alde into a harbour of refuge. 

Outside the town the river broadens at high water in the Mere, which is visited annually by hosts of wildfowl, so that sportsmen come purposely to Aldeburgh in the winter for the shooting. A larger number of species of British aquatic birds have been taken here, perhaps, than any other place in the eastern counties. 

Part of the town stands between the Cliff and the sea; but the Cliff is crested with several large houses and mansions. It is formed of Coralline Crag. 

Near the railway station are large pits opened in this formation, where fossils can be obtained in abundance. Until 1832 the town returned two Members to Parliament. A new charter has been recently granted (1885), the first Mayor being Mr Newson Garrett (father-in-law of the late Professor Fawcett, and father of Mrs. Dr. Garrett Anderson). 

The church (St Peter and St Paul) stands boldly on the top of the hill overlooking the sea, and is a capital and well-known sea-mark. It is a large perpendicular structure and within is a marble monument to the poet Crabbe, and various mural and other monuments to local families.
There are also two Baptist Chapels. The sea-bathing is rather rough on account of the shingle. 

Pleasant boating or sailing excursions may be made up the Alde, past Orford, to Shingle Street.
Snape is 5 m. Thorpe and Sizewell are on the other side of the town, and are fine, open heathery commons, which end in tall sea-cliffs.
The marshes near Aldeburgh and Sizewell are good places for botanising and entomologising. 

The drive from Saxmundham to Aldeburgh is about 7m., and passes through Friston, a small but pleasantly situated village, and Aldringham which, in the time of Edward II, had a market."

Painting: The Station WindmillI, painted in 1800s

Related Articles


Framlingham Castle

Arriving at Framlingham Castle today we see the extensive remains of a magnificent 12t...


A History of Fishing on the Suffolk Coast

Fishing has been one of Suffolk's most important industries for at least 900 years. So good w...


Snape: A History

Snape is perhaps best known today as the venue for the Aldeburgh Festival; the Snape...


The Merman of Orford

In London. the athletic and active Henry II sits on the throne of England, plotting an...


Aldeburgh in the 19th Century

It is often said that Suffolk's landscape has changed little over the past century but what of...


Demon Dog: The Legend of The Black Shuck

In August 1577, coastal Suffolk was hit by great storms of other-worldly proportions....


Suffolk’s Farming Past: Sibton Abbey

In 1539, all monastic property was transferred to the control of King Henry VIII, inc...


James Cable: Aldeburgh's Beloved Lifeboatman

We like to celebrate the many remarkable people that come from our beloved town, both famous...

Visit Aldeburgh Footer