The coastal Suffolk town of Aldeburgh is closely associated with the composer and conductor Benjamin Britten.
Born in Lowestoft in 1913, Britten started piano lessons from the age of 7 and grew up on almost exclusively live music owing to his father’s refusal to have a gramophone or radio in the house. This exposure to music undoubtedly sparked a passion in Britten as he went on to learn the viola at the age of 10 – taught by his mother’s friend, Audrey Alston. Alston encouraged the young Britten to go to symphony concerts, and he start to write music. The rest, as they say, is history.
After travelling to America in the late 1930s, Britten returned to England in 1942. He was inspired by the Suffolk coast – rooted to the county “by familiar fields, marsh and sand, ordinary streets, prevailing wind”. He lived in Snape for several years where he worked on his opera Peter Grimes. Britten bought a house in Aldeburgh in 1947, a year before the launch of the Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts.
Discovering Britten in Aldeburgh
Britten lived in his Aldeburgh house for the rest of his life, and today The Red House is home to exhibitions detailing Britten’s life and work. Explore his past in the very place he lived by visiting his studio where many of his masterpieces were written, and see the piano he played at in his library. The Red House hosts numerous events throughout the year as well as guides of the house and grounds.
In the summer months the gardens are also beautiful and fantastic to enjoy – settle down with a picnic or play a game of croquet. With informative and passionate staff and volunteers to guide you around The Red House, you are guaranteed to have a delightful time.
Take a stroll along The Britten Trail to discover Britten’s Aldeburgh – locations which nurtured and inspired his music, as well as places which feature significantly in his life such as The Moot Hall where Britten received the Freedom of the Borough in 1962 and Aldeburgh Parish Church, where Britten is buried. Walk along the shingle beach out of the town and up to Maggi Hambling’s Scallop, a tribute to the composer set on the coastline he loved.
Britten remains one of England’s most celebrated and loved composers, and his musical achievements are strongly celebrated in Suffolk today. The Red House is open from 1st March to 27th October from 1pm to 5pm Tuesday to Sundays (last admission 4pm). Site admission is £8 (valid for one year) and free for under those under 16.