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Moot Hall, Aldeburgh.jpg
The Moot Hall
Population 2,466 (2011 Census)
OS grid reference TM463566
Civil parish
  • Aldeburgh
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district IP15
Dialling code 01728
Police Suffolk
Fire Suffolk
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament
  • Suffolk Coastal
List of places
SuffolkCoordinates: 52°09′N 1°36′E / 52.15°N 1.6°E / 52.15; 1.6

Aldeburgh /ˈɔːlbrə/ is a coastal town in the English county of Suffolk. Located on the North Sea coast to the north of the River Alde, the town is notable for having been the home of composer Benjamin Britten and as the centre of the international Aldeburgh Festival of arts at nearby Snape Maltings founded by him in 1948. It remains an artistic and literary centre with an annual Poetry Festival and several food festivals as well as other cultural events. It is a former Tudor port and was granted Borough status in 1529 by Henry VIII. Its historic buildings include a 16th-century moot hall and a Napoleonic-era Martello Tower.

Second homes make up roughly a third of the town's residential property. The town is a tourist destination with visitors attracted by its Blue Flag shingle beach and fisherman huts, where fresh fish are sold daily, and Aldeburgh Yacht Club as well as cultural attractions. Two family-run fish and chip shops are cited as among the best in the UK.


Aldeburgh is the bottom-right settlement depicted in this 1588 map
Aldeburgh is the bottom-right settlement depicted in this 1588 map

Alde Burgh means "old fort" although this structure, along with much of the Tudor town, has now been lost to the sea. In the 16th century, Aldeburgh was a leading port, and had a flourishing ship-building industry. Sir Francis Drake's Greyhound and Pelican (later renamed the Golden Hind) were both built in Aldeburgh. The flagship of the Virginia Company, the Sea Venture is believed to have been built here in 1608. Aldeburgh's importance as a port declined as the River Alde silted up and larger ships could no longer berth. It survived mainly as a fishing village until the 19th century, when it also became a seaside resort. Much of its distinctive and whimsical architecture derives from that period. The river is now home to a yacht club and a sailing club.


Aldeburgh is on the North Sea coast and is located around 87 miles (140 kilometres) north-east of London, 20 mi (32 km) north-east of Ipswich and 23 mi (37 km) south of Lowestoft. Locally it is 4 mi (6 km) south of the town of Leiston and 2 mi (3 km) south of the village of Thorpeness. It lies just to the north of the River Alde with the narrow shingle spit of Orford Ness all that stops the river meeting the sea at Aldeburgh - instead it flows another 9 mi (14 km) to the south-west.

The beach is mainly shingle and wide in places with fishing boats able to be drawn up onto the beach above the high tide, but narrows at the neck of Orford Ness. The shingle bank allows access to the Ness from the north, passing a Martello tower and two yacht clubs at the site of the former village of Slaughden. Aldeburgh was flooded during the North Sea flood of 1953 and flood defences around the town were strengthened as a result. The beach was awarded the Blue flag rural beach award in 2005.

The town is within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and has a number of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and nature reserves in the local area. The Alde-Ore Estuary SSSI covers the area surrounding the river from Snape to its mouth, including the whole of Orford Ness. This contains a number of salt marsh and mudflat habitats. The Leiston-Aldeburgh SSSI extends from the northern edge of the town to cover a range of habitats including grazing marsh and heathland. It includes Thorpeness Mere and the North Warren RSPB reserve an area of wildlife and habitat conservation and nature trails run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Two smaller geological SSSI units are found on the southern edges of the town. Aldeburgh Brick Pit is a 0.84-hectare (2.1-acre) site showing a clear stratigraphy of Red Crag deposits above Corralline Crag. Aldeburgh Hall Pit is a shallow pit of 0.8 ha (2.0 acres) area. The site features a section of Corralline Crag and is considered one of the best sites in Britain for Neogene fauna.

The town's churches include the pre-Reformation Anglican church of St Peter and St Paul and the Catholic Church of Our Lady and St Peter.


Aldeburgh is linked to the main A12 at Friday Street in Benhall by the A1094 road. The B1122 leads to Leiston. There are bus services to Leiston, southward to Woodbridge and Ipswich, and northward to Halesworth.

The nearest railway station is at Saxmundham on the East Suffolk Line. This provides hourly services to Ipswich and Lowestoft. Aldeburgh railway station opened in 1860 as the terminus of the Aldeburgh Branch Line from Saxmundham, but was closed in 1966 under the Beeching Axe.


Lifeboat station

The RNLI station located in the town was operating two lifeboats in 2016.

Moot Hall

The sundial of the Moot Hall.

The Aldeburgh Moot Hall is a Grade I listed timber-framed building which has been used for council meetings for over 400 years. The Town Clerk's office is still there and it also houses the local museum. It was built in about 1520 and altered in 1654. The brick and stone infilling of the ground floor is later. The hall was restored and the external staircase and gable ends were rebuilt in 1854–55, under the direction of R. M. Phipson, chief architect of the Diocese of Norwich, in which Aldeburgh then stood. There are 64 other listed historic buildings and monuments in the town.

Martello Tower

Aldeburgh Martello Tower front
The Martello Tower viewed from across its bridge.

A unique quatrefoil Martello Tower stands at the isthmus leading to the Orford Ness shingle spit. It is the largest and northernmost of 103 English defensive towers built between 1808 and 1812 to resist a Napoleonic invasion. The Landmark Trust now runs it as holiday apartments. From May 2015 to May 2016, an Antony Gormley statue was on display on the roof as part of his LAND art installation.

The Martello Tower is the only surviving building of the fishing village of Slaughden, which had been washed away by the North Sea by 1936. Near the Martello Tower at Slaughden Quay are the barely visible remains of the fishing smack Ionia. It had become stuck in the treacherous mud of the River Alde, and was then used as a houseboat. In 1974 it was burnt, as it had become too unsafe.

Fort Green Mill

DSC 1846-weird-lighthouse
The converted Fort Green windmill.

The four-storey windmill at the southern end of the town was built in 1824 and converted into a house in 1902.

WW2 Tank Trap

A WW2 tank trap can be seen next to Slaughden Road.

The Scallop

The Scallop, Maggi Hambling, Aldeburgh
The Scallop

On Aldeburgh's beach, a short distance north of the town centre, stands a sculpture, The Scallop, dedicated to Benjamin Britten, who used to walk along the beach in the afternoons. Created from stainless steel by Suffolk-based artist Maggi Hambling, it stands 15 feet (4.6 metres) high, and was unveiled in November 2003. The piece is made up of two interlocking scallop shells, each broken, the upright shell being pierced with the words: "I hear those voices that will not be drowned", which are taken from Britten's opera Peter Grimes. The sculpture is meant to be enjoyed both visually and tactilely, and people are encouraged to sit on it and watch the sea. Approached along the road from the Thorpeness direction it has a totally different silhouette appearing to be a knight on a rearing charger.

The sculpture is controversial in the local area, with some local residents considering it spoiling the beach. It has been vandalised with graffiti and paint on 13 occasions. There have been petitions for its removal and for its retention.

First world war

A nearby aerodrome Royal Naval Air Station Aldeburgh was used during the First World War as a Night Landing Ground and for the training of observers.


Coastline at Aldeburgh.

Outside the town, the Snape Maltings is the venue for the Aldeburgh Festival held every June.

Aldeburgh Music Club was founded by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears in 1952. The Club has evolved over the years into one of East Anglia's leading choirs with about 100 members and supported by over 120 patrons. The choir rehearses from early September to late May each year and holds three major performances, two of which are at Snape Maltings Concert Hall.

The annual Aldeburgh Carnival in August has taken place at least since 1892 and possibly as far back as 1832, when "Ye Olde Marine Regatta" was mentioned. The focal point today is a Carnival Procession featuring locals and visitors dressed in home-made costumes and on floats, often with a topical or local theme. In the evening, a parade with Chinese lanterns and a firework display are traditional. The procession has been led for over 30 years by Chief Marshal Trevor Harvey, also a Carnival Committee member for over 50 years.

The Suffolk Craft Society hold an annual themed exhibition in the Peter Pears Gallery over July and August, showing the work of its members.

The town of Aldeburgh or "Owlbarrow" is the setting of a series of children's illustrated books centred on Orlando (The Marmalade Cat) written by Kathleen Hale, who spent holidays in the town. Many of the illustrations in the books feature landmarks in the town, most notably the Moot Hall. The town also features in the thriller Cross of Fire written by novelist Colin Forbes, as do the nearby villages of Dunwich, Snape Maltings. James Herbert based his book The Jonah in the area, using several names represented in the local area for characters including Slaughden.

Aldeburgh appears as a location in Joseph Freeman's novel Arcadia Lodge, where it is referred to as "Seaburgh", as it is in the M. R. James story "A Warning To The Curious". The Maggi Hambling sculpture features in an early scene, as do various other notable landmarks.


Aldeburgh is notable for its line fishing for amateur anglers; it has been described as "a great spot for bass, flounders, sole, dabs, cod, whiting and eels". However, the East Anglian Daily Times says "countless years of commercial over-fishing has all but destroyed many of our [Suffolk's] offshore sea fisheries" and traditional, sustainable inshore fishing is under threat, with likely knock-on effects for the coastal community. Local fishermen have featured in the "Fish Fight" campaigns of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Greenpeace, supporting small-scale inshore fishermen.


Aldeburgh is now home to Aldeburgh and Thorpeness Rugby Club, based at Kings Field in Aldeburgh. The club runs an adult team in the Eastern Counties Leagues, an Under 15s team, Midi/Mini rugby, and Women's touch rugby. The club started out in nearby Thorpeness and moved in 2015 to work with Aldeburgh Town Council and Aldeburgh Community Centre.

Other amenities

These include Aldeburgh Cottage Hospital, a traditional English cottage hospital, the Aldeburgh Library, which also relies on volunteers, and the Aldeburgh Cinema, which puts on a broad programme of films and cultural events.

  • Norman Scarfe: The Shell Guide to Suffolk, 1976
  • Kate Pugh: Return to Suffolk, 2007 Crabbe 1792–1805. Bottesford Living History Community Heritage Project on the poet George Crabbe.

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