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Aldeburgh
Moot Hall, Aldeburgh.jpg
The Moot Hall
Aldeburgh is located in Suffolk
Aldeburgh
Aldeburgh
Population 2,466 (2011 Census)
OS grid reference TM463566
Civil parish
  • Aldeburgh
District
  • East Suffolk
Shire county
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town ALDEBURGH
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
UK
England
Suffolk
52°09′N 1°36′E / 52.15°N 1.6°E / 52.15; 1.6

Aldeburgh ( awl-BƏR) is a coastal town in the county of Suffolk, England. Located to the north of the River Alde. Its estimated population was 2,276 in 2019. It was home to the composer Benjamin Britten and remains the centre of the international Aldeburgh Festival of arts at nearby Snape Maltings, founded by Britten in 1948. It also hosts an annual poetry festival and several food festivals and other events. Aldeburgh, as a port, gained borough status in 1529 under Henry VIII. Its historic buildings include a 16th-century moot hall and a Napoleonic-era Martello Tower. A third of its housing consists of second homes. Visitors are drawn to its Blue Flag beach and fisherman huts, where fresh fish is sold, to Aldeburgh Yacht Club, and to its cultural offerings. Two family-run fish and chip shops have been rated among the country's best.

History

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.

Geography

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.

Transport

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.

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. Now the nearest railway station is Saxmundham on the East Suffolk Line, approximately 7 miles away. This has hourly weekday services to Ipswich for London Liverpool Street station, and to Lowestoft for Norwich.

Landmarks

Lifeboat station

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

Moot Hall

MootHallSundial
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.

Culture

AldeburghCoastline
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.

Fishing

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.

Rugby

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.



Notable residents

George Crabbe by Henry William Pickersgill
George Crabbe, 1818
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1900 painting after John Singer Sargent)
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, 1900
Benjamin Britten, London Records 1968 publicity photo for Wikipedia
Benjamin Britten, 1968
Peter Sinfield in Genoa, 2010
Peter Sinfield, 2010
  • Henry Johnson (c. 1659–1719), "greatest shipbuilder and shipowner of his day" and MP for Aldeburgh, 1689–1719
  • George Crabbe (1754–1832), poet, was born in Aldeburgh, which features in his poems The Village and The Borough. The latter concerns a fisherman named Peter Grimes, on whose story Benjamin Britten's opera of that name was based.
  • John Liptrot Hatton (1809–1886) was an internationally celebrated English composer, conductor, pianist and singer who stayed in Aldeburgh for some time and wrote, for the place he loved, an Aldeburgh Te Deum.
  • Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836–1917) was the first woman to qualify as a physician and surgeon in Britain, co-founder of first hospital staffed by women, first female dean of a British medical school, first female doctor of medicine in France, first woman in Britain elected to a school board, and as Mayor of Aldeburgh, first female mayor and magistrate in Britain.
  • Annie Hall Cudlip, (1838–1918) writer, novelist and short story writer, was born in Aldeburgh.
  • Agnes Garrett (1845–1935), suffragist and interior designer, founded the Ladies Dwellings Company.
  • Dame Millicent Fawcett (1847–1929), suffragist, feminist and writer, was born in Aldeburgh, where she set her one novel, Janet Doncaster.
  • M. R. James (1862–1936), author, set a story, "A Warning to the Curious", in "Seaburgh" (Aldeburgh). Landmarks such as the Martello tower and White Lion Hotel feature.
  • Joan Cross (1900–1993), soprano and theatre director who created several Britten opera roles, is buried in the town churchyard.
  • Gerry Fiennes (1906–1985), railway manager and author, was Mayor of Aldeburgh in 1976.
  • Imogen Holst (1907-1984), composer, conductor, teacher, assistant to Benjamin Britten, and co-director of the Aldeburgh Festival from 1956 to 1977, lived in Aldeburgh from 1952.
  • H. T. Cadbury-Brown (1913–2009), architect.
  • Benjamin Britten (1913–1976) moved to the town in 1942. He, Eric Crozier (1914–1994) and Peter Pears (1910–1986) founded the Aldeburgh Festival and Aldeburgh Music Club. He moved with Pears into The Red House in 1957. They lie side by side in the town churchyard.
  • Ian Tait (1926–2013) was a GP in Aldeburgh (from 1959) and one of the founders of the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival; he is known for his work in the modernisation of general practice.
  • Rt Revd Sandy Millar (born 1939), once Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton and co-founder of the Alpha course, lives in Aldeburgh.
  • Francis Carnwath CBE (1940–2020), Deputy Director of the Tate gallery 1990–1994, and co-founder of the Aldeburgh Beach Lookout.
  • Sue Lloyd (1939–2011), model and actress, played Barbara Hunter in Crossroads.
  • Christine Truman (born 1941), Grand Slam tennis event winner, lives in Aldeburgh.
  • Malcolm Bowie (1943–2007), Master of Christ's College, Cambridge, 2002–2006.
  • Peter Sinfield (born 1943), songwriter with the progressive rock act King Crimson, lives in Aldeburgh.
  • Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian (living), composer, was born in the area and lives in Aldeburgh, on the border with Thorpeness.
  • Roy Keane (born 1971), footballer, became an Aldeburgh resident in 2009 on taking over as manager of Ipswich Town.
  • Miranda Raison (born 1977), actress, has a weekend cottage in Aldeburgh and belongs to Aldeburgh Golf Club.
  • Isabella Summers (born 1980), songwriter, producer and remixer (Florence and the Machine), is an Aldeburgh native.

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