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The Moot Hall
Aldeburgh is located in Suffolk
 Aldeburgh shown within Suffolk
Population 2,466 (2011 Census)[1]
OS grid reference
Civil parish Aldeburgh
District Suffolk Coastal
Shire county Suffolk
Region East
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

Aldeburgh is a coastal town in the English county of Suffolk. Located on the River Alde, the town is notable for its Blue Flag shingle beach and fisherman huts where freshly caught fish are sold daily, and the Aldeburgh Yacht Club. The internationally renowned Aldeburgh Festival of arts, which takes place at nearby Snape Maltings, was created in 1948 by the resident and acclaimed composer Benjamin Britten.

A popular weekend destination, with second homes making up roughly a third of its residential property,[2] particular attractions are the ancient Moot Hall (where the town council still meets), Napoleonic-era Martello tower to the south, sheltered yachting marina at Slaughden, and two family run shops serving fish and chips, one of which is often cited as among the best fish and chip shops in the UK.[3]


  • History 1
  • Geography 2
  • Governance 3
  • Transport 4
  • Landmarks 5
    • Lifeboat Station 5.1
    • Moot Hall 5.2
    • Martello Tower 5.3
    • Fort Green Mill 5.4
    • WW2 Tank Trap 5.5
    • The Scallop 5.6
  • Notable people 6
  • Culture 7
    • Fishing 7.1
  • Public services & amenities 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


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 ships Greyhound and Pelican (later renamed Golden Hind) were both built in Aldeburgh. The flagship of the Virginia Company, the Sea Venture is believed to have been built there in 1608. When the River Alde silted up and was unable to accommodate larger ships, the area went into decline. Aldeburgh survived principally as a fishing village until the nineteenth century, when it became popular as a seaside resort. Much of its distinctive and whimsical architecture derives from this 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 km) north-east of London, 20 miles (32 km) north-east of Ipswich and 23 miles (37 km) south of Lowestoft. Locally it is 4 miles (6.4 km) south of the town of Leiston and 2 miles (3.2 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 miles (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. The beach was awarded the Blue flag rural beach award in 2005 and becomes narrower 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.[4]

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.[5] The Leiston-Aldeburgh SSSI extends from the northern edge of the town to cover a range of habitats including grazing marsh and heathland.[7] This 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.[7][8]

Two smaller geological SSSI units are also found on the southern edges of the town. Aldeburgh Brick Pit is a 0.84 hectares (2.1 acres) site showing a clear stratigraphy of Red Crag deposits above Corralline Crag. It is considered a significant site for demonstrating the stratigraphy of Red Crag.[9] Aldeburgh Hall Pit is a shallow pit of 0.8 hectares (2.0 acres) area. The site features a section of Corralline Crag and is considered to be one of the best sites in Britain for Neogene fauna.[10]

It has a number of churches including the Anglican pre-Reformation church of St Peter and St Paul and the Catholic Church of Our Lady and St Peter.


Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Mayor of Aldeburgh, 1908

Aldeburgh has its own Town Council and is within the Suffolk Coastal Non-metropolitan district. Aldeburgh ward, which includes Thorpeness and some other smaller communities, had a population of 3225 in the 2011 census. The mean age of the inhabitants was 55 and the median age 61.[11]

It is also within the Suffolk Coastal parliamentary constituency and is represented by Therese Coffey and had from 1983 to 2010 been represented by John Gummer. It is often regarded as a safe seat for the Conservative Party.

Aldeburgh was a Parliamentary Borough from 1571, and returned two Members of Parliament, the right to vote being vested in the freemen of the town. Latterly it was considered a rotten borough, and lost its representation in the Great Reform Act of 1832.

Aldeburgh was the first British town to elect a female mayor: Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, in 1908. Her father, Newson Garrett, was mayor in 1889.

In 2006, at the age of 15, Sam Wright became Aldeburgh's town crier and mace bearer – the youngest in the world.[12]


Aldeburgh is linked to the main A12 at Friday Street in Benhall by the A1094 road. The B1122 links the town to Leiston. Bus services link the town to Leiston and onward southward to Woodbridge and Ipswich and northward to Halesworth.[13]

The nearest rail link is Saxmundham railway station on the East Suffolk Line.[14] This provides an hourly service to Ipswich and Lowestoft.[13] Aldeburgh railway station opened in 1860 as the terminus of the Aldeburgh Branch Line from Saxmundham. The station was closed in 1966 as part of the Beeching Axe.


Lifeboat Station

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 1854-5, under the direction of R. M. Phipson, the chief architect of the Diocese of Norwich, in which Aldeburgh then stood. There are 64 other listed historic buildings and monuments in the town.[15]

Martello Tower

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.[16]

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

The converted Fort Green windmill.

A four-storey windmill at the southern end of the town has been converted to residential use. It 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.[17]

The Scallop

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 m) high, and was unveiled in November 2003.[18] 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,[19] with some local residents considering it spoiling the beach.[18] It has been vandalised with graffiti and paint on thirteen occasions[18] and whilst there have been petitions to have it removed, petitions in support of the sculpture have garnered similar numbers of signatories.[18]

Notable people

  • Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the first Englishwoman to qualify as a physician and surgeon in Britain, the co-founder of the first hospital staffed by women, the first dean of a British medical school, the first female doctor of medicine in France, the first woman in Britain to be elected to a school board and, as Mayor of Aldeburgh, the first female mayor and magistrate in Britain.
  • The poet The Borough. The latter contains the tale of a fisherman named Peter Grimes, on which Benjamin Britten's opera was based.
  • Novelist Annie Hall Cudlip was born in Aldeburgh in 1838.
  • Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847–1929), suffragist, intellectual, political and trade union leader, feminist and writer, was born in Aldeburgh.
  • Benjamin Britten became a resident of the town in 1942. In 1948, along with Eric Crozier and Peter Pears, he founded the Aldeburgh Festival and Aldeburgh Music Club in 1952. Britten died in Aldeburgh in 1976. Pears, Britten's lifelong partner, also died in Aldeburgh in 1986. They are buried alongside each other in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul's Church in the town.
  • Joan Cross, English soprano and theatre director (1900–1993), who created several roles in Britten's operas, is buried in the same cemetery.
  • Songwriter Peter Sinfield, founding member and lyricist for progressive rock act King Crimson, currently resides in Aldeburgh.
  • Rt Revd Sandy Millar, former Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton and co-founder of the Alpha Course, currently lives in Aldeburgh.[20]
  • Footballer Roy Keane became an Aldeburgh resident in 2009 following his appointment as manager of Ipswich Town.
  • Isabella Summers (Florence and the Machine), songwriter, producer, and remixer, is a native of Aldeburgh.
  • M.R. James was a regular visitor to his maternal grandmother who lived in Aldeburgh until her death in 1870. He set one of his stories, "A Warning to the Curious", in a disguised version of Aldeburgh, which he called "Seaburgh". Many of the town's landmarks such as the Martello tower and White Lion hotel feature.[21]
  • Composer Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian lives in Aldeburgh, on the border with Thorpeness.[22]

In recent years the town and region have attracted a number of artists including Young British Artists members Sarah Lucas, Abigail Lane, Gary Hume and Gavin Turk.[2]


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 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 prominently in the thriller Cross of Fire written by novelist Colin Forbes, as well as the nearby villages of Dunwich, Snape Maltings.[23]

Aldeburgh is also notable for its fish and chip shop. Owned and run by the Cooney family since the 1970s, it has been described in The Times as "possibly the finest on the east coast".

The Suffolk Craft Society hold an annual themed exhibition in the Peter Pears Gallery over July and August. This is the annual showcase for the finest and most recent work made by members.

Aldeburgh Carnival takes place annually in August, with a continuous history dating back to at least 1892 and possibly as far back as 1832 when "Ye Olde Marine Regatta" was mentioned. The focal point of the carnival today is the 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.[24]

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".[25] 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"[25] and traditional, sustainable inshore fishing is under threat, with likely knock-on effects for the coastal community.[26] Local fishermen have featured in the "Fish Fight" campaigns of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Greenpeace, supporting small-scale inshore fishermen.[27][28]

Public services & amenities

The Aldeburgh Cottage Hospital[29][30] is an example of a traditional English cottage hospital.

The Aldeburgh Library[31] is another public amenity in Aldeburgh and is actively supported by volunteers.[32]

The Aldeburgh Cinema[33] puts on an exceptionally broad programme of film and cultural events.


  1. ^ "Town population 2011". Retrieved 14 September 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Brown, Griselda Murray. "Follow the music". 1 March 2013. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Newsham, Gavin (10 February 2002). "Top 10 chip shops". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 14 April 2010. Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  4. ^ Alde and Ore estuary gets new flood defence partnership, BBC Suffolk news website, 2012-05-17. Retrieved 2013-01-30.
  5. ^ Alde-Ore Estuary, SSSI citation, Natural England. Retrieved 2013-01-30.
  6. ^ Leiston-Aldeburgh, SSSI map, Nature on the map, Natural England. Retrieved 2013-01-30.
  7. ^ a b Leiston-Aldeburgh, SSSI citation, Natural England. Retrieved 2013-01-30.
  8. ^ The RSPB: North Warren, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Retrieved 2010-05-17.
  9. ^ Aldeburgh Brick Pit, SSSI citation, Natural England. Retrieved 2013-01-30.
  10. ^ Aldeburgh Hall Pit, SSSI citation, Natural England. Retrieved 2013-01-30.
  11. ^ Aldeburgh demographics. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  12. ^ Rain fails to take shine off carnival Retrieved 22 August 2006.
  13. ^ a b Saxmundham, Leiston, Aldeburgh and surrounding area, Suffolk County Council. Retrieved 2013-02-01.
  14. ^ Aldeburgh, National Rail. Retrieved 2013-02-01.
  15. ^ The English Heritage site gives an architectural description of each: Retrieved 30 July 2011.
  16. ^ "The Landmark Trust | Martello Tower". Retrieved 2012-08-07. 
  17. ^ "Tank Barrier Aldeburgh". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  18. ^ a b c d "Aldeburgh: Scallop vandal fails to cover their tracks". East Anglian Daily times. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  19. ^ "The Aldeburgh Scallop: Have your say!". BBC Suffolk. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ The Haunted Dolls' House and Other Ghost Stories, Penguin Press 2006.
  22. ^ Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian reference,; accessed 2 May 2015.
  23. ^ Diwekar, Rujuta. "Cross of Fire 0330322419: Book: COLIN FORBES (9780330322416)". Retrieved 2012-08-07. 
  24. ^ "Aldeburgh, Suffolk". Aldeburgh Carnival. Retrieved 2012-08-07. 
  25. ^ a b "A guide to fishing in Suffolk". East Anglian Daily Times. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  26. ^ "2011 Conference: An Appetite for Change: Suffolk & the Sea". Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  27. ^ "The Last Fishermen". Greenpeace UK. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  28. ^ "Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Fish Fight and Greenpeace in association with NUTFA (the New Under Ten Fishermen's Association) are campaigning to support the UK inshore fishing industry.""From ship to Shaw". Places & Faces Magazine. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  29. ^ National Archives entry for "Aldeburgh Cottage Hospital".
  30. ^ NHS website for the Cottage Hospital.
  31. ^ Suffolk County Council Library Services website.
  32. ^ Robertson, Craig. _Ipswich Star_. 4 March 2011. "Community Steps Forward to Save Library".
  33. ^ Aldeburgh Cinema website.
  • Norman Scarfe. 1976. The Shell Guide to Suffolk.
  • Kate Pugh. 2007-03-01. Return to Suffolk: Crabbe 1792 - 1805. Bottesford Living History Community Heritage Project.

External links

  • The Aldeburgh Festival
  • Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival
  • The Aldeburgh Poetry Festival
  • The Aldeburgh Museum
  • Aldeburgh Past
  • Aldeburgh in the Domesday Book
  • Panoramic Views of Aldeburgh and Thorpeness
  • Aldeburgh at
  • Aldeburgh Music Club
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