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Aldeburgh is a coastal town in Suffolk, East Angliamarker, Englandmarker. Located on the Alde river at 52° 9' North, 1° 36' East, the town is notable for its Blue Flag shingle beach and fisherman huts (freshly caught fish sold daily), its proximity to Thorpeness village and boating mere and golf courses at Aldeburgh, Thorpeness and Ufford Park. It is noted for the internationally renowned Aldeburgh Festivalmarker of arts, which takes place at nearby Snape Maltings. The festival was created in 1948 by the resident and acclaimed composer Benjamin Britten.

A popular weekend destination, particular attractions are the ancient Moot Hall (where the town council still meets today), 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.


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 flag ship 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 flourishing yacht club.


The town is within the Suffolk Coast and Heathsmarker AONB. The beach was awarded the Blue flag rural beach award in 2005. Just south of the beach at Aldeburgh is Orford Nessmarker, which can be reached by a track leading from Aldeburgh, which is popular with people sea fishing. There is an excellent account of its setting and start as a holiday resort in the 4th scene of Wilkie Collins' novel No Name.


Mrs Garrett Anderson, Mayor of Aldeburgh, 1908

Aldeburgh is within the Suffolk Coastalmarker parliamentary constituency and local government district. The constituency has been represented since 1983 by John Gummer of 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.


Aldeburgh railway stationmarker opened in 1860 as a branch from Saxmundhammarker. The station was closed in 1966 as part of the Beeching Axe.


Converted windmill

The Aldeburgh Moot Hall is a 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 1650, although there was some restoration in 1854 when chimneys copied from Hampton Court were added.

Aldeburgh has a unique quatrefoil Martello Tower. A windmill at the southern end of the town has been converted to residential use.

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.

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 four 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.

The sculpture is controversial in the local area. Many people consider that it is inappropriate for a man-made object to spoil a beautiful natural setting. It has been attacked with graffiti and paint on a number of occasions, and there have been petitions to have it removed.

Notable people

The poet George Crabbe was born in Aldeburgh in 1754 and the town forms a loose basis for his poems The Village and The Borough. He also wrote a poem about an Aldeburgh fisherman named Peter Grimes, on which Benjamin Britten's opera was based.

Benjamin Britten became a resident of the town in 1942. In 1948, along with Eric Crozier and Peter Pears, he founded the Aldeburgh Festivalmarker. Britten died in Aldeburgh in 1976. Pears, a noted tenor and Britten's life-long 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.


Outside the town, the Snape Maltingsmarker is the venue for the Aldeburgh Festivalmarker held every June.

The town of Aldeburgh or "Owlbarrow" is the setting of a series of children's illustrated books centred on Orlando 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.

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".

Aldeburgh is the current home of Thomas Dolby.

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.


  • 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.

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