Benjamin Britten’s Red House in Aldeburgh, UK - A Visit November 30 2021
As history and music lovers, we’ve always wanted to visit Benjamin Britten’s House.
So, we recently took the trip to Aldeburgh to immerse ourselves in the history of The Red House and relive some of the most prolific years in the life of famous English composer Benjamin Britten.
[Photo] Entrance to The Red House - Britten & Pears' house
And we’ve decided to share our experience in this blog post.
We hope you enjoy the journey as much as we did.
IT ALL STARTED IN 1957
In 1957, classical composer Benjamin Britten moved with his partner and muse, the English tenor Peter Pears, to a secluded farmhouse located on the outskirts of Aldeburgh in coastal Suffolk. The couple immediately fell in love with the bucolic setting and the tranquillity of the spot away from the hustle and bustle of the sea-front.
That’s why they decided to spend the next two decades there until Benjamin Britten’s death in 1976.
[Photo] Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears in rehearsal
While after Peter Pears’ death in 1986, the Britten-Pears Foundation opened the house to the public, turning it into a museum, it doesn’t feel like a shrine to the couple. Rather, it has become a source of inspiration for visitors, composers, and artists in general.
Britten's Score Workbook exhibited at The Red House
The prodigy started to compose from an early age. Yet, some of his most incredible work was accomplished in The Red House.
In his light-filled composition studio, facing the orchard planted in his enchanting garden, Benjamin Britten wrote both his famous War Requiem and the opera A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
One of Britten's manuscript exhibited at The Red House
But that’s not all.
The prolific composer also wrote the opera Noye’s Fludde from the famous composition room.
The stunning mid-seventeenth-century farmhouse is located on five-acre of land a little bit out of the town center in a peaceful spot. In addition to the house, the archive, and the collections, visitors can also explore a wonderful gallery space, browse the museum shop, or enjoy a delicious afternoon tea at the outdoor cafe.
Here’s a rundown of things to see when visiting the Britten’s House:
The Red House
The Red House is a mid-seventeenth-century farmhouse and a museum located in Aldeburgh. The interior has been staged to recreate the way the house would have looked during Britten’s days.
External View of Britten and Pears' "The Red House"
It contains original furnishings, furniture, art pieces from the couple’s vast art collection, and artifacts, providing history buffs and curious visitors with a glimpse into their lives.
The Red House - View of the Gallery
The gallery was built in the 1990s above the former open-air swimming pool. It’s used to hold exhibitions about The Red House and Britten’s art and music collections. You’ll find more information about Benjamin Britten’s extensive art collection on the Britten Pears Arts’ website.
Another View of the Gallery
There are numerous exhibit panels displaying scores, costumes used in premieres of his operas, personal items, infographic panels, and plenty more to see and learn about Britten´s life and career.
Personal belongings and other items exhibited in the Gallery
Some other Items exhibited in the Gallery of The Red House
[Photo] Personal belongings of the couple Britten - Pears exhibited in the gallery of The Red House
[Photo] Items carefully exhibited in the gallery of The Red House - Britten and Pears' house
The library was designed by Peter Collymore in 1963. It contains Benjamin Britten’s grand piano, with which he composed so many of his best chamber pieces and operas.
View of the Library and the Piano
In this inspiring room, visitors can also marvel at some carefully curated pieces of art, including a William Blake and a vast collection of music and books.
A separate building that complements the historic house accommodates one of the most prominent centers for music research in the country. Indeed, the Britten–Pears Archive is home to some original manuscript scores of Britten’s works, photographs, letters, diaries and contains most of the 1,200 pieces of art present on the grounds.
View of the Archive
In fact, it’s the most comprehensive composer archive on the planet, and it was designed to be a pilgrimage site for music aficionados. So, as history and music lovers, we can’t recommend enough that you visit this unique place.
When he moved to The Red House, Britten needed a quiet space to compose. So, he converted the first floor of the farmhouse into a composition studio.
View of the Composition Studio
There, he wrote some of his most famous operas and music pieces. Britten would compose in the morning before taking ‘’composing walks’’ around the house and the garden and come back to the studio afterward to refashion his work.
The Composition Studio - A giant poster in the wall resembling Britten's at work and some information
The sound of nature had a great influence on his music.
During one of his talks in 1963, he even said: ‘’At the moment in my studio where I work in Aldeburgh . . . there’s a blackbird making a nest just outside my window and I’m very interested to know whether she’s sitting on her eggs when I should be working’’.
[Photo] World Premiere of Benjamin Britten's opera "Billy Budd" at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, December 1st, 1951, conducted by the composer himself and starred by his partner Peter Pears.
‘’It is a lovely house, with a big garden all around.’’
- Britten to Edith Sitwell, 03 March 1959
Britten and Pears enjoyed spending time gardening and landscaping the grounds and entertaining guests in this beautiful space. And, their love for nature and the countryside is perfectly reflected in the stunning garden they spent so much time caring for. While it has evolved since Britten’s death, the garden still retains some original plantings in the orchard and the kitchen garden.
Illustrated map of The Red House
If you visit in spring, you’ll be able to enjoy floral scents filling the air.
BRITTEN'S HOUSE FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
If you have children and are wondering whether they would enjoy a visit to Britten’s house, the answer is yes!
The Red House - View of the Living Room
You can definitely make a family trip of the visit as The Red House offers a ‘’Garden Discovery Trail’’ with some beautiful flowers, incredible sculptures from Britten’s art collection, fun activities, and the option for the whole family to indulge in cake and tea on the lawn.
View of the Dining Room
What’s more, if you have young children, on Friday mornings, your little ones will be able to attend the Mini Music Sessions for some fun music activities.
We hope you enjoyed this blog post and will add Britten’s house to your bucket list.
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