The Red House in Aldeburgh, Suffolk was home to Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears for most of their lives. Today, it is a living time capsule of their life and times, the beds still neatly made, bookshelves overflowing with novels and sheet music, and art jostling for space on the walls.
From March to October the house and gardens are opened for guests to visit and absorb the spirit of the home the couple lived and worked in.
Through the closed winter months a careful programme of maintenance ensures the home and its contents is preserved for future generations. Dust is meticulously collected and assessed for signs of mites or other troublesome visitors. Items are carefully catalogued and wrapped in layers of crisp white tissue. Linen sheets drape the furniture. Curtains remain closed to limit the sun's bleaching rays, and the result is beautifully atmospheric: the pair’s beachcombing finds and objects of everyday life glint in the half-light.
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But the house’s treasures do not stand still. At the start of each open season the collection of mid-century furniture and cultural ephemera are unpacked, dusted off and thoughtfully rearranged to offer a fresh perspective, as the couple themselves may once have done. Curtains are thrown open. Walls are rehung to allow the public to view ever more of over 1200 artworks the couple collected, in a continuingly evolving exhibition.
This year a new exhibition focussing on the women in Britten’s life will be mounted in the gallery, library and former kitchen for visitors to discover more about these often overlooked figures. You may well be able to imagine them wandering through the house as visitors now do, the house vibrating to strains of Britten’s piano.
More from the Red House
Archive Treasures: Britten, Myth and Radio‘Read some Ingoldsby legends in evening’, Britten recorded in his diary on the 15 August 1932. The young composer was enjoying a collection of…
Archive Treasures: The Absent ComposerIn our archive we hold a short note, in Britten’s frail hand, sent to Snape Maltings on the first performance of his final opera Death in Venice on…
Archive Treasure - What might have been: Britten, Milligan and Lewis CarrollThe archive at the Red House documents the careers of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears in great detail. Making up a fascinating sub-set of the archive…