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: The Birth of a Music SchoolThis year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme (previously the Britten-Pears School for Advanced…
Archive Treasures: Sentinels by the ReedbedsToday’s Archive Treasure lives not at the Red House but some miles away at Snape; rather than being tucked into an archive box, it is…
Archive Treasures: Reynolds Stone, Britten, Pears and their BookplateDuring recent times when catching up on reading has been a viable option for many of us, find out how Britten and Pears’ unique and beautiful…