The House and Garden
Britten and Pears moved to The Red House in 1957. The peaceful setting which allowed Britten to work without distraction contributed to his and Pears’ decision to stay there for the rest of their lives.
The house itself is a Grade II 17th-century farmhouse. The interior provides an accurate picture of their life together - telling not only their story but also that of the family, friends and famous guests who stayed or visited there. The eclectic mix of art, artefacts, furniture and furnishings give a rare and personal glimpse into the domestic lives and tastes of two extraordinary musicians, rooted in pre- and post-war Britain. Its presentation is based on documentary and photographic evidence, as well as the memories of Britten and Pears’ family, friends, colleagues and employees.
The additional buildings that you can explore include Britten’s composition studio, as well as the library and gallery.
The composition studio, which sits in the converted upper floor of a mid-19th century cart-shed and hay store, contains a large south-facing window overlooking the orchard. The furniture, piano, books and other items in the room are all part of the original collection.
We are… alas, away from the sea, but thankfully away from the gaping faces, & irritating publicity of that sea-front. It is a lovely house, with a big garden all around, & I’ve made myself a nice remote studio where I can bang away to my heart’s content.
- Britten to Edith Sitwell, 03 March 1959
The library and music room, designed by Peter Collymore in 1963, is home to their vast collection of books and music, as well as a place to display some of their art collection. It was also used as a rehearsal space for small groups of musicians and is now used for intimate recitals. The gallery was built in the 1990s over Britten’s open-air swimming pool, which is still beneath the floor. It now holds both main and annual exhibitions, which draw on the amazing collections at The Red House to introduce Britten and his music.
Britten and Pears entertained guests, cultivated vegetables, and even played croquet and tennis in their much-cherished gardens. There were many important social occasions which took place here, such as the celebration of Britten’s life peerage in 1976. In the summer months we welcome visitors to bring a picnic or enjoy a spot of croquet on the lawn where Britten and Pears played. Today the garden has evolved into a wildlife-friendly environment that retains some of the original planting and reflects their taste in flowers and plants. While you are here you can explore the kitchen garden, see what plants are in season and follow the Garden Trail to discover sculptures from the art collection - as well as enjoying tea and cake on the lawn!
The Red House Exhibition
The Red House is now Closed for the winter, except for special events. Please see What's On for details.