By 1957 Britten’s success, and that of the Aldeburgh Festival, had made him so famous that he felt he needed more privacy than was possible at Crag House. For a few years he and Pears had been friends with the artist and Aldeburgh Music Club member Mary Potter, and often played tennis in the large garden of her home, The Red House. When the opportunity arose to exchange homes with Mary Potter, who wanted to downsize, Britten traded the busy seafront for the seclusion of Golf Lane, a private road on the outskirts of Aldeburgh.
You are welcome to take photos and video for personal, non-commercial use. Please do not take photos or film people without permission, do not use flash or tripods and observe signage indicating where photography and filming is not permitted.
Before your visit
We have made changes to the site to ensure the safety of our visitors and team. They include a new audio guide for the whole site which can be accessed on your smart phone so please bring headphones with you. We also have a limited number of handsets if you do not have a smart phone. Please note that visitors are required to wear face coverings during their visit unless they are exempt.
We also recommend that you bring your own refreshments including a picnic which you can enjoy in the garden.
Please pre-book your visit to The Red House site by calling the box office on 01728 687110 (open 10am-2pm daily) or emailing [email protected] and await confirmation of your booking. We have introduced timed slots at 10 minute intervals from 11am to 2pm to assist with maintaining physical distancing. Please arrive a few minutes before your time slot to limit queuing. Advance booking is advisable to avoid disappointment, otherwise you will have to wait until the next available slot.
What to expect on your visit
On arrival you will be welcomed by a volunteer and asked to wait until it is safe to enter the reception area. A Perspex screen has been installed at the reception desk.
We have introduced a one-way route through the Gallery, Library and House. It is fully accessible and not complicated, but you will receive a map on entering. Volunteers and staff will be available to help you.
We ask that everyone respects the physical distancing measures we have put in place. Visitors are required to wear face coverings unless they are exempt.
Hand sanitiser dispensers will be available throughout the building and staff will be regularly cleaning and disinfecting door handles and surfaces where doors cannot be held open.
For more information please watch this film.
The Red House
The home Britten and Pears shared for nearly two decades has been carefully re-presented as it was, based on a room inventory and recollections from people who knew the house at that time. The result is a charmingly informal snapshot, as though Britten and Pears had just stepped out for a moment.
Please note that there are no upstairs tours.
The Library was built on the site of a disused barn to the west of The Red House in 1963. The architect Peter Collymore transformed the space into a room that would hold Britten and Pears’ large book and music collection and also function as a rehearsal space.
Today the Library is used for talks and recitals and an annual display from the Britten Pears art collection.
There is a one-way route in place: entry is from the Gallery and exit through the French windows into the garden.
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.
Suitable for all ages, there is an audio guide to accompany both exhibitions, a Noye’s Fludde dress up area, Peter Grimes hut exploring Britten’s most celebrated opera, and a section on one of Britten’s greatest works, War Requiem.
There will be a shortened ‘highlights’ exhibition guide to accompany the gallery and both exhibitions.
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 croquet lawn where Britten and Pears played.
Today the garden has evolved into a wildlife-friendly environment that retains some of the original planting ad reflects their taste in flowers and plants. While you are here, explore the kitchen garden and relax and enjoy the tranquil setting. See what plants are in season and follow the Garden Trail to discover the sculpture from the art collection.
Please take care on the uneven surfaces across the site and be respectful of the flower beds and emerging bulbs. Where possible keep to the main lawns and paths.
For the safety of our visitors, the Composition Studio and Archive will be closed from Saturday 4 July until further notice.
The room where Britten wrote masterpieces such as Noye’s Fludde, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and War Requiem. His desk, piano and other original items have been put back into the elegant first-floor room created for him out of a former hayloft next to the main house. As he wrote to a friend in 1959, ‘I’ve made myself a nice remote studio where I can bang away to my heart’s content.’
Even before moving to The Red House in November 1957, Britten asked the architect HT (‘Jim’) Cadbury-Brown to survey the property and consider options for a purpose-built studio in the grounds. Cadbury-Brown instead suggested converting this building and the studio was completed the following summer. It is clear that Cadbury-Brown took great care over details such as the acoustics and lighting, creating a space that suited his client perfectly.
In June 2013, to mark Britten’s centenary, a new home for the composer’s uniquely comprehensive collection opened in the grounds of The Red House.