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Benjamin Britten's long association with Snape - "a quaint old village"

By John Waddell with photographs and documents from Roger Horton

For a decade from 1937 to 1947 and long before the Maltings Concert Hall brought the village international fame, Snape was Benjamin Britten's home and his base during one of his most creative periods.

"Snape is just heaven", the composer wrote to a friend soon after he had bought what had been Hudson's Mill with money left to him by his mother.

The mill was modernised and turned into a home using the lower half of the mill's round base as Britten's studio dominated by his grand piano.

Above it was his bedroom with a large window looking out over the marshes and the River Alde.The old granary and what had been the miller's cottage were joined up by a corridor to complete the conversion.

It was here Britten composed some of his best-known works including the operas Peter Grimes and Albert Herring and his delightful A Young Person's Guide to the Ortchestra.

He moved from London in October 1937 having to store his furniture in some outbuildings while the building work was completed.

' I think I have found a good spot to live in - it is an old mill house in a quaint old village called Snape". he wrote at the time. "It has a grand view and lots of land to ensure that it is not built around"

With his second-hand Morris Eight he became a familiar sight in Snape, often accompanied by Peter Pears and other musical friends who, like Britten, were subsequently to become famous.

When Britten and Pears went to America from early 1939 to April 1942 the mill was sometimes occupied by Britten's sister Beth.

On his return and with his talents increasingly recognised Britten's Morris was replaced with a Rolls Royce and eventually in 1947 his mill house home was exchanged for a rather grander house on Aldeburgh's Crag Path.

" Snape is a sweet place and one part of me regrets leaving it", he wrote. But in a sense he never wholly left it because his energy and enthusiasm were eventually, 20 yeears later, to realise his dream of a concert hall at the Maltings , a building he had been able to see and admire from his millhouse home.

Details of events presented by the Aldeburgh Foundation and the Britten-Pears School of Advanced Music at the Snape Malting Concert Hall that also provides such calming walks along the riverbank or journey along a river (the Alde).

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