Britten’s High Street – The History of Shopping in Aldeburgh

As part of the Sharing Suffolk Stories initiative the Britten’s High Street project has been set up by the Archive Team at the Red House in Aldeburgh to explore the history of shopping in our town.

Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears are obviously key pieces in Aldeburgh’s rich tapestry, and we were very lucky that they shopped at O&C Butcher from the 1950’s-1970’s.  They were customers way back when O&C had a grocery shop but over 50 receipts show the clothes and accessories that they bought from us over the years.  Good to see that they bought Levi’s from us in 1970, a brand that we stock on the High Street today.

One of the most significant receipts for us but also for the Archive Team is shown above. Britten and Pears, since their relationship was illegal for much of their lives together, had to keep their finances separate and avoid holding property in common if they were to avoid making their relationship conspicuous, so the top line of the receipt (partly hidden by the sticker that shows the bill has been paid), specifying that these are “shoe repairs (for Mr Pears)” is a way of their making it very clear – to tax authorities, auditors, or anyone else who might see their papers – that they are not a couple in financial terms.  However, it also tells us that in 1965 their relationship was enough of an open secret and accepted by O&C Butcher’s for Britten or his representative to pop into the shop to collect Peter’s shoes and for them to be put on Britten’s bill. Therefore, it’s a nice indication of how Aldeburgh formed a safe space for them even in the years that their relationship was against the law.

It’s quite amazing what you can learn and piece together.  And for this reason, The Red House are encouraging members of the public to go along to the archive on Saturday 21st to see the archives in the flesh when the project is officially launched.

Find out more about Britten’s High Street and how you can get involved at:

If you can’t make it along to The Red House you can also search the catalogue online at: http://www.bpfcatalogue.org/

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