2010: Aldeburgh’s high street history preserved online

As published by BBC Suffolk, 6 December 2010

Aldeburgh’s high street in 1894 – not a trendy jewellers in sight

The history of Aldeburgh’s high street is being documented on a website dedicated to the town.

Aldeburgh Museum Online charts some of the changes from 1790 to the present day, with a request being made for additional photographs.

“What we’re trying to do at the moment is put information on a database,” said Diana Hughes, the museum’s curator. “So every snippet is recorded and we can gradually build up a picture as to how the high street developed.”

The website is an extension of Ms Hughes’s book, Aldeburgh Revisited: A Portrait of a Seaside Town.

“I’m gradually going to put as many of the pictures as I possibly can so people can see what it’s like,” said Ms Hughes. “Before we started to do this, all the pictures were in these drawers and very few people got to see them.”

The website looks at several aspects of Aldeburgh’s history, from the Battle of Sole Bay, the affect of natural disasters on the town and even witchcraft. “We’ve got records of the witches,” said Ms Hughes. “Seven of them were hanged here – it was a nasty place in those days.”

History of the high street

Edward Butcher’s Supply Store on the high street, circa 1920

The archive photos show that the buildings which house shops today served the same purpose all those years ago. However, in many cases the products on offer are different.

“The whole nature of the high street has changed,” said Ms Hughes. “There are very few what you’d call basic shops now. We’ve got the Co-op, a bakers, and a greengrocers has opened up recently. But mostly it’s trendy jewellery, clothes shops, whatever they think will appeal to the visitor. Ice cream parlours, coffee shops, we’re reliant on visitors.”

Would residents welcome the return of shops from yesteryear?

“I think the locals would like it, but to be honest there aren’t that many locals, certainly not in the high street area,” said Ms Hughes. “If you look at the houses there, and off the high street, there aren’t that many permanent residents. They’re nearly all holiday accommodation, weekend cottages and the majority of local residents live outside the town. Anybody with any sense gets out and goes elsewhere – Waitrose, Tesco – for a big shop. It’s so much cheaper.”

If you have a photo of Aldeburgh you would like to share with the museum, e-mail: enquiries@aldeburghmuseum.org.uk

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