The Archive

A Virtual Museum

The Aldeburgh Museum Website aims to display a history of this vibrant little sea-side town, based upon the images and documents held in the Moot Hall. Here you may discover how our town has developed through the years, from the time the Romans came to Barber’s Point until the present day.

Market-Scan-1501small

This is an artist’s realisation of the scene outside the Aldeburgh Town Hall on market day (c.1590). The houses stretching to the North and East come as a surprise, but there are documents and maps which prove they were there, although we can only guess at their appearance. There is a little guess-work too about the appearance of the market stalls, but the Town Hall and its shops must have looked much like this although there is some doubt about the construction of the outside stairs, which were the only means of access to the Council Chamber.

Aldeburgh History; an outline

Aldeburgh has almost no recorded history before the time of Henry VIII, but archaeological evidence indicates the earlier presence of both the Romans and the Saxons.

By the time Domesday Book was compiled in 1086 this corner of Suffolk was one of the most highly populated parts of the country; foreign merchant ships were visiting English waters; and the port of Dunwich was developing, soon to dominate the coast.  Aldeburgh, however, remained an unimportant little fishing village until some time after 1500, when its shifting coast-line opened up a sheltered ‘haven’ which soon became a thriving centre for ship-building and trade. The town prospered.

Less than two hundred years later everything had changed. The sea had overwhelmed many homes, erosion had eaten into the coast-line and the Town Hall was now on the edge of the sea. The Haven was silting up and could no longer accommodate big ships. Poverty visited Aldeburgh; houses were deserted; people hungry.

But then, just as it seemed the town was doomed, holiday-makers discovered it. First it was rich, aristocratic families, who, disdaining the bustling south coast resorts, came to find tranquillity and elegant society in Aldeburgh. They built grand houses, promenaded beside the sea in all their finery, and began to dip their toes in the water. They were followed by more modest visitors and the fortunes of the town revived.

This project began as a series of display boards for use in the Museum which were then transformed into a book to interest a wider public. The present website aims to include many more images and to paint a much more detailed picture of the fascinating history of Aldeburgh.

Moot Hall today


If you have any images or information we might
copy for our archive, please contact us.