• TTDA - The Red House - Benjamin Britten

Born & Bred on The Suffolk Coast

From authors to composers, singers to film stars; discover some of the well-known names that were born and bred on The Suffolk Coast

Benjamin Britten

Born in Lowestoft in 1913, composer Benjamin Britten grew up in a house on Kirkley Cliff Road, with views of the North Sea providing much inspiration for his compositions. Britten's early attempts to compose were encouraged by his mother and at age 15 he began composition lessons with the composer Frank Bridge. The house is now a popular Bed and Breakfast. 

The composer's connections to The Suffolk Coast don't stop there; in 1948, a year after buying a house in the seaside town of Aldeburgh (now The Red House), Britten and Peter Pears established the first Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts, and in 1967 the Queen opened Snape Maltings Concert Hall as a larger venue for the growing festival. 

Visitors to The Red House can find out more about Britten and Pears’ lives together through exhibitions, recitals, discovery sessions, study days and come and sing events that take place across the year as well as family-friendly activities and trails.

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey

Born in Ipswich, Suffolk, around 1475, Thomas Wolsey was a Cardinal and statesman, Henry VIII's lord chancellor and one of the last churchmen to play a dominant role in English political life.

He gained a good education and studied at Magdalen College, Oxford. Wolsey was ordained in around 1498 and became chaplain to the archbishop of Canterbury and later chaplain to Henry VII. 

Wolsey made a name for himself as an efficient administrator, both for the Crown and the church. When Henry VIII became king in 1509, Wolsey's rapid rise began. In 1514, he was created archbishop of York and a year later the pope made him a cardinal. Soon afterwards the king appointed him lord chancellor. The King delegated more and more state business to him, including Wolsey to use his influence in Rome to get a papal annulment of Henry's marriage so that he could remarry but his failure in making this happen led to his downfall and Wolsey was arrested near York in November 1530 and accused of treason, dying on the 29th November on his way to face trial.

Ed Sheeran

Award-winning singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, but moved to Framlingham as a young child. His singing career began in the local church choir aged 4 and he learned how to play the guitar and began writing songs while at Thomas Mills High School in the town. 

In addition to having the highest-grossing concert tour and being one of the world's best-selling music artists with more than 150 million records sold, Sheeran has received a number of awards including four Grammy Awards, five Brit Awards, six Billboard Music Awards and the Ivor Novello Award for Songwriter of the Year in 2015 and 2018.

In 2015, Sheeran received an honorary degree from the University of Suffolk in Ipswich for his outstanding contribution to music, saying "Suffolk is very much where I call home. Receiving this recognition is a real privilege."

George Orwell

Born Eric Arthur Blair on 25th June 1903, George Orwell penned works such as Ninteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, and is considered one of the 20th Century’s best narrators of English culture. 

Orwell’s family set up home in Southwold upon his father’s retirement. Orwell attended school there and visited frequently in his later life. In 1929 he returned to his parents’ house in Southwold, where he stayed for 5 years. The family was well established in the local community and his sister Avril was running a tea house in the town. During his last year in Southwold he wrote A Clergyman’s Daughter, based on his life as a teacher and on his experiences in Southwold. 

Jimmy Docherty

The Suffolk-based farmer and television presenter was born in Ilford, Essex and trained as a farmer in Cumbria, but it's in the countryside surrounding Ipswich that he set up his farm; the base for the BBC TV series. 

The farm is now a successful visitor attraction with shops, a butterfly house, gardens and animal pens and also hosts a regular market and events throughout the year 

The Darkness

Although born in Surrey in 1975, lead singer of The Darkness Justin Hawkins began playing clubs and pubs in North Suffolk, having attended High School in Lowestoft. The band took inspiration for some of their work from the local area, including the song 'Black Shuck' which mentions the village of Blythburgh.

The band's debut album 'Permission to Land' went straight to number two in the UK charts upon its release in 2003 before going to number one and staying there for four weeks, eventually going on to sell 1.5 million copies in the UK. 3.5m copies over all. The band won three BRIT Awards in 2004 for Best Group, Best Rock Group and Best Album and two Kerrang! awards in 2004 for Best Live Act and Best British Band.

Probably their best known song 'I Believe in a Thing Called Love', was a a massive hit in the UK, featuring in the film 'Bridget Jones Diary', along with their Christmas song, 'Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End)'. 

Ralph Fiennes

Born in Ipswich on 22nd December 1962, actor Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, Fiennes was the eldest of seven children, with his younger brother Joseph also becoming an actor.

Fiennes wanted to be a painter and so studied at the Chelsea College of Art and Design. It was here he discovered acting and transferred to and graduated from London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, subsequently joining the Royal National Theatre in 1987 and the Royal Shakespeare Company a year later.

Fiennes is known for his illustrious stage and film career; starring in Schindler's List, The English Patient, James Bond Skyfall, The Reader and the Harry Potter series, playing Lord Voldemort.  

Thomas Gainsborough

Baptized on 14th May 1727, portrait and landscape painter Thomas Gainsborough was the most versatile English painter of the 18th century. 

Gainsborough was the youngest son of John Gainsborough, a maker of woolen goods. When he was 13, he persuaded his father to send him to London to study on the strength of his promise at landscape. He worked as an assistant to Hubert Gravelot, a French painter and engraver and from him, learned the French Rococo idiom, which influenced his style.

In 1746 in London he married Margaret Burr, the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Beaufort. Soon afterwards he returned to Suffolk and settled in Ipswich in 1752 having two daughters Mary and Margaret.

Gainsborough painted few full-length portraits in Suffolk; The Painter’s Daughters Chasing a Butterfly, composed in his the last years at Ipswich; 'Mr and Mrs Andrews', which is set in a typical Suffolk landscape, 'Lady and Gentleman in Landscape' and 'Heneage Lloyd and His Sister, Lucy'. 

P.D James

The renowned crime fiction writer, P. D. James, had a second home in Southwold and it was here that several of her novels were set; In Unnatural Causes, when Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh spends a quiet holiday at his aunt’s cottage on Monksmere Head, just south of Dunwich. However, all hope of peace is soon shattered by murder. On his initial journey, the detective stops at Blythburgh church and enters ‘the cold silvery whiteness of one of the loveliest church interiors in Suffolk’.

Covehithe is the setting for Death in Holy Orders, and in The Children of Men, a novel set in the future, Southwold is the centre for the compulsory suicide of the old.