I stayed with Kate and Geoff for a few days after my birthday. Kate and I had plans for a few days, and had hoped to go to the coast for one of our days, but the weather was wet and windy, and we thought we’d stay in land. We trotted off to Snape Maltings instead.
At its height, Snape Maltings was one of the largest flat floor malting in the country. Basically, when the barley was wet, and being allowed to sprout prior to drying, it was spread over the floor of the building, to give it a larger surface area. After 120 years, the maltings closed in 1965. Apparently, it was a very inefficient plant. Well, I suppose if they were still using the same method, it probably would be.
Soon after closure, a chap called George Gooderham bought the buildings and so began a conversion from an industrial area to shops, concert hall and art galleries.
The first thing to be built was the concert hall, then came the craft shop. There were some beautiful pieces in there, many of which were made locally. There are also some lovely clothes shops selling off high street pieces. Yes, I cannot lie, I did buy a hat.
The village of Snape itself has been there in some form or other for about 2000 years, although the original settlement was on higher ground, and moved closer to the river at a later stage. For a little village, it has a lot of history.
The Romans also settled here, whilst on their quest to subdue all the tribes in Britain. There was a priory just outside of the village too, founded by a local landowner named William Martell, before he set off for the Third Crusade. Like other priories, it met its demise in the reign of Henry VIII, however, one of the barns remains.
The Romans used the area for salt production; in the 19th century the area was used for producing fertiliser, which led to the formation of the company Fisons. Sugar Beet was – and still is – produced in the area, and, of course, malting barley happened in the area.
Snape became a tourist area as far back as the 18th century, as a result of the race course, which led to what is now the A1094 being built to make it easier to get to. By the end of the 19th century, Snape was a busy inland port.
When I visited the Maltings, I wondered why anyone would put a concert hall in this area – a village that is a bit out of the way. Until I learned about the connection with the composer Benjamin Britten.
Britten was born in Lowestoft in Suffolk and went to school in Holt, in Norfolk, before winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. Despite travelling to America, Britten didn’t forget his Suffolk roots, and in June 1948, along with singer Peter Pears and producer Eric Crozier, founded the Aldeburgh Festival of Music and Arts. In its early days, there was no venue in the area that was really big enough to do it justice, but, when the concert hall at Snape Maltings was built, voila! The concert hall was burnt down on the first night of the 1969 concert, moving the festival to other areas. It was rebuilt by the following year, and the festival has gone from strength to strength.
There are a couple of little restaurants at Snape Maltings, as well as the other attractions, and various events take place throughout the year, including a farmers’ market on 5 November this year.
© Susan Shirley 2016