A blog about my photos, my artwork, quotations, ideas, collections, passions, England, authors, handwork of all kinds, rusty bits, buffalo, and architectural detail...for starters. And the occasional rant.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Snape Maltings, Suffolk

The composer Benjamin Britten was inspired by the 'vast skies and moody seas' of the Suffolk coast. A central figure of 20th-century British classical music, he was born in Lowestoft and died in Aldeburgh. He was one of the founders of the Aldeburgh Music Festival in 1948.

Benjamin Britten
Newson Garrett was a Victorian entrepreneur who purchased land at the small port of Maltings in the 1800's. Within three years of his arrival Garrett was shipping 17,000 quarters of barley a year from Snape and being one to spot an opportunity he built the Maltings in 1854 and was soon shipping malt rather than barley to the  brewing areas of Norwich and London. When this process came to an end in the 1960's, thirty acres of land and seven acres of industrial buildings were left vacant.

Serendipitously, Britten's festival was outgrowing it's first home at about the same time and he had the brilliance to envision the conversion of the largest malthouse into a concert hall, which was opened by the Queen in 1967. The complex is now home to rehearsal space as well as independent shops, galleries, restaurants, art exhibitions and what the English estate agents call 'character properties'...all tucked into brick buildings - new, old, and very old...but all brick.

Entering the complex, we found buildings that were neat and welcoming with freshly painted black and white trim. The gift shops, galleries, and restaurants were quite busy even at midday on a midweek in mid-May. It wasn't until we were heading out the exit that the complex took on a distinctly wabi-sabi aspect. In these unused buildings, time had done what it does best and created a beautiful palette of slow, steady disintegration.

Photo by Amethina
Photo by Amethina
I very much fear that over time, all of these wonderful old bedraggled buildings will be cleaned up and converted into character townhouses and bolt-holes for wealthy Londoners. I would like to think the worn and aged bricks are better prepared to absorb the strains of music of a similar age as it wafts over the Suffolk saltings.

Saltings: An area of coastal land that is regularly covered by the tide.
Maltings: A malt house, or maltings, is a building where cereal grain is converted into malt by soaking it in water, allowing it to sprout and then drying it to stop further growth. The malt is used in brewing beer, whiskey and in certain foods. The traditional malt house was largely phased out during the twentieth century.

No comments:

Post a Comment