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Aldeburgh's high street history preserved online
Aldeburgh high street in 1894
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.

The whole nature of the high street has changed - there are very few what you'd call basic shops now.
Diana 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

The archive photos show that the buildings which house shops today served the same purpose all those years ago.

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

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

BBC Suffolk in Stowmarket

On Wednesday, 8 December BBC Suffolk will be broadcasting live from a Turn Back Time: The High Street event in Stowmarket, run by Mid Suffolk District Council's Discovery Project.

The former Bedroom Shop on Ipswich Road is being taken over for the day.

A timeline will show the history of Stowmarket's high street and visitors will be asked to predict how it could be in 50 years' time.

Come along, take a look and have your say.

Lesley Dolphin will be broadcasting live on BBC Radio Suffolk from 12.30-4pm.

Hands on History

In pictures: Aldeburgh high street
06 Dec 10 |  History
In pictures: Introducing seaside tour
30 Nov 10 |  BBC Introducing
Halesworth shops turn back time
22 Nov 10 |  History
History of Suffolk's high streets
29 Oct 10 |  History
Maggi Hambling and the North Sea
23 Sep 09 |  Arts & Culture



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