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All At Sea.

A couple of weeks ago, to distract myself from the continual coverage of the chaos caused by the human hand grenade and her chum and chancellor Kwasi, who both seemed to be all at sea, I turned my attention to looking at some old maps and I came across this one showing the village of Slaughden with its Three Mariners Inn.

Despite having visited a fair number of farms in and around Aldeburgh two thirds of a lifetime ago, whilst working for an East Anglian agricultural merchant, I can't ever recall hearing the name of this village or its pub. It was time for a bit of digging.

Slaughden is to be found on the Suffolk coast, about a mile south of the town of Aldeburgh, whose greatest claim to fame is probably that it was home to the composer Benjamin Britten. The village, or probably more correctly the former village, is located at the northern end of a shingle spit which extends along the coast almost as far as where the lost Lifeboat Inn used to stand at Shingle Street. With the River Alde to its west and the North Sea to its east Slaughden used to be an important centre for fishing and shipbuilding in mediaeval times and the Three Mariners was in existence there from at least 1790 if the Woodbridge licensing records are to be trusted. They're probably reliable as the Universal British Directory, published the following year, lists it with Thomas Wilkinson as its landlord.

Extract from the 1791 Universal British Directory.

Facing inland towards the saltmarsh, and with its rear elevation close to the sea, the Three Mariners served the inhabitants of Slaughden for over one hundred and twenty years.

Three Mariners Slaughden

Hanging over the porch in the above postcard image is the pub sign. This was unusual, being made from the scapula of a whale. This shoulder blade, complete with the pub's name inscribed on it, can still be seen if you visit the museum in Aldeburgh.

The whalebone pub sign © Jon Agar

The Three Mariners lived on the edge. This colourised postcard shows just how close the rear of the pub was to the North Sea.

Three Mariners Slaughden
The Three Mariners Inn on the left and a Martello Tower poking up on the right.

That proximity to the briny did leave the pub at risk of a little water ingress from time to time. In January 1895 the east coast was subjected to a series of storms. The Ipswich Journal reported that... Slaughden, fences, sheds, boats and everything near the sea were smashed. The Three Mariners Inn, depicted many years ago by Crabbe, the poet, is a complete wreck. A gang of men were employed on the Thursday morning removing an immense quantity of shingle and sand that had half filled the house. The water had rushed into the house, and the furniture, books, etc., were left in confusion. The cradle, perambulator, which the children had only just vacated, were smashed, tables had their legs broken off, barrels of beer thrown about; the huge piles from the sea defences smashed through the windows, and lay on top of the furniture. The landlady was saved, with her children, in a boat.

I usually try to include an image showing what the bygone boozer, or the site where it once stood, looks like today. This one's a bit tricky and this is the best that I can do.

The Martello Tower is still there and somewhere a little to the left of the close foreground in this image is where once stood the Three Mariners. Whilst the aforementioned Lifeboat down the coast a bit was destroyed in 1943 by "experimental bombing" the loss of the Three Mariners was down to a more natural destructive power – waves. When did its regulars wave it goodbye? Well, Kelly's directory of 1916 shows Edward Norton as the landlord...

...but no application was made to renew the Three Mariners' licence in 1918. Just like Liz Truss and her cabinet were last month, the Three Mariners was, by then, all at sea. Virtually all that remains at Slaughden today is a sailing club and the Martello Tower.

Thanks to Jon Agar for the use of his image of the pub's sign. Mat Fascione's image is copyright and is reused under this licence. The map extract is copyright and is reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under this one.

If you've read this far, then thank you. Possibly, like me, you may have some sort of interest in bygone boozers. Clicking here will take you to a searchable/sortable index which you can use to see if I've already featured any lost locals from your locality. You can also subscribe to ensure that you don't miss any future posts. Simply click here to return to the home page (opens in a new tab), follow the 'Subscribe' link and complete the form to receive an email notification of any future post. Or you could simply follow the link at the top of this page.

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