Our trading experience has shown that customers use us and like us because we provide a first class service. Although we originally expected the relationship to Benjamin Britten would be important to the business, this has proved not to be so. Customers want good service, not a famous name.
Nevertheless some customers do, from time to time, want to know more about the relationship, and we are therefore including here some brief family details which we hope will be of interest. The life and works of this famous man are extensively covered elsewhere, and we do not feel it appropriate or necessary to repeat them here.
John Britten, the founder of the West Byfleet branch of Britten's Music is a nephew of Benjamin Britten, being the eldest son of the composer's brother Robert.
John's grandfather Robert Victor Britten, the composer's father, was a dentist in Lowestoft in Suffolk, England; an excellent dentist by all accounts but not particularly musical. However John's grandmother Edith Rhoda Britten (nee Hockey) came from a musical and artistic family. She was a good singer and a keen member of the local Choral Society.
There were four children of the marriage, known locally as the four B's. In order they were Barbara, Robert (Bobby), Charlotte Elizabeth (Beth), and Edward Benjamin (Ben).
All the children were interested in music, and John's father Robert was an early star performer at the family's musical evenings, being a good amateur pianist and violinist. However when Ben came along, it was quickly apparent that his talents were out of the ordinary, and the parents must have soon realised that they were bringing up a genius.
The children seem to have been devoted to their parents, and had a generally happy upbringing. Barbara became a Midwife and Health Visitor. Bobby turned into Robert after his father's death, became a school headmaster, and had two sons John and Alan. Beth married Dr Kit Welford and had three children, Sebastian, Sally and Rosemary. Ben became a world famous composer.
All the nephews and nieces of Benjamin have retained a strong interest in music, and are amateur musicians in one field or other.
John Britten won a music scholarship to Radley College at the age of 12, and was later awarded a choral exhibition at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University. He then pursued a career with major international corporations, including Reckitt & Colman, Procter & Gamble and Sterling Drug.
He kept in touch with his famous uncle, and when he decided in 1973 to set up Britten's Music, he wrote to tell Uncle Ben of his intentions. By return came a delightful and encouraging reply, written in the composer's own hand, which is one of John's most treasured possessions. Later, in 1976, John and his wife Barbara went to see the composer during the last month of his life, and he was pleased to hear that the firm was successfully established and promising to do well.
John has many mementoes of his uncle, including many hand written notes and letters, and memories passed down from his father. They are all personal and of no particular value, excepting the most important and interesting one which is the first piece of music ever written by the composer.
This is a play called The Royal Falily (sic), written at the age of five or six, on the subject of the Prince of Wales' visit to the West Indies where he met one of Ben's aunts. The play contains a few bars of recognisable music set to the words 'Oh my toe toe and roe roe'.
Written in 1919/20, the play is too valuable and too fragile to be kept at home, and it is therefore lodged in the Britten- Pears Museum at the Red House in Aldeburgh for safe keeping.
Of the other nephews and nieces, John's brother Alan is also an amatuer pianist and choral singer. He plays a key role at the Aldeburgh Festival and Snape Maltings Foundation, being a member of Council. Sebastian Welford is a highly skilled computer programmer (as well as an amateur flautist and choral singer). Sally is a teacher, Rosemary runs a combined restaurant and bookshop in Oregon, USA. All the five nephews and nieces are married and have produced a total of fourteen children between them.