Amongst the Parish records for Loddon we find a hand addressed envelope containing a printed letter dated 1847, detailing the work of a Mr A. A. Suggate. Who would have thought that this ordinary letter held at the Norfolk Record Office could provide research of such richness and curiosity?
The letter proposes that Mr A Suggate has been a pupil at the Leipzig Conservatory and that he can be contacted in Jetty Road Gt Yarmouth.
Looking at the wonderful collection of maps at the NRO we find that Jetty Rd is mentioned in Historical Yarmouth book 27 (today we know it as St Peters Road off King Street), and Whites Norfolk Directory, page 289, has an entry for music Dealers – Suggate Wm. King St.
Research has shown that Alfred was born in Islington, Middlesex in 1822, son of William and Harriet Suggate, who moved their family of 4 boys, (Robert /William/Alfred/Henry Ezra) and 4 girls (Charlotte/Emily/Sarah/Margaret) to the east coast. Robert became a sea farer and wrote a journal, he describes his first voyage delivering flour to London and, in 1830, boarded the East India merchant ship “William Lowther” to sail to China for a cargo of tea. Henry Ezra was a Chemist and Druggist on St Peters Rd, Yarmouth.
So it seems fair to postulate that Mr Suggate was in Gt Yarmouth…..but was he an accomplished musician and did he go to Leipzig? Documentation about Great Yarmouth reveals that Mr A Suggate was the leader of a band. On the “21st Nov 1842 First concert of the Gt Yarmouth Amateur Musical society given at the Town Hall. Leader of the band Mr A Suggate” (1).
After contacting the historical department at the Leipzig we received proof of the enrolment of Alfred Suggate. In August 1846, Alfred travelled to the Conservatory – admission was based on a musical examination and the tuition cost was 80 thalers annually (scholarships were available for worthy students). Between the spring of 1843 and 1847, 17 British students received instruction by Mendelssohn. There is an account of 15 negligent students and Alfred was given a “sharp warning” for missing a class (2).
An archive document from Leipzig, reads that Suggate didn’t pay his debts (the tuition fees) and went back to England in 1847. The historian at the Record Office in Leipzig thinks this might be the reason for not having a certificate for him.
So, yes, Alfred Albert Suggate must have been a musician of notability.
Suggate travelled throughout the Waveney valley as a “professor of music” offering music lessons. In 1848 he married and moved to Lowestoft, where he had a shop in Lowestoft High Street from 1850. Then in 1855 he moved to a new and larger property in London Rd North. He had 4 children and one child is given Felix Mendelsohn as middle names!
Interestingly he composed a number of pieces of music. These include The Royal Tune Book for Beginners on the Piano Forte, and 3 pieces which are held at the British Library, including the Lowestoft Quadrille c. 1854.
Little is known about Albert Suggate’s later life. Following a high profile divorce case in 1859 between Albert and his wife Sarah, the contents of their home on London Road, Lowestoft were put up for sale. The Suffolk Record Office, Lowestoft has a copy of the Public Auction Sale poster (SRO: 1117/276/78) and many documents about the Suggate family of Beccles and Lowestoft for those interested in pursuing the life of this family further.
This research project has shown that a small advertising leaflet can provide a colourful story.
Let’s hope that despite his imperfections, Alfred Albert Suggate can be remembered for his music, examples of which can be heard by listening to the audio clips below.
With thanks to Sally Smith for playing and recording these for us.
The Lowestoft Quadrille Part 1: North Cliffs and Light House
The Lowestoft Quadrille Part 2: Esplanade and Pakefield Cliffs
The Lowestoft Quadrille Part 3: The Railway and Lake Lothing
The Lowestoft Quadrille Part 4: The Pier and Harbour
Compiled by a NRO Research Blogger
- Chronological Retrospect of the History of Yarmouth and neighbourhood from A.D. 46 to 1884
- “Mendelssohn: A Life in Music by R. Larry Todd (ISBN: 9780195179880)”