William Burrell papers

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 1111 BUR
  • Dates of Creation
  • Physical Description
      1 box; 6 files

Scope and Content

A collection of miscellaneous items relating to William (Billy) Burrell of Aldeburgh (1925-1999), fisherman and lifeboat coxswain, and friend of Britten and E. M. Forster.

Administrative / Biographical History

Billy was born in Aldeburgh in 1925. His mother's family were Norfolk farmers and his father's descendants of off-shore fishermen. Billy served the Royal Navy coastal service during the war, and worked as a fisherman and lived in Aldeburgh all of his life. Billy Burrell worked for the Aldeburgh lifeboat for more than 40 years, and was coxswain from 1978 to 1985. He was a long-time friend of Britten, and was rumoured to have been an inspiration for Britten's opera Billy Budd.

Access Information


This material is made available under the standard conditions of the Britten-Pears Foundation. Readers will be required to produce proof of identity and to sign a Reader's Undertaking form.

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Judith Tydeman, March 2004.

Custodial History

Received from William V Burrell, July 1990.


For further information on Billy Burrell, the reader is referred to the following published items, copies of which are available in the Archive reading room:'The fisherman who made a splash' by Christian Tyler in Financial Times, 20/21 May 1995.'A passage to Aldeburgh in search of Forster' by Michael Davie in The Observer, 16 Jun 1985.'Old salts, Aldeburgh fishermen' by Paul Heiney in Country Living March 1987, p.134-139.'Peter Pears, a tribute on his 75th birthday', edited by Marion Thorpe, letter from William Burrell on p. 12-13.'Aldeburgh Corky Burrell, a lifeboat man' by Eric Crozier in Ark, the journal of the Royal College of Art, vol. 7, 1953, p.10-13.Obituary published in the East Anglian Daily Times, 25 Jun 1999.