Transformative Suffolk day-trip a turning point in young composer’s life

Andrew Lloyd Webber. Picture: ZAK HUSSEIN/PA WIRE

Andrew Lloyd Webber. Picture: ZAK HUSSEIN/PA WIRE - Credit: PA

Musical theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber has revealed how the Suffolk countryside may have saved his life.

In a candid Mail on Sunday article, the celebrated composer opened up about his early battle with depression and notions of suicide.

The 69-year-old, whose memoir, Unmasked, is published next month, said an impromptu journey to a medieval Suffolk village helped him overcome a bleak temptation.

Recalling an unsettled childhood at Westminster junior school, when he feared he may never succeed as a songwriter, Lord Lloyd-Webber said: “I got quite depressed; it’s something that possibly affects artists.

One of Lavenham's historic buildings. Picture: GREGG BROWN

One of Lavenham's historic buildings. Picture: GREGG BROWN

“It was one of those moments where I thought everything had got on top of me. These things are illogical.”


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The future Academy Award-winner disclosed that he once stole painkillers from his parents’ bathroom cupboard and boarded an Underground train with the intention of ending his life.

“I felt very alone at the time,” he said.

Shops on Market Lane in Lavenham. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Shops on Market Lane in Lavenham. Picture: GREGG BROWN

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“It was pretty much at the end of the line – quite literally, because I went to the end of the Central Line, but then took a bus to Lavenham.”

A short spell in a completely different environment, away from home, had a profound effect on the young Lloyd Webber.

“It sorted me out and I simply got on the train back,” he said.

Historic Lavenham on a bright winter day. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Historic Lavenham on a bright winter day. Picture: GREGG BROWN

“It was probably all started by the combination of not really feeling happy at home, wanting to get away from school… all that sort of thing.”

Lord Lloyd Webber also discussed another attempt on his own life in the 1960s, as well as his marriages to Sarah Hugill, Sarah Brightman, and his current wife Madeleine Gurdon – a former equestrian and Suffolk native.

In 1991, their marriage was blessed at St Botolph’s Church, in her parents’ home village of Burgh, near Woodbridge.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and his wife, Madeleine Gurdon. Picture: PRESS ASSOCIATION

Andrew Lloyd Webber and his wife, Madeleine Gurdon. Picture: PRESS ASSOCIATION - Credit: PA

“When I met Madeleine it was almost like getting my life back,” he told the Mail on Sunday.

“A door has been unlocked back into a world that I’d perhaps missed in the previous years – people outside the theatre.

“There is a world outside the Tony Awards and I think that’s what Madeleine brings to me.”

Unmasked, by Andrew Lloyd Webber, is published by HarperCollins on March 8.

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