An Illustrated Social History

Walk 10.

BILDESTON DOWN BY WILD IRISH TOWARDS MILL LANE

This walk followed Walk Nine and took us back from Bildeston Church past the fields once known as Wild Irish - and in the Anglo-Saxon portion of the Charter of 962 as 'wealc hyrste’ - to Claypit Lane and then through the copses to Cakebridge Lane.


The name Wealc Hyrste means ‘foreigners’ wood’, and this suggests that there was a settlement of a different people in this area. The translation - if such it is - as ‘Wild Irish’ strengthens this by offering the possibility of a surviving group of Celts or Britons in and around the woods on this remote hillside at the Northern edge of the parish.


This is also the area where a short section of the parish boundary is marked by the line of the Roman road that ran East-West across country through the middle of Suffolk.


So it is may be a good time to reflect further on the contribution of both native and immigrant peoples to our culture - not, as on the next walk, in terms of literature, but in the arts - in music painting, architecture and so on.


Prologue - The Arts in the early Eighteenth Century


These were great years in musical history, containing the maturity of that wonderful trio born in 1685 - Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel and Domenico Scarlatti. There were numerous other distinguished composers and performers around Europe, too - notable among them Rameau, Vivaldi, Albinoni, Pergolesi, Telemann, but many more besides. Of all these, Handel was the most familiar in Britain and Ireland, having come over here for a quieter life when the continent exploded in conflicts great and small.


The style of this period of High Baroque - insofar as it can be generalised - was sophisticated, ornate, massively and intricately structured; a style, in fact, to please the wealthy aristocratic patrons on whom composers and performers (every musician of note fulfilled both roles) depended for their positions and livelihoods. It was music for the select few, rather than for a wider or a more discriminating audience.


In performance, for such as Bach - composing and playing for court and church patrons - these were times for the small group of concert musicians rather than the soloist. The main instruments were

the violin, harpsichord and organ (neither the pianoforte nor the symphony had yet come into being, nor yet the orchestra in its later flowering). Among the makers of these fine instruments, Antonio Stradivari was pre-eminent.


For Handel, before he came to England, the scene was somewhat different, for his operatic works provided scope for castrati and other voices to display themselves in splendid arias. Over here, though, the taste was for great choral works, indeed for his supreme oratorios.


Painting, too, had its great masters of the time - Canaletto, in particular, catered for the English milords with reminders of their Grand Tour around Venice. When he, like Handel, came to England in later years, it was these same clients that he sought out with landscapes of London.


As with music, the themes of much art were ornate and weighty -