An Illustrated Social History

Walk 7.


WALK SEVEN is the third of our imaginary walks, this time down the aptly-named bead Lane (in the middle of the map), which approaches but does not connect with the marshy expanse of Culfen (named in the 962 Charter: it is said to be ‘Cula’s Fen’, after an Anglo-Saxon landowner).

The map also describes the route of WALK EIGHT, which passes down Parsonage Lane, through the midst of the one-time glebe lands of our rectors, and then crosses Culfen to the Dentford River coming down from Bildeston. The path then follows the western river bank up to the boundary with Bildeston by Dentford Bridge.

This was another short walk, undertaken once more only in imagination, this time along the green lane running between the former Great Field and the fields above Parsonage Lane, which is now probably closed to the public. We have a chance to reflect upon a new topic, Politics and Government, setting in context the various issues which we will tackle later, among them the position of the monarchy. Thinking of which, is it perhaps appropriate that today’s walk takes us to a dead end?

Prologue - Politics and Government in the early Eighteenth Century

The Whigs were in power throughout most of this period, winning all but one of the parliamentary elections and, even when out of power, securing many of the key ministries by royal patronage, particularly under George I.

Put simply, the Whigs represented commerce and the landowning commoner, standing for religious toleration and trade freedoms. By contrast, the Tory party may be characterised as aristocratic defenders of the status quo, of privilege and the established church. They were fatally flawed in the minds both of their monarchs and of the public at large by their ambivalent attitude towards the Stuart Pretender and his ally Catholic France.

Politics in those days, and indeed all aspects of public and institutional life, were fundamentally corrupt and self-serving, and the astute management of parliament’s powers of patronage played a large part in gaining and holding on to political advantage. The Duke of Newcastle was the leading figure in this respect, on behalf of the Whigs.

The one occasion on which the Whigs, led by Godolphin and Marlborough, fell foul of the public mood was in 1710, as the war dragged on without any resolution of the key question of the

Spanish succession (and underlying this, the crucial issues of territory and trade). Harley exploited this sense of futility to persuade the electorate (qualified to vote chiefly by the ownership of freehold property) to throw out the Whigs; while his younger and more combative colleague St John appealed to those with mercantile interests by attacking our allies and trading rivals, the Dutch.

By the time of the next election in 1715, the Tory leadership had become entangled in treasonable discussions with the Pretender, and St John (now Lord Bolingbroke) and others were exiled, though Harley (Lord Oxford) was exonerated. The Whigs took over, and under the leadership of Stanhope, a most capable soldier and