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What was Suffolk rural life really like a century ago?

PUBLISHED: 11:22 18 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:22 18 September 2019

From the lithographs of Harry Becker exhibition from the Loftus Family Collection   Picture: DOUG ATFIELD

From the lithographs of Harry Becker exhibition from the Loftus Family Collection Picture: DOUG ATFIELD

The Alde Valley Spring Festival

The realities and hardships of farm life just a century ago are being brought to life by a new Suffolk folk fair.

White House Farm, a sheep farm owned by Jason Gathorne-Hardy, is the setting for Plomesgate Fair  Picture: SIMON PARKERWhite House Farm, a sheep farm owned by Jason Gathorne-Hardy, is the setting for Plomesgate Fair Picture: SIMON PARKER

Plomesgate Fair, which is taking place until September 29 near Saxmundham on a working farm, offers an insight into the county's rich rural heritage, and the craft and artistry which lies behind it - as well as showing what farm life used to be like through a moving art exhibition.

The event - hosted by White House Farm - is the first of its kind and celebrates folk music, heritage crafts, writing and the arts in a rural setting.

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One of the highlights is an exhibition of the lithographs of Suffolk-based artist Harry Becker, who was born in Colchester in 1865, studied art in Belgium and Paris, and moved to Wenhaston and Darsham. His works depict farmers - and their heavy horses - at work in the field.

There is also a rich array of woven works, with guest curator Stephanie Bunn's Baskets of the Land and Sea exhibition. It features a large selection of antique and contemporary basketry from the UK and abroad, with examples of other items woven from plant fibres.

Jason Gathorne-Hardy, curator/director of the Alde Valley Spring Festival  Picture: JASON GATHORNE-HARDYJason Gathorne-Hardy, curator/director of the Alde Valley Spring Festival Picture: JASON GATHORNE-HARDY

Guest exhibitors include Mary Butcher, Lois Walpole and Peter Dibble, whose father-in-law was renowned basket maker Will Berry.

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Peter has continued Will Berry's willow beds at Halesworth, which are now the main source of raw materials for his own basket-making practice. He has been commissioned to make two replica potato baskets based on designs that appear in lithographs of a Dutch potato harvest in the early 1900s.

White House Farm - which tries to keep alive traditional crafts and skills - is home to Alde Valley Mutton and a small resident wool flock.

The Binder Team by Harry Becker from the Lithographs of Harry Becker exhibition, taken from the Loftus Family Collection  Picture: SIMON LOFTUSThe Binder Team by Harry Becker from the Lithographs of Harry Becker exhibition, taken from the Loftus Family Collection Picture: SIMON LOFTUS

Resident craftspeople include knife forgers, chairmarkets, leather workers and wood turners.

A memory/visitor book seeking feedback is available at the basketry exhibition and fair organisers would like to hear from visitors who might have old Suffolk baskets or any photographs of ancestors or family members who were local basketmakers in the 20th or late 19th centuries - or information about lost willow beds in Suffolk.

The fair is open daily from 11am to 6pm and is organised by the Alde Valley Spring Festival, which is run by artist and farmer Jason Gathorne-Hardy.

From the Lithographs of Harry Becker exhibition, taken from the Loftus Family Collection  Picture: DOUG ATFIELDFrom the Lithographs of Harry Becker exhibition, taken from the Loftus Family Collection Picture: DOUG ATFIELD

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