Queen Fridias

Cross Dyke, Barpham Hill

Ireland’s early, discarded title for his 1933 Legend for piano and orchestra was ‘Queen Fridias’. So who was this elusive character, and why might that title have seemed appropriate? The picture above shows mounds on the cross dyke at Barpham, with Harrow Hill visible in the distance. Of the several barrows on this hill (though it is uncertain which one), it was recorded that ‘Queen Fridias is buried here’. The area is also known as Friday’s Church because the Romans were believed to have had a temple there: as at Chanctonbury, Roman coins and other remains have been found in the barrows. Given Ireland’s fascination with the prehistoric history of the South Downs, it is likely that he knew of some of the research and legends. In any case, we know that his bookshelves included several relevant works, among them Arthur Beckett’s 1909 The Spirit of the Downs and A. Hadrian Allcroft’s 1922 Downland Pathways, which describes old tracks, camps, dewponds and other vestiges of antiquity. Fridias is a variant of the name Frige, an Anglo-Saxon goddess, in turn a variant of Frigg/Frigga, the Norse goddess, wife of Odin and queen of Asgard. In the end Ireland’s original thoughts veered away from this figure to his personal experience on Harrow Hill (see earlier post on this location).

Image © Copyright Simon Carey and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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