Hidden East Anglia:
Landscape Legends of Eastern England
The Pirate's Grave
In the churchyard of St. Peter's (TM510902) is said to be a gravestone known as the Pirate's Grave (probably from a skull and crossbones carved on it), where running round it a certain number of times would cause the Devil to appear.
A tunnel is said to run from an unspecified place here to Clees Hall (TL881344), the manor house in Alphamstone, Essex, 8 miles away.
At grid reference TM366765 can be seen a massive lump of 'multistratified sandstone' 1.82m x 1.5m x 1.5m high, in the garden of Rockstone Lodge (a modern bungalow, actually just within the parish of Cookley, and built on land belonging to the former Rockstone Manor). It is often called Cedd's Stone, and judging by early records certainly seems to account for the name of the village: Old English Cedestan. But there is no direct evidence for its alleged connection with the preaching activities of St. Cedd.
In 1975, the then-owner of the Lodge told me that this was the original site of the stone, once a sand pit. As the sand was quarried, so the stone fell and broke, and pieces were carried away to the village to use in making walls etc. Many lesser pieces still lie scattered around the main lump (which could be taken for a natural outcrop were it anywhere else but Suffolk). Early maps do mark the site as a pit, then called 'Starvegut'. As Rockstone Manor is first recorded in the 13th century, the quarrying must go back a long way.
A more recent article4 has shed a slightly different light on the two stones noted above. It would seem that locally, the Chediston Hall Rock is now commonly thought to be the one from which the village took its name, whilst the one at Rockstone Lodge has been called 'Rhoca's Stone' - though this may just be an etymological invention.5
The stone - or collection of stones - near Chediston Hall apparently still exists, close to the parish boundary in a wood just north of the Hall (at TM371778.) A photograph taken in 1913 shows it as a considerable mass, but much has disappeared during the past century, and the parts are now widely scattered and overgrown.
Which is the actual Cedd's Stone that named the parish is still open to debate, but it seems likely that both came from the same glacial deposit.
1. 'Transactions of the Suffolk Natural History Society', Vol.2 (1932-3), Proceedings
The cursed tower
First built in the 15th century, the tower of St. Andrew's church was said to have been cursed by a local witch, and it subsequently burned down. In later years a more solid tower was built, but was struck by lightning and burned down. Again a massive square tower was built, but it was hit by a flying bomb in 1944 (although I find that the tower itself was damaged but not destroyed). In 1957 the whole church was rebuilt to the same plan as the original.
Source: Bob Roberts: 'A Slice of Suffolk' (Terence Dalton, 1978), p.8.
The guarded treasure
"According to local tradition, St. Felix buried near Clopton Hall
(TM218528) some treasure, to guard which he placed a huge dog and a monk. So the vicinity is supposed to be haunted by something half dog and half monk - an enormous hound with a monk's head. Up Whitefoot Lane [in Burgh parish] (named, incidentally, after this phantom) the villagers are loath to pass in the dark. In the old Hall there's a priests' chamber which, as they say, must not be disturbed, if one would wish to avoid...[the creature] being
1. A. A. MacGregor: 'The Ghost Book' (Robert Hale, 1955), p. 71.
An underground passage once used by a wealthy merchant was said to have run from St. Mary's church (TM133543) at Coddenham to a place formerly called Jordan's Farm.
The fallen tower
The west tower of the mostly 14th century, thatched, St. Mary's church (TL971784) fell down by itself many years ago, but an old man of the village told Arthur Mee's researchers that both the Romans and Saxons had knocked the tower down.
Source: Arthur Mee (ed.): 'The King's England - Suffolk' (Hodder & Stoughton, 1941), p.105.
The faceless lady
St. Andrew's (TM52308187) is a 17th century church built within the ruined, roofless shell of a much larger 14th-15th century one. In what is no more than a fragment of a tale, the churchyard is said to be haunted at night by the figure of a woman without a face. Nothing else seems to be recorded of who she was, nor why she is bound to the graveyard.
Source: Antony D. Hippisley Coxe: 'Haunted Britain' (Pan Books Ltd, 1975), p.106.
Jack's Green Road still runs through the area named after it, around TM090561, but the land itself is built upon. By tradition, this was the site of a graveyard for plague victims in the 17th century, and it was once believed that the spot was so infertile that even buttercups wouldn't grow on it.
Source: George Ewart Evans: ‘The Pattern Under the Plough’ (Faber & Faber, 1971), p.137.
The Hill of Health
Between Bury St. Edmunds and Thetford is a beautiful round barrow, crowned with a clump of Scots Pines, and situated on a height known as the Hill of Health (TL836713). But there is now no sign of the "large, unhewn block" said to be somewhere on the slope of the mound.1 (A report of 1937 said there were actually "two large sarsens" on the southern side of the barrow.2) The mound is now in the garden of a private house, and the owner when I visited in the 1970s could only say that it was "where the Saxons were buried". T. C. Lethbridge suggested the name might be a corruption of 'Hill of Helith' (aka Helios, Hercules.) He also recorded the tradition that the Danes once skinned a young shepherd there.3
1. M. R. James: 'Suffolk & Norfolk' (Dent & Sons, 1930), p.62.
3. T. C. Lethbridge: 'Gogmagog - the Buried Gods' (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1957).
Culpho is a tiny hamlet near Grundisburgh, a few miles west of Woodbridge. Abbey Farm here (TM207493) is the site of an abbey built in 1280 on behalf of the monks of Leiston Abbey many miles further to the north. A tunnel for their use allegedly runs from the abbey site to St. Botolph's church (TM210491), a few hundred metres across the fields.