Hidden East Anglia:

Landscape Legends of Eastern England











Landscape Features





Secret tunnels


There is said to be a subterranean passage from an unspecified house here to Holy Innocents church (TL889360) in the neighbouring village of Lamarsh; and another from the 15th century (but wrongly-named) Manor House (TL879355) in Lamarsh Road, to somewhere in Cavendish, over 8 miles away in Suffolk.


Source: Jack Lindsay: ‘The Discovery of Britain’ (Merlin Press, 1958), p.205.





The Lady Well


Cloaked by old trees, this soggy spot in a field near the rectory used to be the Lady Well (TL586424), reached by a footpath called Dorvis Lane off the main road through Ashdon. The pool is said to be haunted by the ghost of a woman who was thrown from her carriage one night, when lightning startled her horses.









The bloodstained hill


According to the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, in 1016 the conquering Danish army under Cnut was marauding across England. King Edmund Ironside pursued them into Essex, meeting them in a furious battle “at the place called Assandun”. Partly through the betrayal and desertion of one Eadric Streona, the king was beaten, and “there Cnut gained the victory, though all England fought against him.” Cnut became king of all England in 1020, and the ‘Chronicle’ then says that in this year, “the King [Cnut] went to Assandun, and caused a Minster to be built of stone and lime, for the souls of those who were slain there.”


It has long been a bone of contention as to which Essex village can lay claim to being ‘Assandun’ – Ashdon or Ashingdon. Some have even suggested Hadstock. Nowadays, it seems to be generally accepted that Ashingdon, and the hill on which stands the church of St. Andrew, was the actual site of the battle. Local legend has long said that no grass1 or trees2 will grow on the ‘bloodstained hill’ where the battle took place – which is given the lie since both seem to be plentiful on the hill today. The spirits of the slain warriors are said to haunt the hill, particularly on the anniversary of the conflict.3


An alternative tradition, based on the battle having occurred instead at Ashdon, says that while that village’s church was built in remorse by Cnut over the graves of the English, his own Danish slain were buried in the (actually Roman) burial mounds called the Bartlow Hills – once in Essex, but now just over the border in Cambridgeshire.4 See also Hadstock and Bartlow.



1. Reader’s Digest ‘Folklore, Myths & Legends of Britain’, p.228.

2. Ivan Bunn: ‘Haunted Churches of East Anglia’ in ‘Lantern’ No. 6, Summer 1974, p.7.

3. Dee Gordon: 'Haunted Southend' (The History Press, 2012; ebook version)

4. J. Westwood & J. Simpson: ‘The Lore of the Land’ (Penguin Books, 2006), p.250.



The crying ghost


Leading up to St. Andrew's church is a narrow lane called Church Road, beside which there used to be a tree upon which a woman is said to have hanged herself. Now she haunts the lane, her crying said to linger with those who hear it long afterward.


Source: Carmel King: 'Haunted Essex' (The History Press, 2009), p.68.



Golden Cross


A long-vanished medieval preaching cross used to stand at the junction of Rectory Road and Ashingdon Road (TQ869919), on the parish boundary, and gave its name to this area of the village. The Golden Cross was supposed to be so-called after one Gilbert de Goldhord, who himself was named after a hoard of treasure found there.


Source: Terry Johnson: ‘Hidden Heritage: Discovering Ancient Essex’ (Capall Bann Publishing, 1996), p.67.





Secret tunnel


The 15th century mansion of Belhus (TQ571812) was demolished in the 1950s, with its site now forming part of a country park and golf course. From the old house a tunnel was said to lead to the parish church of St. Michael at TQ567801, less than a mile away.


Source: Glyn Morgan: ‘Secret Essex’ (Ian Henry Publications, 1982), p.54.