Hidden East Anglia:

Landscape Legends of Eastern England











Landscape Features





Boudicca is said to have had a palace here at a moated site called Candleyards, which might be the moat (TM065855) just west of Kenninghall Place.

Source: Arthur Mee (ed.) : 'The King's England - Norfolk' (Hodder & Stoughton, 1940), p.205.



King's Lynn:

Secret tunnels

Legend says that a tunnel once ran between Greyfriars Priory (TF621198) and the curious Red Mount Chapel (TF624199). Another tunnel, now bricked-up, was also thought to have connected the priory to the White Hart pub, both in St. James Street. The pub itself is supposed to be haunted by a monk.

Nothing is left of the 13th century Franciscan priory except the lofty Lantern Tower, while the Red Mount Chapel is a unique and mysterious structure, about which opinion has always been divided. 

The structure itself is of red brick, octagonal and buttressed, with an inner rectangular core that projects above the roof. There are actually two chapels here, one possibly of the 13th century, and the other - the Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount - was set upon the steep-sided artificial mound in about 1485 by Robert Corraunce. This was probably to house a holy relic of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and tradition tells of pilgrims halting here on their way to Walsingham. 

Because of the other main story associated with it (set in the 1300s) it's possible an earlier edifice stood here - an idea even more probable given that the mound itself was once known as Guanock Hill - 'guanock' or 'gannock' being an old local word meaning a beacon. A tunnel is said to lead from the Red Mount to a door in the gatehouse at Castle Rising (TF665245), some four miles to the north-east. The castle was built in the 12th century by William de Albini, and considerable remains still stand of that and later additions.

In 1331 Isabella, the widow of King Edward II, was brought to the castle by her son and allegedly imprisoned for her part in Mortimer's rebellion. However, she wasn't even under house arrest, as she travelled quite freely in this country and abroad. She was said to have been jailed here until her death in 1358, and buried in Rising church. Thus, Edward III was believed to have used the tunnel on many occasions to secretly visit his mother. However, she actually died at Hertford Castle and was almost certainly buried at Greyfriars in London.

The historian of Lynn, Mr. E. M. Beloe, dug at the Red Mount and found that the supposed tunnel came to a halt after only a few feet, at an outer door which had long been buried beneath the soil of the mound. The door in the castle was likewise no more than one of two entrances to an inner stairway. As in other subterranean tales, a drunken fiddler and his dog are said to have tried to explore the tunnel, but were never seen again.


Another tunnel supposedly comes to Lynn from the site of the former medieval bishop's palace where Gaywood Hall (TF639200) now stands, in an eastern suburb of the town. A brick arch uncovered in a trench along Blackfriars Road was claimed by one old man to be evidence of this, while another is said to have dug up a tunnel on the same line during the last century, but veering towards the Red Mount. Sewers and a covered-up reservoir may have been the basis for this any other such stories.



The so-called 'Exorcist's House' (TF618204) stands in Chapel Lane, next to St. Nicholas' church. An earlier house on this site was once occupied by an exorcist employed by the church clergy. A subterranean passage - allegedly used by the Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins - is rumoured to run from there to St. Anne's House (TF617204). The current building is of the 17th century, but it was possibly once a medieval Bishop's House.


In St. James Street is the White Hart pub (TF618198), radically rebuilt in the mid-19th century, but dating from at least 200 years earlier. A shadowy, hooded figure that haunts the pub is said to be a ghostly monk, who has passed through a legendary tunnel from St. Margaret's church in the Saturday Market Place.


The medieval St. George's Guildhall (TF616202) in King Street is now home to an arts centre, coffee shop, and other businesses, but beneath it is an actual tunnel (now stopped-up and dry), through which merchants brought goods from their boats on the nearby Great Ouse river. Vaulted undercrofts exist here and beneath former medieval warehouses along King Street as far as the Tuesday Market Place, but it seems to be rumour only that other tunnels honeycomb the area.



Walter Rye: 'Norfolk Songs, Stories & Sayings' (Goose & Son, 1897), pp.85-6.

'The East Anglian Magazine', Vol.2, p.461.


http://www.heritage.norfolk.gov.uk-King's Lynn


Ann Weaver: 'The Ghosts of King's Lynn' in KL Magazine, Issue 1, Oct. 2010, p.51.




Prophecy of the leaning tower


For some reason, the ramblings of the Yorkshire soothsayer Mother Shipton (c.1488-1561) used to be very popular with the  country folk of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. And somehow, the old Fenmen reckoned that she was responsible for the prophecy and belief that, when royalty visited the Theatre Royal in St. James' Street, the Greyfriars Lantern Tower mentioned above would collapse onto it. Since the Theatre wasn't even opened until 1815, one has to wonder how Mother Shipton's name ever got attached to this myth. The slight lean that the tower had for years was corrected in 2006, while the Theatre Royal, which burned down in 1936 and was then rebuilt, is now a bingo hall. While the Queen has visited King's Lynn many times, it seems unlikely that she'll ever pop in for a game of bingo.


Source:  Arthur Randell (ed. Enid Porter: ‘Sixty Years a Fenman’ (R & K P, 1966). P.102-3.



The witch's brick


At about 12 feet from the ground, above the window of house no. 15-16 on the north side of the Tuesday Market Place (TF617203), is a diamond shape enclosing a heart set into the brickwork. This is said to be the spot where the heart of a witch called Margaret Read hit the wall when it burst from her body as she was burnt there in 1590. Some say that the heart actually bounced away down a lane and leapt into the river Ouse!


Source: Enid Porter: 'The Folklore of East Anglia' (Batsford, 1974), p.137-8.



The Devil's footprint


It's said that a ship arrived at King's Lynn one day carrying none other than the Devil himself. Slipping ashore in pursuit of new souls to claim, a priest cornered him in what is now called Devil's Alley, driving him back to the ship with holy water and prayer. In frustration at being thwarted, the Devil stamped his foot so hard on the ground there that he left an imprint.1 The entrance to Devil's Alley can be found at TF617197 in Nelson Street.


 It was once completely roofed like a tunnel, running from there to the quayside. Rather than an imprint in the ground, one source says that that the alley "showed at its darkest point a queer cobble in the pavement shaped like a gigantic human foot".2 Certainly nothing of the like is visible there now, and the story may not be all that old - as in 1881 the lane was actually called Miller's Alley.



1. Julia Skinner (compiler): 'Did You Know? King's Lynn: a Miscellany' (Francis Frith Collection, 2009), p.5

2. G. G. Coulton: 'Fourscore Years: an Autobiography' (Readers Union, 1945), p.32.



Kirby Bedon:

The friendly statues

Only a couple of houses, a hall and a sewage works now remain of Whitlingham hamlet, close to the river Yare and reached by a long and winding road from Trowse Newton (or by the A47 Norwich by-pass, which now slices through the area). St. Andrew's church stood on a hill above the river, a small edifice with a round Norman tower. Around the parapet at the top there once stood four life-size statues, supposedly of the Evangelists, that were said to have originally come from some old manor house. At midnight on New Year's Eve, these figures were believed to march round the parapet, shake hands in greeting, then walk back again - but this could only be seen by unmarried people.1 According to another local version, the effigies were actually angels, and "when these angels heard the clock strike midnight on Christmas Night, they changed places".2 The church fell into ruin by 1630, and the tower finally collapsed in 1940 (TG274079).


1. Ernest R. Suffling: 'History & Legends of the Broad District' (Jarrolds, 1891), p.187.

2. 'Eastern Daily Press', 10/2/1940.



The churchyard rider


Kirby Bedon's current parish church of St. Andrew (TG278054) stands just across Easthill Lane from its previous church, the now-ruined and round-towered St. Mary's. There is an old tale that the apparition of a tall woman, dressed all in white and riding a white horse, used to ride slowly around one churchyard, and then round the other before vanishing. Normally in such tales there would be a local legend to account for the haunting, but in this case any such origin seems to be lost.


Source: John T. Varden: 'Traditions, Superstitions and Folklore' in 'The East Anglian Handbook and Agricultural Annual for 1885' (Argus Office, Norwich, 1885).