Hidden East Anglia:

Landscape Legends of Eastern England











Landscape Features





Secret tunnel


A secret tunnel is said to run between the mainly 14th century church of St. Helen (TG356148) and the ruins of St. Benet's Abbey (TG383157) less than two miles across the river Bure. In it is said to be buried a vast amount of treasure belonging to the abbey, guarded by the phantom of a huge dog.

"'Why, they found a smuggler's cave in the school-yard some years ago. Barrels in it too, but nothing in the barrels. That's all blocked up now. So is the tunnel that runs from the church to St. Benet's Abbey'".1

"Human bones have in recent times been found in the adjacent osier carr, which some say was a burial ground belonging to the Priory....[although there never was an actual priory here.] The villagers still believe that they sometimes see ghostly forms flitting at dusk through the trees near the building (the site of Ranworth Old Hall, at TG344153). Money is said to be buried near the old gateway, placed there by St. Benet's monks to escape Henry VIII's rapacious hands. Some little while ago a man digging in the garden hard-by came upon a brick culvert, probably part of the old drainage arrangements, and of course it lent colour to the old belief that a tunnel existed between here and the Abbey".2
(See also South Walsham).



1. J. W. Day: 'Portrait of the Broads' (Robert Hale, 1967), p.47.
2. 'Norfolk Archaeology', Vol.21 (1919-23), Proceedings 1922, p.lviii.





Lush's Bush


About halfway between Redenhall and Harleston a lane from Starston joins the main highway, forking as it meets the road. Both forks dip sharply down into the valley of a small stream that flows close by, and in the enclosed triangular piece here, covered with scrub and tall thorns, stood once a willow tree by the name of Lush's Bush (TM254843). 


It was cut down at the end of the 19th century, but in the churchwarden's accounts for Redenhall is the entry, in 1668, "For planks and worke about Lush's bush and cutting of it...7s 6d". The tree, sometimes called Lush Bush, was said to have sprung from the wooden stake driven thru the heart of Lush, a murderer and suicide, who haunts the spot. More than one suicide was buried here though, the latest being recorded in the 'Norfolk Chronicle' of April 17th 1813.

Charles Candler in 1896 tells of an old man he knew who had actually witnessed the unhappy burial of this woman in 1813 when he was a young lad: "Creeping between the legs of the men who stood close round the grave, he saw in the gloom of the evening the parish constable fix the stake in position, while another drove it home with a heavy beetle, Mr. Oldershaw sitting his horse in silent charge of the proceedings".

The woman, Mary Turrell, had apparently poisoned herself after being accused of killing her newly-born daughter, whose body was found in Vipond's pond at Harleston. The inquest on Turrell recorded a verdict of felo de se (self-murder), and as the 'Norfolk Chronicle' records: "
on the same evening about seven o’clock she was buried in the high road with a stake driven through her body in the presence of a vast concourse of people." But she seems to have had another daughter also, for a subscription was raised in Harleston to send the girl to a refuge for the destitute in London. In 1828, the superintendent of the refuge wrote to an interested party "I am sorry to say that A. T. has been prevented by the Laws of her Country from producing the fruits of gratitude therein" - a "quaint paraphrase" as Candler puts it, for "A. T. is gone to Botany Bay".



Charles Candler: 'Notes on the Parish of Redenhall with Harleston' (Jarrold & Sons, 1896), pp.80-1.

W. B. Gerish: 'Norfolk Folklore Collections' (unpublished, 1916-18, compiled by William de Castre), Vol.3, p.118.





Secret tunnel


A tunnel is said to connect the 14th century church of St. John, and the Old Hall (TG426026) built 200 years later by Henry Berney. A writer in the 1860s told how, while "waiting at the Reedham railway station some time since, I met with a native labourer, who told me that it was believed there was a subterranean passage, leading from Reedham Hall to the church; and that the top of this passage was frequently touched by the plough when working the land..." But the two are only about 50m apart, on opposite sides of the road!


Source: 'The East Anglian, or Notes & Queries', Vol.2 (Jan.1864-July 1866), p.202.





The Seven Hills


The Seven Hills barrows (twelve were visible two centuries ago, but only six now remain) on the slopes of Snarehill are said to be the graves of those slain in King Edmund's last battle with the Danes in 869 AD (TL905804 area). See also 'Edmund of East Anglia'.




Alfred Suckling: 'History of Suffolk' (John Weale, 1846), Vol.1, p.xx11.

Arthur Mee (ed.): 'The King's England - Norfolk' (Hodder & Stoughton, 1940), p.336.



Tutt Hill


According to tradition, the Danes were once laying siege to Thetford, but it became a stalemate. The defenders couldn't escape, and the Danes couldn't get past the fortifications of Castle Hill and Red Castle. Then a local shepherd named Tutt sold them out by showing them a passage through the westward marshes and a secret ford over the river. The Danes captured the town, then rewarded Tutt by hanging him on the mound that now bears his name, a Bronze Age bowl barrow at TL883813.


Source: W. G. Clarke: 'In Breckland Wilds' (Robert Scott, 1925), p.163.



The Snarehill white horse


Although not actually a tradition, I can't leave out the snippet that W. G. Clarke reported a hill figure in this area, possibly in the vicinity of the ridge called Great Snarehill. He said it was rumoured that "at one time there was near Thetford a 'white horse' which had been cut out of the short turf concealing the chalk". However, "all traces of its whereabouts are now lost".1 Now I've found a further mention of it as "a now vanished early C19th [Hanoverian] white horse at Thetford".2 There are also older references, from 1822 and 1884.3



1. W. G. Clarke in 'The Eastern Counties Magazine & Suffolk Note-Book', Vol.1 & 2 (Aug.1900-May 1901), p.175.

2. 'Chalk East: A Geo-East Project' (Project Outline Document) 2009, p.6.

3. http://www.heritage.norfolk.gov.uk-Snarehill