Hidden East Anglia:

Landscape Legends of Eastern England











Landscape Features





Treasure at the gate


"Beneath a post of a high gate in Dallinghoo lies a hidden treasure; the ghost of its former owner haunts the spot and twelve clergymen have unitedly failed to lay the spirit".


Source: Lady E. C. Gurdon: 'County Folk-Lore. Printed Extracts No.2. Suffolk' (published for the Folklore Society by D. Nutt, London, 1893), p.93.





The Groaning Stone


Leading west out of the north end of Debenham is Derry Brook Lane, which narrows into a single-track called The Butts, then peters out into a footpath known as Stony Lane. Beside it, and indeed sometimes along it, flows the Derrybrook, a tributary of the river Deben. I once walked the complete length of this path, but could find no trace of the Groaning Stone that was said to stand there, somewhere between the town and Brice's Farm (now called The Firs). I also have a (now-dead) weblink that says "The Groaning Stone - a flat stone down the road from Robert Hitcham's Primary School". Since then, information gratefully received in December 2008 from a reader of this website, Chris Holifield, has revealed that the stone is actually to be found in the bed of the stream, just after it diverges from Stony Lane - which would place it at about TM158636. A picture of the stone, a not-very-large, slightly domed, flat and circular rock, can be found here.)


It is supposed to turn over and groan when it hears the church clock strike midnight.1

An ancient origin and purpose for the stone has been suggested by some: "The local Celtic tribe, called the Trinovantes, elected their chief at a ceremony at the Groaning Stone, located where the main stream of the River Deben rises about a mile to the west of Debenham".2



1. W. A. Dutt: 'The Ancient Mark-Stones of East Anglia' (Flood & Sons, 1926), p.21.
2. http://debenham.onesuffolk.net/useful-information/local-history/debenham-the-early-history/



Blood Hall and the Bloody Field


Tradition says that Blood Hall (TM184648) near Debenham was built on the site of a clash with the Danes. Others say the Hall was used as a hospital while the battle raged close by. Bloody Field (TM176640 area) here was once two, Big and Little Blood Fields, the supposed battle site. During field leveling in 1859, a large quantity of bones, both human and horse, were found here, plus an iron spur and other oddments, confirming the local belief. Probably speculation rather than genuine tradition, it has even been suggested that this is the site of King Edmund's final and fateful battle with the Danes in 869 AD. (See also 'Edmund of East Anglia').


Source: 'The Eastern Counties Magazine & Suffolk Note-Book', Vol.1 & 2 (Aug.1900-May 1901), p.77.



The vanished church


St. Andrew's church is said to have disappeared before the 13th century, and nothing of its site remains except perhaps the tradition of a religious building having stood in Priory Field (TM176635), a little east of the modern cemetery. Several feet beneath the field there are said to be the foundations of a large and ancient building, and a local man named Samuel Dove recorded in the 19th century the legend of an earthquake swallowing both the church and the Sunday congregation there, as well as an anonymous poem on the subject:


"On yonder hill tradition says

A structure stood in former days,

Whose walls immense and scowling brow

Frown'd shadowy over the vale below.

In cell immured full often there

The monks have muttered many a prayer,

And there the sad devoted nun

Hath often dismal penance done,

By superstition vainly driven

Thus to benefit themselves for heaven.

But Gothic arch and moss green stone

Or wide walls remaining none,

No vestige of the pile remains

Upon the hills and round the plains,

And only by its name alone

Of Priory Field the spot is known".


Source: Pauline Heywood: 'A Short History of Debenham' (Debenham Heritage Committee, 1977), p.2.



Denham (West Suffolk):


The witch, the well & the crossroads


The story here is of a beautiful teenage girl who turns all the men's heads, but the womenfolk of the village accuse her of bewitching them. Found guilty of witchcraft, she is imprisoned in the church for a few days, then dragged down the road in chains and thrown into a well (possibly the one still marked beside the road north of the church.) Her drowned body is then taken back, to be buried at the meeting of roads and path close by (TL755619.) Her body, still wrapped in chains, is dug up by workmen many years afterward, and given a Christian burial in another churchyard.


Source: Former webpage: http://www.paranormalknowledge.com/articles/denham-church.html





Secret tunnel


The Dennington Queen pub (formerly the Queen's Head) is rumoured to have a bricked-up tunnel to St. Mary's church (TM282670) - which seems a waste of time, as it's right next door.


Source: https://www.ratedtrips.com/establishments/dennington-queen





The Civil War mound


"Denston. Circular mound (round barrow?), 1.2m high, 20m diameter. Local legend has it that the mound (TL758538) covers the dead from a Civil War battle at Wickhambrook".1 That's one tale. Another is that the mound itself is the work of Oliver Cromwell.2



1. 'Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology', Vol.34 (1980), p.214.

2. A. Lawson, E. Martin & D. Priddy: 'The Barrows of East Anglia' in 'East Anglian Archaeology' Report No.12 (Norfolk Museums Service & others, 1981), p.21.





Secret tunnel


Greyfriars Monastery (TM478704) was originally established before 1277, but encroachments of the sea forced it to be moved further inland in 1289. Now a long wall threading through the woods named after it, and an arched gateway by the roadside are all that are left, again getting perilously close to the cliff edge. A secret tunnel from here to the Ship Inn (TM478706, about 200 yards from the gateway) in the main street is said to be confirmed by a bricked-up entrance in the pub cellars.


Source: Jean Carter & Stuart Bacon: 'Ancient Dunwich' (Segment Publications, 1975), p.8.