Hidden East Anglia:
Landscape Legends of Eastern England
The silver bells
An early Bronze Age round barrow, now almost ploughed away (TL724673) at Pin Farm was reputed to contain 'silver bells'.
Source: L. V. Grinsell: 'Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain' (David & Charles, 1976), p.137.
There is a tradition of a fierce battle on Bloodmoor Hill between the Romano-British and the Angles, that resulted in the Britons being completely slaughtered.1 Some years ago, a man walking home across the hill in a thick mist heard screams, the clashing of swords, and other sounds of battle - but saw nothing. A now-destroyed burial mound (possibly in the TM530896 area) on the hill was opened in 1758, and the body of a 7th century Saxon warrior or chieftain was found. It was thought possible that there was an ancient encampment on the high ground, with a sheltered harbour nearby at Pakefield or Kessingland; and indeed, the remains of an extensive, high-status early Saxon settlement and cemetery, as well as Romano British occupation, have since been discovered through excavation.
Alternatively, the battle on 'Bloodmere-field' was between the local population and the invading Danes,2 or between King Edmund and the Danes, the king's forces falling upon them after he found a 'hidden ford' across the river Waveney at Barnby.3 See also 'Edmund of East Anglia'.
The name 'Mootway Common' for this area appears on the enclosure map of 1799, suggesting that this might have been a moot-place of Mutford Hundred perhaps even at the barrow itself. The parish boundaries of Gisleham, Pakefield and Carlton Colville used to meet here.4
1. Rev. B. P. W. Stather Hunt: 'Flinten History' (Lion Press, 1953), p.17.
2. Alfred Suckling: 'History of Suffolk' (John Weale, 1846), Vol.1, p.245.
3. Edmund Gillingwater: 'An Historical Account of the Ancient Town of Lowestoft' (1790).
4. Lucy, Tipper & Dickens: 'The Anglo-Saxon Settlement & Cemetery at Bloodmoor Hill' (Cambridge Archaeological Unit, 2009), p.11.
A little way outside the town, along Low Street, can be found Monks Hall (TL834488), a house dated to 1614 that tradition - but not history, notwithstanding the ghostly monk that walks the area - says was once a monastery. Local legend tells of a subterranean passage running from the Hall to St. Mary's church (TL835484) a ¼ of a mile away, supposedly used by the fictitious monks to worship undetected after the Reformation.
Some say that although the tunnel has now mostly collapsed, parts still exist, and its course can be traced in the field between the Hall and the church. At the church end, a stone slab near the west door is supposed to mark the tunnel's entrance, which was allegedly used during World War Two as an air raid shelter, when the church tower acted as a lookout post.
East of Skates Hill, and north of the Roman road that today is the A1092, can be found Danes Field, that according to local tradition is the site of a Danish battlefield. Not far is the Danes Path, following the course of an ancient earthwork known as the Casey (or causeway).
Source: Rev. K. W. Glass: 'A Short History of Glemsford' (private, 1962).
As with Fowlmere and Wicken Pond, the levels of Barton Mere were once supposed to predict the state of the corn market: "A worthy old farmer, now deceased, used frequently to ride to Barton Mere (TL910667 area) to observe the state of the water there, before proceeding to Bury market. I do not know of anyone who does this now, but it is an observed fact that the price of corn, and the height of the water, frequently do vary together: for instance, corn is now (October 1862) very low, and the mere is nearly dry".1
1. R. Chambers: 'The Book of Days' (W & R Chambers, 1863-4), Vol.2, p.322.
Now a hotel and restaurant, 16th century Seckford Hall (TM253484) is said to have a subterranean passage connecting it to Thomas Seckford's town house in Church Street, Woodbridge. Known as the Abbey, it occupies the site of a 12th century Augustinian priory, and is now the Abbey School.
Source: Jennifer Westwood & Jacqueline Simpson: 'The Lore of the Land' (Penguin Books, 2006), p.704.
Although there are a few exceptions, most tales that feature the Devil thwarting the intended site of a building involve a church. Seckford Hall is one of those exceptions. In the 19th century there was a local tradition that "his Satanic Majesty during the hours of darkness moved the foundations across the road when the residence was being erected; and a restless 'unlaid' spirit supplies the superstitious peasantry with a ghost."
Source: Vincent B. Redstone: 'The Seckfords of Seckford Hall' in Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology' Vol.9, Part 3 (1897), p.359.
The 'Highbury Barn' pub (c. TL890402) dates back to at least the 18th century. A tunnel was said to have run from the cellar to the area of Abbas Hall (TL901404), about half a mile away, which has some interior work of the 13th century. The manor was owned by the abbey of West Malling in Kent, and the hall itself was home to the abbey's manorial steward, but there is no evidence of any religious buildings on the site. Nevertheless, stories say that monks used the tunnel to visit the pub in secret.
There is said to be a tunnel under the 18th century Finborough Hall, but its destination isn't stated.1 That's the local tale - in fact there used to be a real tunnel of sorts, now largely filled in, running under the lawn from the south wing to the stables and coach house. More like a roofed 'trench' with skylights, it was for servants to cross the garden out of sight and out of any bad weather.2
1. The 'East Anglian Daily Times', August 5th 1978.
North-east of Haverhill is the village of Great Wratting. Between The Street and the river Stour, in the TL692486 area, is Blood Field, also known as Red Field. Here, so local legend says, Boudicca and her Iceni tribe met and almost destroyed a detachment of the famed Roman legion, the Ninth, in 60 AD. The actual site of the historical battle is unknown, but some like to place it near Sturmer in Essex, just south-east of Haverhill's boundary.
Two lanes, from Clopton to Witnesham, and from Otley to Grundisburgh, cross in the latter parish to form Bond's Corner (TM209521), and is said to be named after a suicide buried there.
Source: The 'East Anglian Miscellany', (1942-6), Note 10959.
A fine timbered house called Bast's, or Weir Farm House (TM224511), a little east of the church, had a tunnel running from there to a small door by the Jacobean pulpit in St. Mary's church at Debenham (TM174633), some 8 miles to the north. In the 1890s it was reported that this passage was then sealed because of the 'foul air' within, but a number of underground chambers still existed, furnished and ready for use by fleeing Catholics of the 16th century, beneath Bast's. Tradition says the house was once a religious establishment, but in fact was built in about 1520 for Thomas Walle, a salter of London.
Source: Lady E. C. Gurdon: 'Folklore from S.E. Suffolk', in 'Folklore', Dec.1892.