Hidden East Anglia:

Landscape Legends of Eastern England











Landscape Features





Deadman's Grave


Here is a "little hillock" called Deadman's Grave (TL777745 area), which is traditionally the burial place of both a man and his horse. In revenge at being denied a Christian burial, he has since haunted the mound on his horse, scaring passing horses and cattle.1 Others say it's the ghost of an executed highwayman.2 Although the location was once thought to be a burial mound, it's now thought to be simply a rabbit warren. Nothing was found when the spot was excavated, at the end of the 19th century.



1. H. R. Barker: 'West Suffolk Illustrated' (Pawsey & Co, 1907), p.206.

2. 'Ickingham Villager' newsletter, Nov. 2017.



The witch's path


Near to All Saints church (TL775726) there is said to be a hedge, and a gap in it that can never be closed. This is the path of a witch who, with her familiar, a white rabbit, walks there at dusk. Sometimes it's the rabbit alone, and rumour says horses have run away and men have died after an encounter with them.




Alan Murdie: 'Haunted Bury St. Edmunds' (Tempus Publishing Ltd, 2006), p.75.





The Golden Pond


A pool in the park grounds of 18th century Ickworth House is known locally as the Golden Pond (TL811612), from a story that one of the abbots of Bury had thrown his gold into it for safekeeping. The rumour is that a chest of valuables was dredged up from the pond's bottom many years ago, but slipped back in as it stood on the grassy bank. However, in 1856 a chest was still being shown at the House as the very one that came out of the pond.


Source: A. C. Hervey: 'A paper read before the Archaeological Institute of Suffolk, at their meeting held at Ickworth, Oct. 2nd 1856', p.109.





The hill of devils


The church of St. Botolph (TM412566) at Iken, on its little hill projecting above the surrounding marshland, is believed to stand on the site of a 7th century minster, the first Christian mission site in East Anglia. When Botolph first arrived, he had to cast out the various marsh devils and monsters that infested the area, and so he became renowned for his sanctity and power. According to the Ebb & Flow Project however, in their River Heritage Walks booklet, things went a bit further than that. Apparently there were deaths, reported ghosts, and that old folklore motif of materials for the building of the minster being moved mysteriously at night. How much of this is genuine tradition, and how much supposition, I do not know.


Source: Theo Clarke: 'Ebb and Flow: River Heritage Walks' (2008).





Secret tunnels


In 1740 Thomas Cartwright excavated beneath Stoke Hall a vast series of wine cellars, 18 in all, and a total of 180 feet in length. The house itself later decayed and was pulled down, but the cellars remained (and still exist, beside Stoke Hall Road). Having no idea as to their origin, people began making up tales about these underground workings, that were used as air raid shelters in World War Two. A tunnel was said to lead from there to the 'folly' called Freston Tower (TM178397), on the banks of the Orwell. Probably built between 1550-1560 by Edmund Latymer, this red bricked six-storey building was perhaps a 'standing' or look-out tower of some kind.

A second passage from Stoke Hall ran to Greyfriars Priory, near where the ring road (here Franciscan Way) crosses Prince's Street. The priory was founded sometime before 1236, and only a segment of flint walling now remains (TM160446), incorporated into the Greyfriars Concourse.1

On the north side of the river, the Woolpack pub (TM167451) in Tuddenham Road is said to have had smuggler's tunnels running south to the dock area.2

Similarly, smugglers are supposed to have been active with a tunnel to the docks area running from the cellar of the Spread Eagle pub (TM167443), where a bricked-up entrance used to be shown as evidence.3


There are allegedly deep (and supposedly haunted) cellars beneath the Fore Street site of the wine merchant Hayman Barwell Jones, which are said to form part of a system of tunnels. They are rumoured to link up with the Ancient House (see below), the 19th century Old Custom House in Key Street, Christchurch Mansion to the north, and the site of Holywells manor to the south-east.4


The Barwell Jones shop was at 24 Fore Street. At No.61 used to be the Record Collector Shop in a 16th century building, behind which, in the 1950's, a ground collapse supposedly revealed a tunnel said to run to the docks. Close by used to be the huge entrance to the Tollemache Bottling Plant, which stood between Fore Street and Lower Orwell Street. A tunnel from there was supposed to lead to the bonded warehouse at the Old Custom House on Wherry Quay.5


The Coach and Horses Inn used to stand in Lower Brook Street. On the opposite side of the road were the premises of Messrs. E. L. Hunt, that were on the site of a mansion house owned by Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and husband of Mary Tudor. A tunnel was said to connect the two.6

The Ancient House
(or Sparrowe's House) stands in the Buttermarket, at the corner of St. Stephen's Lane. The decorative pargetting and wood carving dates generally from about 1670, but a heavy hammerbeam roof within is of the 15th century. In 1801 a workman falling thru the roof came upon a hidden room, supposedly part of a pre-Reformation chapel. It has long been believed that Charles II was secreted in that room after the battle of Worcester in 1651, and thus has arisen the tale of his escape by secret tunnel from the Ancient House to Alnesbourne Priory in Nacton parish, about 3 miles away. Now Priory Farm (TM191404), the only part remaining of this Augustinian house, founded around 1200, is a part of the wall of a barn.7


Not too far away from the Buttermarket is the Halberd Inn (previously Paddy McGinty's) in Northgate Street, where a bricked-up entrance into Ipswich's vast tunnel system is to be found in the cellar.8 The ghostly monk that haunts the pub is said to have helped someone come from 'the monastery' through the tunnels, and for his pains was murdered by being drowned in the old well that can be seen in the lower bar.9



1. 'The East Anglian Magazine', Vol.5 (1940), p.132.

2. www.paranormaldatabase.com/hotspots/ipswich.php

3. from former webpage: http://www.adamnetwebdesigns.co.uk/spreadeagle/haunted.html

4. Information gratefully received from John Wragg.

5. http://www.ipswichstar.co.uk/tunnels under fore street
6. L. P. Thompson: 'Old Inns of Suffolk' (East Anglian Magazine Ltd, 1946), p.24.
7. Allan Jobson: 'Portrait of Suffolk' (Robert Hale, 1973), p.60.

8. https://suffolk.camra.org.uk/pub/528

9. http://www.bbc.co.uk/suffolk/dont_miss/codename/ghosts/ghost_walk.shtml



The effigy of Eagle Street


Sandwiched between shop frontages in Eagle Street is the innocuous white door of No. 11 (TM167443). The building inside is of the 17th century, but externally of the 19th. Just above the doorway, a garish and grotesque face stares out with mad eyes, the wooden image of a head with chalk-white skin, crimson lips, and fangs. A fanciful and undoubtedly modern story has been reported to explain its presence there. Apparently, a monstrous ogre once lived in this area, which was otherwise marshy and deserted. Whenever people tried to build there, the ogre would destroy their work every night. Then one day, after much argument with a deputation of townspeople, he agreed to allow the occupation of his land as long as they placed an effigy of his head there, to remind them just whose domain it was. And if ever the image was removed, he swore to demolish the whole street in one night. A picture of the face above the doorway can be seen HERE.


Source: Pete Jennings: 'Haunted Ipswich' (The History Press, 2010), p.51.





Alecock's Grave


According to maps going back to the 19th century, Alecock's Grave (TL954723) is the grassy triangle at a crossing of five ways between Ixworth and Stanton, and is on a parish boundary. Traditionally however, it is the crossing of only two of those roads, Wyken Road and the old course of Bury Lane (now a bridal way). I originally only had a vague tradition of a suicide's burial here, but an unpublished record of the archaeologist Basil Brown seems to reveal a little more. Earlier known as Ape's Cross, the crossroads is locally held to be the burial place of one William Alecock, a man from Market Weston a few miles to the north, who allegedly committed suicide in the 18th century. A stone block hidden in the bushes at the north-east corner of the junction is said to be an actual marker of the grave - but when I visited In August 2016, the whole area was too overgrown to be able to find it.


Source: https://heritage.suffolk.gov.uk- Alecocks-Grave