Hidden East Anglia:

Landscape Legends of Eastern England











Landscape Features





Deadman's Cross


The 1683 perambulation record for Walberswick takes the local boundary "through the park to Deadman's Cross, by the heap of stones", so-called from a suicide's grave. Apparently more stones were thrown onto the heap at every beating of the bounds.

But there is also Deadman's Corner, allegedly the same spot (c.TM462747) as the above, named from the rumour that once a man had been burnt at the stake there. Local people would hurry up past the spot, and refused to even pass it after dark.1


The name Deadman's Gully is also given to this area, just west of Deadman's Covert, seeming to coincide with a footpath which runs along the disused cutting of the old Southwold Railway. It's said to be the haunt of an 'evil presence', and a number of local riders say that their horses have shied at the spot and refused to proceed.2



1. 'Suffolk Fair', Vol.1, No.11 (March 1972), p.29.

2. Joan Forman: 'Haunted East Anglia' (Fontana, 1976), p.69.



Secret tunnels


When the old Anchor Inn, long known as a smuggling haunt, was pulled down in the 1920s, workmen are said to have found a bricked-up doorway in the remains of the cellar. A new pub of the same name was then built, a little further back from the original, and when the water supply was being laid on, traces of an underground passage were discovered, leading from the cellars towards the beach.1

"Bell Cottage was said to be connected to the old vicarage near the ferry by a tunnel, part of which was discovered when building work was being carried out".2



1. Leonard P. Thompson: 'Inns of the Suffolk Coast' (Brett Valley Publications, 1969), p.95.
2. Jean Carter & Stuart Bacon: 'Walberswick Suffolk' (Segment Publications, 1979), p.31.



The mound of the Heath Horse


Two bracken covered burial mounds (TM472748) stand on Tinkers Walks, in an area once known as the Heronry, not far from the Walberswick to Blythburgh road. One is virtually flat now, but the other is still over a metre high (though overgrown and hardly visible), and it is from this mound that, on certain moonlit nights, the ghostly Heath Horse is said to emerge and gallop silently over the heath. Although some have thought them to be Bronze Age, the unexcavated mounds are recorded as Saxon, and may even be ship burials.


Source: A. A. Macgregor: 'The Haunted Marshlands' in 'East Anglian Magazine' (Vol.20, No.6, April 1961), p.353.



Walsham le Willows:


The protected tree


Apparently a beech tree here was under the protection of a curse, and when a farmer actually cut it down, the chainsaw cut him and he died.


Source: www.hoap.co.uk/aatf1.doc



The gypsy's grave


A 'gypsy's grave' is found at the meeting-place of the parishes of Walsham le Willows, Badwell Ash, Westhorpe and Wyverstone (TM025696). Here a green lane forms a crossroads with Hundred Lane, and a gypsy is said to be buried at the foot of a nearby oak tree.1 According to a local woman, when the footpaths were being cleared for better access, no one dared to remove the grave, as they were afraid of there being a curse upon it.2 (See also Wyverstone below).



1. Shirley Toulson: 'East Anglia - Walking the Ley Lines & Ancient Tracks' (Wildwood House, 1979), p.159.

2. 'Badwell Broadsheet' No.19 (Feb. 2010), p.3.





Summoning the Devil


Running three times round a particular oak tree in the graveyard of St. Peter & St. Paul's church at Wangford (TM466792) was said to be a sure way to summon the Devil.





Cromwell's Mount


Staverton Park is the overgrown remnant of a medieval deer park, first recorded in the 1260's. It may have been formed around existing woodland, with the section called The Thicks being a mysterious landscape of ancient oaks, birch and perhaps the largest holly trees in England. Right on the northern edge of the park is an odd D-shaped earthwork of low curving banks and ditches that has been excavated, in 1910, but never accurately dated. On maps this is called Cumberland's Mount, but the local name for it is Cromwell's Mount (TM353512). Neither name has ever been explained, but it has been suggested to be a 'red hill' or salt-working site, an enclosure for the culling of deer, or more popularly, a temporary base used during the Peasant's Revolt of 1381.


Back in 1910, some locals believed the Mount to be the site of the old Staverton Hall, destroyed during the Revolt. Indeed, the house of a nearby Justice of the Peace had been looted and wrecked, and by 1382 the park was described as being "without deer, now greatly broken down". But the old Hall had in fact been located nearly 1.5 miles to the west, in the parish of Eyke. Other locals knew the earthworks as Caesar's Camp. Although no tale of any kind seems to have survived, whenever Cromwell's name is attached to a hill or a mound, it was always rumoured to be a place where Oliver Cromwell had stood his guns in order to bombard some nearby castle, church or abbey. (See Oliver Cromwell for several such examples).



https://heritage.suffolk.gov.uk-Cumberlands Mount

Excursion report, 2006, in 'Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute for Archaeology' Vol. XLI, Part 3 (2007), p.395-6.

H. St. George Gray: 'The Earthwork near Butley', in 'Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology' Vol. XIV, Part 1 (1910), p.69-90.





Wattisham Stone


Wattisham Stone is a tiny, detached hamlet about half a mile south-west of Wattisham itself, and seems to be named after the sandstone boulder at a threeways (TM00275110). This is 70 x 50 x 76cm high, and according to a former local resident, the stone turns round when the clock on the tower in Bildeston market place chimes.


Source: Information from Nigel Dernley of Wattisham, 1979.





The Devil's Stone


In September 1930, a Mr. Claude Morley reported the discovery by himself at Wenhaston of a "mammillated erratic stone of 44 inches high x 33 broad and 21 deep (1.1m x 1m x 53cm), of the stratum of the celebrated Hartest Stone". This "hitherto-unrecorded rock" was found deep within a wooded copse that obscured a clay pit in Chapel Field, just south of Mill Heath. Both he and a Mr. Fowler of Beccles believed this to be the "final remnant" of St. Bartholomew's Chapel, which once existed not far away. However, I was informed that the boulder was generally held to be a 'Druid Stone'.1


More recently, a viewer of this site (and native of Wenhaston) has informed me that he always knew it as the Devil's Stone, and the hollow in which it sits as the Devil's Pit (TM416759.) As can be seen from the photograph kindly supplied to me, this rock is a glacial erratic, not a former part of the fabric of a medieval chapel, and was probably exposed during excavations at the clay pit. Indeed, my informant tells me that "A couple of decades on I was lucky enough to have the stone looked at by a geologist who told me it was a conglomerate of mainly Calcareous sandstone with some Limestone mixed in, and that it was likely to be a glacial erratic from the Cretaceous period similar to rocks found in Folkestone, Kent."2 The stone and pit are also recorded as eminent features of local legend on the Wenhaston Millennium Map.3



1. From details on a sketch map sent to me anonymously.

2. Information and photo kindly supplied by Dale Peck.

3. http://www.wenhaston.net/mmap/map.php?panel=A4


Secret tunnel


A tunnel was alleged to run from St. Bartholomew's Chapel, though no destination was ever stated.


Source: 'The Pocket History of Suffolk Parishes' (1936), details unknown.



Peggy's Stile


Not too far from the Star Inn, a footpath runs from Star Hill to Narrow Way. At the Star Hill end used to be Peggy's Stile (TM427752), known for many years as being haunted by a woman of that name.1 Some say she was rather like a witch, while others - rather inexplicably - say that she was actually a donkey! Children being naughty, even in comparatively recent times, have been warned that Peggy will 'get them' if they don't behave.2 In the field right next to the stile was seen the crop mark of a ring ditch that once surrounded a Bronze Age burial mound.



1. Information kindly supplied by Dale Peck.

2. Suffolk Federation of Women's Institutes: 'The Suffolk Village Book' (Countryside Books, 1991), p.236.





The Witch's Stone


St. Peter's is a little church of about 1300, with no tower (it fell through natural causes in 1776), but a small brick bell-cote erected on the west end to house the single bell (TM439691). Tradition says that the Devil lives below a small grating at the base of the wall, just to the right of the priest's door. In front of this is the Witch's Stone, a simple 14th century gravestone fallen and flush with the ground. Legend says that grass will never grow over it.

For generations kids have performed a custom here: First place a handkerchief or piece of straw in the grating, then using the Stone as your base, run round the church either 3 or 7 times anticlockwise, but never look at the grating till the end. Back at the stone, either the object will have vanished, or you'll hear the Devil rattling his iron chains below the grating. The Rector told me he thought it a smuggler's tale, to keep people away while loot was being hidden in the crypt or under the roof.


Source: Allan Jobson: 'Suffolk Villages' (Robert Hale, 1971), p.52.



The Red Stile


In the north-west of the parish is Devil's Lane, and not far away on Darsham Road there used to be the Red Stile, allegedly haunted. Some have described it as a 'pale' spectre, possibly wearing a veil. A man who touched the ghost over a century ago is supposed to have gone numb all down the right side of his body. In the 1920s, a woman saw a thing like a huge black dog on the Stile, and heard the sound of a clanking chain. (See Westleton in Shuckland.) From a description of the Stile as leading to an old bridleway across the fields, joining Darsham Road with the old road to Dunwich, the Red Stile has to have been at TM433699. The junction of footpath and road remains, but there's no longer any trace of a stile.


Devil's Lane may have gained its name from the activities of smugglers, who were said to have used a 'Jack O' Lantern' to frighten people into staying indoors. On the other hand, it may have been named after a person named Devel. The lane may well be an 18th century enclosure road, and borders an area once marked on maps as Devel's Field.



Ruth Anderson & Grace Hadow: 'Scraps of English Folklore' IX, in 'Folklore' Vol.35, Issue 4 (1924), p.354.

Allan Jobson: 'Suffolk Villages' (Robert Hale, 1971), p.52.

Suffolk Federation of Women's Institutes: 'The Suffolk Village Book' (Countryside Books, 1991), p.73.

P. M. Warner: 'Blything Hundred' (University of Leicester PhD thesis, 1982), p.243.





The White Lady at the old church


On the left, just as Old Church Lane peters out into a private farm track, are the sad and overgrown ruins of Westley's first parish church, St. Thomas a Becket's (TL820644). Said to be 12th century, but certainly early medieval, the tower fell onto the building in a storm in 1744, although the dilapidated shell was still in use until 1834. The following year, the new church of St. Mary was built a little further east - supposedly using some material from the former structure, but most of it seems to be made of concrete. It's the old ruins and the neglected graveyard surrounding it that are said to be haunted by a White Lady who, curiously, only appears on the first day of each month.


Source: Alan Murdie: 'Haunted Bury St. Edmunds' (Tempus Publishing Ltd, 2006), p.81.





Secret tunnel


The 17th century High House (TM428869) south of the church was supposedly used to signal smugglers as they sailed up the Hundred River, and was believed to have a tunnel connecting it with the Elizabethan Weston Hall at TM425871.


Source: Suffolk Federation of Women's Institutes: 'The Suffolk Village Book' (Countryside Books, 1991), p.240.



West Stow:


The haunted thorns


Probably just north of the river Lark, there was, until fairly recent times, a derelict farm to the west of West Stow, on rising ground above a marshy area. Around the farmhouse grew huge thorn trees, and it was a local rumour that, should anyone dare to venture among the trees at midnight, they would hear the wailing cries of a dead woman, a young girl who had been abandoned by her lover.


Source: Olive Cooke: 'Breckland' (Robert Hale, 2nd edition 1980; orig. 1956), p.42.





The cursed field


In 1556, Robert Rosier, a yeoman of Mutton Hall at Wetherden and staunch Protestant supporter of Mary, was taken for burning at the behest of his former friend Sir John Sulyard, then High Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk. He was led to a field on a hill (known as Brennen or Burning Hill1)beside the main road between Wetherden and Woolpit, and there lashed to a post and burned to death. Some say he chose the spot himself so he could see his home, though others say it was Sulyard's choice, to make his suffering worse. According to locals, the field is under a curse, and no crops have ever grown there since that day.



1. https://heritage.suffolk.gov.uk/media/pdfs/wetherden.pdf





The Baal Stone


Although situated by the roadside at Stonecross Green, and marked on O.S. maps as "Cross, remains of", this boulder could never have had any timber or masonry cross-shaft inserted into it (TL82375776). Known as the Baal Stone, it is locally believed to have been a sacrificial site, with the rough worn channel on its upper surface being used to drain away the victim's blood. The stone is very wrinkled and pitted all over, and stands 1.65m x 1.05m x 0.6m high. The photograph was taken by me in the 1970s. I visited again in July 2021, to find the stone almost obscured now by weeds and long grass.






The haunted pool


In the early 19th century, a pool close to what is now Barley House Farm (TM200618) was known to be haunted by the figure of a man, who circled the pond at night. Presumably he doesn't haunt there now, as a Mrs. H, who had once lived there, recalled that "a clergyman he come with a rushlight, and put that into the pond, and he say the spirit were not to come out until the rushlight were burnt out. So he could never come out, for a rushlight could never burn out in a pond."


Source: Lady C. Gurdon: 'Folk-Lore from South-East Suffolk', in 'Folklore'  Vol. 3, No. 4, Dec. 1892.





Cole's Arch


A female ghost perches at midnight on the railings of a bridge at Cole's Arch (TM358798) on the Rumburgh road.


Source: Patricia Willis: 'The Wraiths of Wissett', in 'The East Anglian Magazine', Vol.41, No.9 (July 1982), pp.392-4.



The grey lady's pond


The garden of Paradise Cottage, at the entrance to Paradise Farm in Lodge Lane, is haunted by a 'grey lady', who passes through the hedge, crosses the road, and vanishes into a small overgrown pond on the other side (TM359783). Strictly speaking, this is actually in Chediston parish.


Source: Patricia Willis: 'The Wraiths of Wissett', in 'The East Anglian Magazine', Vol.41, No.9 (July 1982), p.392-4.



The ghost on the tree


Gray's Lane is where a Mr. Gray hanged himself, and his ghost swings from a tree here on certain nights.


Source: Patricia Willis: 'The Wraiths of Wissett', in 'The East Anglian Magazine', Vol.41, No.9 (July 1982), p.392-4.



King's Danger


According to one writer, near a bridge in Mill Road is an area called King's Danger (TM381782). Here, and close to the bridge, is said to be a bare patch where nothing grows, marking the spot where a man once committed suicide.1


However, two other authors have recorded the bridge as being the one close to the junction of Wissett Road and Wash Lane (TM380785). King's Danger, they say, was a field somewhere close by where King Edmund was captured and killed by the Danes in 869AD (see 'Edmund of East Anglia'). Nearby osier beds (where willow was grown for use in basket-making) were said to have been where Saxon kings were buried.2, 3



1. Patricia Willis: 'The Wraiths of Wissett', in 'The East Anglian Magazine', Vol.41, No.9 (July 1982), p.392-4.

2. Diana Fernando & Helen Flaxman (ed.): 'A Walk Through Wissett' (Red Bird Publishing Ltd, 2001), p.3.

3. Ivan G. Sparkes: 'Halesworth Through the Ages' Vol.1, 1994, p.24.



The Halleluia Pond


The Halleluia Pond, a large pool surrounded by trees and bushes in a field near Halleluia cottage is haunted by the phantom horse and cart that once careered into it (TM374798).


Source: Patricia Willis: 'The Wraiths of Wissett', in 'The East Anglian Magazine', Vol.41, No.9 (July 1982), p.392-4.



Lodge Pond


Lodge Pond (TM362788) is in Lodge Lane, opposite Lodge Barn. In its murky waters, two people are said to have drowned themselves, on separate occasions. It's not known which of them may be responsible for the apparition of the ghostly woman who, with a 'rustle of silk', has been known to appear on moonlit nights from out of the Barn, glide across the road and over the surface of the pond.


Source: Diana Fernando & Helen Flaxman (ed.): 'A Walk Through Wissett' (Red Bird Publishing Ltd, 2001), p.117.





The Lady's Well


St. Mary's church had an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary - 'Our Lady of Woolpit' - that attracted pilgrims, and not far away, the Lady's Well (TL97636263). The waters were very good for eye afflictions, and weak and infirm children were brought there to be cured by dipping in the water. The well is now often dry, and all that can be seen is a low wall of modern brick, covered with boards, within the southern edge of a medieval moat. This can be found in a small nature reserve beside the lane a little north-east of the church.

One story says that the well gained its name because of a legend that Queen Elizabeth 1st came here with an eye problem, which was cured after she bathed it in the well water. In gratitude she gave to the village the image of a golden eagle, which can still be seen today in St Mary‘s church. This may be a confusion with a pilgrimage made on behalf of Henry VII's queen, Elizabeth.

I've also heard of another spring in a field at Woolpit called the Lord's Well, but can't find its location or any other information about it.



Gary Waller: 'The Virgin Mary' (Cambridge University Press, 2011), p.87-8.






Wulf's Stone


Probably as an attempt to explain the village name, legend says that a Viking named Wulf once sacrificed a local maiden (or a local, anyway) on a huge stone here.1 One source says that in fact the church of St. Michael stands where this glacial rock used to be.2


1. Suffolk Federation of Women's Institutes: 'The Suffolk Village Book' (Countryside Books, 1991), p.247.
2. 'St. Michael's Church, Woolverstone - a brief history'





Traveller's Hill


Wordwell is a parish of very few people, existing mostly within the Forestry Commission land of King's Forest. Deep in the woodland are three bowl barrows, probably belonging to the Bronze Age. One, at TL841745, is the largest of the three, but still less than a metre high, and known as Traveller's Hill. The archaeologist Basil Brown never actually visited the barrow, but in 1950 he recorded that the Head Forester had told him eight years previously that, by tradition, silver bells were said to be buried there.


Source: https://heritage.suffolk.gov.uk- Traveller's Hill





Another gypsy grave


Not much to note here, just the tradition of another 'gypsy burial', as recorded on an unpublished map by the archaeologist Basil Brown. This one is at the crossing of Kiln Lane and Hundred Lane, two ancient tracks where the parishes of Wyverstone and Badwell Ash meet (TM023690). This is only about 550m south of the gypsy grave at Walsham le Willows, mentioned above.


Source: https://heritage.suffolk.gov.uk - Gipsy-Burial