halesworth

A history of Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, through the ages.

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Volume 3



gothic


Gothic House Ghost and Superstition

The East Anglian Miscellany of 1923 tells a chilling story about the two properties of Gothic House and Dairy Farm, for it seems that...

'A lady in white silk invariably still appears when there dies a member of the families occupying it today. The Gallery which runs the entire length of the house, is now, like the latter, divided in half, but the 'White Lady' passes serenely throughout its full length including the partition ... it would seem probable that she was the mother of that John Bedingfield who was Lord Mayor of London during 1706-07'.

John Bedingfield owned Gothic House, but it was his son Robert who became Lord Mayor of London in 1707.

Much of the information on Gothic House and Dairy Farm has come from the excellent history by Michael and Sheila Gooch 'The story of a Suffolk House: Gothic House, Halesworth' which was published in 1994. I am grateful to the authors for allowing me to use their material.

Superstition has always been rife in East Anglia, and it is even so today.

Chediston Grange has a ghost of a servant girl who is said to walk the 'Grange at night, wringing her hands over the wrong done to her'.

Not far away is Toby Walks at Blythburgh just off the A12. Here, it is said, the ghost of 'Black Toby' walks the Common at certain times. He was a black drummer attached to Sir Robert Rich's Regiment which was stationed in the area -  Sir Robert's father being MP for the town of Dunwich from 1715 - 1722. Black Toby was hanged for the murder of Anne Blakemore in 1750.

Nearby, Blythburgh Church was the location of another unusual occurrence in August 1577. While the minister was reading the second lesson ...

'a strange and terrible tempest strake down the wall of the church, toppled the spire down through the roof so that it shattered the font, trembled the bells and the Jack o' the Clock (any of the mechanical figures that come out regularly to strike the bell of a clock). A man and a boy were killed and many members of the congregation were strangely scorched'.

It seemed obvious to them that the Devil had visited the scene, and as the devil fled away via the north door on his way to Bungay Church, his fingers burnt deep marks on the inner surface of the great door. When the Devil reached Bungay, it was during a thunderstorm, and he appeared in the form of the terrible 'Black Dog of Bungay' and caused havoc to the congregation of the Church, and has been feared ever since.

Stranger still is the Witch's Stone which is in Westleton Church yard, near the Priests' door. It was said that the grass would never grow over this, and for many generations, Westleton boys and girls, even young men and women, took part in running round the Church three or seven times, using this stone as a base. The custom was to place a handkerchief or straw in the grating of the wall nearby, then run eastwards, northwards, and back to the stone by the west end, never looking at the grating until the end. On the completion of the run, the handkerchief or straw was said to disappear, or you would hear the Devil clanking his chains below the grating.

 


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