5 of the best stories from Suffolk folkore

Suffolk folklore

Last Updated on March 30, 2022

From our very own Hound of the Baskervilles to a merman and vengeful ghost, Suffolk has quite a lot going for it in the folklore department. Much as we tried to determine the veracity of these stories, we’ve had to leave the jury well and truly out. Whilst they may not be the reason you rent one of our Barns and Barges in Suffolk, we think they make for some pretty good yarns over a glass of bubbly in one of our hot tubs at night.  

The legend of the Bungay black dog

It all started in 1577, so the legend goes, when a sighting of a particular ghastly black canine sent fear all over the market town of Bungay. Said to be part devil, it’s hardly surprising that the first place this canine visited and terrorised bystanders was the church of St Marys in Bungay. The beast, also known as Black Shuck, has been sighted all along the coastline and countryside of east Anglia, with many reports varying in regards to its overall size.  With its loud howling you’ll know when Black Shuck is coming, but you won’t know from which direction as its giant paws are silent enough to hear a pin drop. Whether truth or fiction, this legend certainly makes walks in Suffolk a more exciting prospect.

With no known images of the dog, we had to improvise…

Brecks bigfoot

If you go down to Thetford forest today, you may be sure of a big surprise. This legend has origins stretching back to June 1987 when Suffolk was full of electrical storms and hail came down in sheets. During this time, a lone hiker reported seeing a dark beast on all fours lurking in the forest with long grey hair covering its entire body. With the storm continuing, the hiker decided to start the return journey until the ominous beast turned on him, standing on its hind legs much like a human would, except it towered over the hiker at 8 feet tall. Since then, the legend of the Brecks Bigfoot has lived on, with multiple sightings taking place over the past thirty years. Whilst there are certainly many reasons to visit Thetford Forest during a holiday in Suffolk, the chance to sight a local legend is certainly one worth considering.

The withes stone

The legend starts in 1340 when St Peter’s church in Westleton was believed to be in the grip of the devil himself. The locals backed the theory up by the unluckiness of the church – the spire of the church had collapsed during a particularly bad storm and was again hit by a stray bomb in the second world war. Such bad omens considered, the locals were firmly of the belief that the devil himself lived beneath the church. Not only did they believe this, but the church also had a ‘witches stone’ in the graveyard which provided yet further proof for the church being in the clutches of evil. The story goes, if you put a handkerchief in the church and then run around the witches stone anticlockwise, the devil himself will take the handkerchief and you will be able to hear the chains of hell rattling as the handkerchief disappears. It would be misleading to suggest that anyone from the Woodfarm Barns and Barges team has had the bravery to try this out themselves…

Wildman of Orford

Back in the 12th century, it said that fishermen in Suffolk went out to sea and came back with something other than fish. In one instance, it is said that a man who glistened in the sun and was covered in fish scales was taken straight to the castle of Orford. Quickly dubbed ‘the Wildman of Orford’, this creature is said to have been imprisoned in the castle and later tortured for information about who and where he had come from. He was permitted to swim in a netted area of the sea, but after some time became tired of his enclosure and dived over it to escape. Interestingly, however, the legend has it that the creature came back before performing his Houdini act a final time. Said to be swimming around the Suffolk coast to this day, we’d advise anyone taking a dip to be mindful of anything scaly brushing up alongside them. 

There’s only one way to confirm the rumours…

Toby’s walks

Along pathways near the A12 is where the roguish Toby was said to be hanged for his crimes against a local girl called Anne Blakemore in 1750. Not only was he hanged for his crimes, his body was dipped in tar for good measure. Understandably annoyed by this treatment, it is said that Toby now roams the pathways which have earned the moniker “Toby’s walks”. Reports have it that Toby has been seen on a carriage being pulled along by four headless horses all covered in tar. It’s certainly one way to travel…

Whilst you may not be planning a visit Suffolk to debunk these superstitions-  or indeed find out there’s more than a grain of truth to them – we imagine that you’ll be best-positioned to enjoy everything that the county has to offer when staying at one of our Barns for rent in Suffolk.