Weird Suffolk: Poltergeist activity at Great Bealings

Copyright photo Dave Kindred.
A Victorian photograph of Great Bealings Hall. The

EADT NOSTALGIA Copyright photo Dave Kindred. A Victorian photograph of Great Bealings Hall. The road through the village, from Tuddenham to Woodbridge, was then just an unmade track.

The bells, the bells! The strange story of Suffolk’s haunted bells which inexplicably rang in a house in Great Bealing for two long months became famous across Britain. It even rang some bells with others who claimed to have heard spectral chimes.

Today we travel back 185 years to Suffolk in 1834 and the curious case of the haunted bells of Bealings House.

For two long months, the servants’ bells in the grand hall in Great Bealings appeared to be ringing by their own accord, either together or separately, softly or violently, with or without an audience. The bells first rang apparently on their own on February 2 1834 and continued almost daily until March 27, when, as swiftly as they had begun, they ended.

It was a story that inspired the owner of the house to write a book, Bealings Bells, in the same year and which led to a huge amount of debate ranging from the incident proving the existence of poltergeists to it being an elaborate hoax or a prank.

There has been a grand house on the site of Bealings House for centuries – in the Domesday Book a Saxon hall with its own priest is mentioned and in subsequent years, the hall was owned by local families including the de Peches and the Clenchs. Demolished in 1775, building material from the original hall went to build Bealings House.

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Major Edward Moor, a former soldier of the East India

Company, retired to Bealings House in Great Bealings in 1806, 12 years after the death of his wife, Elizabeth. Their son, Edward James, was Rector of Great Bealings from 1844 to 1886.

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A Fellow of the Royal Society and an author on Indian mythology, Moor built a stone folly to the front of the house which was said to contain his prize collection of heathen idols, which were considered offensive by many in the church who emphasised that God has no image and therefore it is sacrilege to fashion any idol and call it God.

On February 25 1834, Moor wrote to the Ipswich Journal to recount an odd tale unfolding in his house – the servants’ bells had started to ring on their own, despite no one being in the vicinity to work the bell-pull and the intensity and frequency of the ringing had been increasing over subsequent days.

Two days after the first occurrence, and after being told that all the bells in the kitchen had been ringing violently while he had been out, Moor returned and the bells began to ring again with great violence (“so violent was it that I should not have been surprised if they had been shaken from their fastenings,” he writes).

The 12 bells – which had hung in the house for 28 years - rang every 10 to 15 minutes until 7.45pm, when they stopped – the loudest bell of all, however, the doorbell, never rang unless by human hand.

Moor continued: “You and your readers may be assured that there is no hoax in the matter. I do not mean by me, but by anyone. I am thoroughly convinced that the ringing is by no human agency. How is it, then? I cannot say. A satisfactory solution is beyond the reach of my philosophy.”

Friends, family, staff and newspaper reporters sought to discover how the bells were ringing out and to replicate the sounds they were hearing: a solution could not be found and the noise could not be repeated. In the meantime, other reports of spectral bells began to reach Major Moor through the Ipswich Journal.

A member of the clergy wrote from his Norfolk rectory that he had heard similar noises in his home for nearly nine years and had traced the haunted bells back 60 years, a Lieutenant Rivers had heard mysterious bells in his rooms at Greenwich Hospital and others shared tales which rang a bell with the Great Bealing homeowner.

Bealings Bells was written in order to raise funds for the building of a church at Woodbridge and contains a full account of the incident and the tales that Moor was sent.

Famous paranormal sceptic Trevor H Hall, who had a deep interest in magic and mystery, suggested that Moor was an unreliable witness and that

he had been duped by one of his servants who had been playing a practical joke on him. Other writers have claimed that Moor himself was responsible for the bell ringing and that the case was a hoax.

As an aside, Bealings House is also said to be haunted by an old lady dressed in grey who has been seen silently gliding in and out of a bathroom next to one of the bedrooms – the tale was told in 1950 and reported in the Sphere magazine the following year.

Was she responsible for the mystery ringing?

For more Weird Suffolk stories click here.

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