Weird Suffolk: The curse of Goldrook Bridge
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
It’s considered bad luck to give knives to newly-weds, cross the path of a nun on your wedding day or for a bride to use her married name before the ceremony: but you’d think it would be good luck to spot a holy warrior king on your big day.
Back in 869, when a newly-wed couple spotted the King of East Anglia hiding from his Danish attackers under Goldbrook Bridge in Hoxne, it certainly turned out to be bad luck for King Edmund of East Anglia.
Having spotted the King’s golden spurs glinting in the water, the honeymooners hurried to inform the Danes of his whereabouts and the King was promptly captured, tortured and later beheaded.
But before he was led away by beserkers, Edmund angrily spat out a curse directed at any couples who henceforth crossed the bridge in question, wishing them a lifetime of bitter regret and unhappiness.
Edmund was tortured as the Vikings demanded that he renounce his faith: he refused point blank and he was lashed to a nearby oak tree where he was whipped until he was stripped of skin.
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When he still refused to betray God, the Danes shot arrows at him in such multitudes that his body was covered with their missiles, like the bristles of a stiff broom.
Broken, battered and bloody, Edmund refused to forsake Christ.
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Vikings were notoriously cruel, particularly towards the followers of ‘the White Christ’ who they considered to be cowards. Edmund’s bravery in refusing to become the vassal of a heathen or denounce that he held dearest led to his death.
He was beheaded on the orders of Ivar the Boneless and his brother Ubba and his head was tossed into nearby woodland – his followers later found him and later his head, guarded by a wolf who allowed them to take the head for burial.
St Edmund was the patron saint of England until Edward III replaced him with St George, a fearless champion rather than a king defeated in battle, although many would argue that Edmund was just as fearless as George.
There is some controversy over whether or not Edmund met his end in Hoxne with other location being suggested as the place where he martyred, including Hellesdon near Norwich, Bradfield St Clare and Maldon in Essex.
But Hoxne’s claim has been widely accepted as being a distinct possibility, thanks to its chapel, healing spring, bridge and memorial where it is said that Edmund died on November 20 869 at the tender age of 29.
It is, of course, a village made famous for a different kind of discovery, that of the Hoxne Hoard, the largest find of late-Roman artefacts ever made in Britain which was found close to the cursed bridge in 1992. Closer still, flint hand axes were found that marked a point in history between glaciers.
At St Edmund’s Hall in Hoxne, built as a reading room in 1880 by Sir Edward Kerrison, there is a plaque which depicts the scene which took place when the king was discovered hiding by the bridal party.
Until well into the 19th century, bridal couples would not cross the bridge at Hoxne, fearful that the long-dead king’s curse would afflict their new union.
It is said that the gleam of his spurs can still be seen underwater from the bridge on moonlit nights, the sparkle reminding those who pass of a curse that long forced wedding parties to travel the long way to church rather than chance misfortune.