Weird Suffolk: The pink lady of Thornham Magna
- Credit: Archant � 2004
It’s a time-worn story of star-crossed lovers thwarted by a tyrant and a ghost unable to break free of the earthly chains that tie her to a certain wood – but this Thornham Magna spirit has a rose-tinted twist.
There was, it is said, a young woman in service at Thornham Hall in the early part of the 19th century, who fell in love with the Lord of the Manor’s son. The pair decided to flout convention and class barriers and marry, but the Lord got wind of their affair and made his fury clear.
Under no circumstances was his son to marry a mere servant – but his son disagreed. The marriage, thought his father, would have to be stopped some other way – and the Lord set about devising a more permanent solution to the issue of his son’s choice of wife.
He studied the maid and realised that to get back to her home, she had to walk through a deep dark wood that led from the hall to the village.
One evening, the Lord instructed his gamekeeper to lie in wait for the girl as she set out for home, telling them to wait until they caught a glimpse of her and then set the dogs on her: the man did as he was told and the dogs attacked her, leaving the poor girl for dead.
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When she failed to return home, the young woman’s parents went searching for her – the next morning, they found her lifeless body in the woods.
Today, a road bisects the wood where the girl was murdered and while walking along this road in the dead of night, many terrified witnesses report hearing a phantom hunting pack before seeing a rose-tinted misty shape appear from the trees, the form of a young woman running from impending death.
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Another story linked to the ghost names a woman, Emma Berry, and says that she drowned in the village stream as she returned home from a penny reading in the Reading Rooms in Thornham Magna (the building remains today, and is ironically painted a pastel shade of pink).
Penny readings were popularised in the middle of the 19th century and saw audiences gather to hear readings and other performances for which the admission charged was, wait for it, a penny.
It was Charles Sulley, editor of the Ipswich Express who is credited with starting the Penny Reading movement in Suffolk during the 1850s.
Another ghostly tale associated with Thornham Hall involves a phantom coach and horses which can be heard making their way along the hall’s gravel driveway – if you turn to see the carriage making the sound, it’s immediately apparent that nothing whatsoever is there.
While researching the Thornham Magna ghost, my colleague Siofra found another Suffolk Pink Lady: tell me more, tell me more, I said.
At nearby Hengrave Hall, the rose-hued phantom is said to haunt the Tudor manor house once run by the Roman Catholic Sisters of the Assumption – the Sisters had a presence at the hall for 110 years during which they were plagued by the Pink Lady, who disturbed guests in their bedrooms until the 1990s.
Even since the building was converted for secular purposes, Hengrave’s rosy ghost can be seen gliding through upstairs windows – she did not, however, make an appearance at Mark Wright and Michelle Keegan’s wedding which was held at the spectacular venue.