Weird Suffolk: The howling demon of Homersfield
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
In the fairytales, the creature lurking beneath the bridge ready to claim the souls of unsuspecting passers-by was a troll.
Today, the trolls hide online and under the old bridge in Homersfield in Suffolk, their place has been taken by a howling demon said to have been trapped under the original wooden structure to rob the creature of its magical powers so it could no longer hold the village to ransom.
Wicked and malevolent spirits are, legend has it, unable to cross running water, so as long as the River Waveney flows steadily between Norfolk and Suffolk, the demon is safely imprisoned under the bridge which is one of the oldest concrete structures of its kind in Britain and is now used solely by walkers and cyclists.
Rebuilt in 1869 by Sir Robert Shafto Adair of nearby Flixton Hall, the old supporting arches of the bridge were maintained by the rest of the structure was created using concrete and cast iron which is adorned with the heraldic crest of the Adair family which, fittingly, relates to the legend of the Bloody Hand.
On a plaque nearby, it reads: “The legend of the design tells of a young ostler who was beaten so badly by his master that he died from the punishment. Before dying, the boy left a bloody handprint on the wall as a testimony of the assault. In those days the manslaughter of a servant was socially frowned upon and it was held that Adair should not go without some form of reproach. So it was that the sign of the red hand was added to the crest as a penance to commemorate the wicked deed.”
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The tranquil village of Homersfield is on the county border between Norfolk and Suffolk - chocolate box pretty with pastel houses and thatched cottages, a village green, a picturesque church and a community wood, it doesn’t look like the kind of place that a demon would choose for a final resting place.
No one knows where the Homersfield Bridge demon came from, how he was caught or who bound him, but local folklore has it that the otherworldly creature was trapped beneath the bridge “to stay for so long as the water flowed under the arch”.
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This theory was tested when, in the early 19th century during a repair on the bridge the flow of water reduced to a trickle and the demon – according to a road user - “nearly got away, that a did, and a shruck and growled awful”.
Thinking that he was about to shrug off his bondage and escape, onlookers saw bubbles rising from the water and heard the creaks and groans of the beast from the underworld trying to release himself from his watery tomb. They then heard howling as the water flow increased and the creature’s imprisonment continued
And the demon isn’t Homersfield’s only otherworldly claim to fame: the London Folklore Society Volume of 1879 notes that a house in the village was haunted and that a priest was called for to carry out an exorcism in order to “lay the unquiet spirit that so tormented the inmates. He came, book in hand, but to no purpose for the instant he began to read a prayer, the ghost got a line ahead of him. At last, a family member hit on this device: the next time, as soon as the priest began his exorcism, two pigeons were let loose, the spirit stopped to look at them, the priest got before him in his prayer and the work was accomplished.”
A tip to bear in mind for the future: ghosts, it seems, are easily distracted from haunting by the arrival of pigeons.