Weird Suffolk: The screaming ghost that sold his soul to the Vikings
- Credit: Archant Library
On the Suffolk and Norfolk boundary, close to a burial mound near Barnham, the land is filled with age-old secrets from a time when the Danes sought to overpower East Anglia. In 865, the Vikings set up camp at Thetford and spent a harsh winter there close to where King Edmund of the East Angles’ army lay.
As legend has it, the battle between both sides became a stalemate as the defenders were unable to escape and the invaders couldn’t fight their way past the fortifications of Castle Hill and Red Castle. And then the Danes received some inside knowledge which helped them triumph in their fight.
A local shepherd with the name of Tutt crept across to the Vikings and offered them a deal – in exchange for being promised ‘a high position’ he would show the invaders where they could find a passage through the marshes to a secret ford across the river. The tip-off led the Danes to victory and led Tutt to his death: he was hanged by the neck at a high point on what became known as Tutt Hill – not quite the high position he had banked on.
Other legends claim that Tutt – whose name in old English meant ‘lookout’ was in fact a Saxon warrior who turned against his brothers-in-arms. In addition to screams of pain and the sound of battle, a Saxon warrior ghost has also been seen at dusk, keeping watch over
The Seven Hills burial ground close to Little Livermere across the border at St Edmundsbury and overlooking the River Ouse valley is now reduced to just three of its seven burial mounds. Such barrows were mass graves that date from the late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age with most examples being from 2400 to 1500BC.
Another strange story is linked to Tutt Hill: Chunk Harvey was a pirate, according to a legend, who was betrayed by a shipmate and executed for a crime he did not commit. The salty seadog was buried “where the old road from Thetford to Euston crossed the Icknield Way” and staked through the heart with a wooden pole. According to author WG Clarke, a pine tree grew up from the pirate’s grave and could still be seen hundreds of years later – it was said to be the very stake that kept Harvey anchored to the ground.
The old Euston road ran west of the road that exists today, close to Snarehill, Tutt Hill and Mill Road where a body was discovered in 1957. Rather than a pirate, the body found was actually that of Thomas Harvey who hanged himself after an argument with his wife in September 1786.
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