WEIRD SUFFOLK: At the place where the earth turned red with blood the sound of warrior ghosts can be heard piercing the mist
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020
A terrible battle, bloodshed that turned the earth red and ghosts that reach out from across time with their dying screams in a Suffolk village close to the sea.
It reads like a plot from BBC’s Suffolk-based Detectorists: the spoils of battle lying beneath the ground, a search for a lost Saxon warrior King, screams from the past heard drifting through the mist. Suffolk has a rich history for important archaeological finds, including the world-famous Sutton Hoo excavations in 1939, which unearthed the remains of a treasure-laden ship grave of an Anglo-Saxon king. Other notable finds include a huge collection of Roman silver, worth tens of thousands, in West Row, near Mildenhall, in 1943 and the “Hoxne Hoard” – consisting of thousands of coins and gold and silver objects – found in 1992.
At Bloodmoor Hill in Gisleham near Lowestoft, it is said that a terrible battle was fought between locals and the Romans, although the site has also been found to be a high-status Saxon settlement and burial ground. Legend has it that thousands met their deaths in this peaceful Suffolk village leaving the ground soaked with blood and a hill created from corpses. It was here that, several years ago, a man walking in the area heard the sound of screaming, of swords clashing and of battle on a misty night – as quickly as the sound appeared, it disappeared.
In The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk by Alfred Suckling, first published in Ipswich in 1846, the author gives an account of the battle of Bloodmoor (or as he calls it ‘Bloodmore’) Hill. “Tradition relates that Gisleham was…early the scene of a conflict between the inhabitants of the neighbourhood and a part of Danes who landed on the coast and established themselves in the village,” he writes.
“A mound of earth at the eastern extremity of the parish, near Pakefield, retains the name of Bloodmore Hill and is believed to mark the site of the battlefield.
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“A Mr Downing, in sinking a pit about the year 1780 at this spot, came upon the remains of armour, spreas, horses’ bits and broken stirrup irons.
“Mr Reynolds, the then Rector of Gisleham, stopped further search and insisted on their being reburied; where they probably now lie.
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“These fragments of ancient warfare would appear to belong to a Roman period rather than a Danish if the following narration be entitled to credit: ‘In the year 1768 a skeleton was found in a barrow on Bloodmore Hill, near Pakefield, round whose neck hung a gold medal and an onyx set in gold.’”
The inscription on the medal round the skeleton’s neck dated it to Roman, rather than Saxon, times, suggesting the warrior was far older than legend has remembered.
And Mr Suckling has another interesting tale linked to this Suffolk village: close to Bloodmoor Hill was Gisleham Manor, now just a moated site but which once boasted a house enclosed within the waterway which was a fortified house that dated back to the 13th century. In Alfred Suckling’s book, there is a tale about the house or hall which he said “…has attained notoriety of late, from having been the scene of a foul murder committed there on the person of James McFadden, an Irishman, employed in the rural police.
“This unfortunate person was shot in the thigh upon the edge of the moat in the night of Sunday the 28th of July 1844 by one of a numerous and organised gang of thieves who had long infested the neighbourhood.
“The murderer was identified and suffered the extreme penalty of the law at Ipswich on the 25th of March 1845.”
More blood at Bloodmoor, more ghosts to add to the deathly chorus that can appear on dark, misty nights when the sea fret envelops the land.