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WEIRD SUFFOLK: A walk around haunted Bungay

PUBLISHED: 11:00 31 October 2020

Does the legendary spectral hound Black Shuck roam the ruins of Bigod's Castle? Picture: Archant Library

Does the legendary spectral hound Black Shuck roam the ruins of Bigod's Castle? Picture: Archant Library

For spooky season, Weird Suffolk have teamed up with Water, Mills and Marshes to bring you a haunting walk around Bungay for Halloween.

Water, Mills and Marshes have teamed up with Weird Norfolk to bring you a series of walks for Halloween - The Haunted Bungay walk. Map: Crown Copyright/Broads AuthorityWater, Mills and Marshes have teamed up with Weird Norfolk to bring you a series of walks for Halloween - The Haunted Bungay walk. Map: Crown Copyright/Broads Authority

With people living here for centuries, the extraordinary Broads National Park is abundant in history and oozing with ghost stories and we are dying to share them with you In this walk, discover tales of farting ghosts, spectral horsecarts and several tales of the East Anglian legend, Black Shuck…

1. This 2 mile spooky circular walk begins at Bigod Castle in the centre of Bungay. Built in the 1100’s by roger Bigod, the castle was later added to by his son, Hugh Bigod. Humbled after taking part in a failed rebellion against the king, Hugh Bigod was forced to pay a great deal of gold in order to keep his castle. Some say that his shade has caused him to return in resentment, sometimes taking the form of a black dog. Is it Hugh Bigod lurking around the castle or could it be Black Shuck himself? It is believed by some to be the headquarters of Old Shuck. The ruined castle should probably be avoided at night either way.

Bigod's Castle in Bungay is said to be the home of Black Shuck. Byline: Sonya Duncan
(C) Archant 2020Bigod's Castle in Bungay is said to be the home of Black Shuck. Byline: Sonya Duncan (C) Archant 2020

With the castle to the back of you, head through the passage following the signpost for Angles Way, continue through the carpark and turn right onto Earsham Street. Follow it around to the Market Place and on your left will be the back of the Tree Tuns pub. Continue to follow it around to your left to the front of the pub at point 2.

2. Ye Olde Three Tuns Pub is home to a host of ghosts and customers have heard unexplained opening and shutting of doors, the moving of furniture and mysterious voices. Trays have been knocked out of people’s hands time and time again and shadowy forms have been seen making their way along corridors. A former coaching inn, the pub was once the meeting place for Suffolk gentry in the 18th century and where Charles Dickens and highwayman Dick Turpin are said to have restd their heads for the night. It’s also where a teenage ghost, Rex Bacon is believed to haunt. The 18-year-old son of a clergyman and from whom Rex had shamed by stealing from the collection box and then marrying a woman who quickly started having an affair.

The Three Tuns at Bungay is home to many ghosts. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Three Tuns at Bungay is home to many ghosts. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The cellar is linked to various parts of the town, including Bigod castle by tunnel entrances that are said to still be clearly seen. It’s said that in the cellar, keys on the wall have been seen to swing as if moved by an invisible hand and the ghost of a monk, who fled the dissolution of the monasteries has been seen. It is also here that the landlord had one of the most unusual experiences in the pub, one involving naughty Rex playing a trick on him after closing time.

“I was switching off the lights and as I did so, I took the opportunity to relieve myself of somewhat of a build-up of gas - the cellar was empty, it seemed the perfect opportunity,” He laughed. “Afterwards, almost like an echo - although there is no echo in the cellar - I heard a massive ripping noise, as if the fabric on the cushion next to me had been torn in half. I quickly switched on the lights but there was nothing. And then I realised: it was Rex trying to compete with me! So yes, a farting ghost!”

St Marys Church in Bungay
Byline: Sonya Duncan
(C) Archant 2020St Marys Church in Bungay Byline: Sonya Duncan (C) Archant 2020

The ghost of highwayman Tom Hardy is said to frequent the bar and was said to have used the Tuns as his headquarters. Believed to have been an associate of legendary highwayman Dick Turpin, who visited Bungay in 1739. Finally caught and hanged for his crimes, he is said to haunt the pub and is seen wearing his tricorn hat and distinctive 18th century clothing.

In 1969, a former landlord called in a clergyman to exorcise the spirits in the building who decided against an exorcism and instead held a Requiem Mass in the pub. His ritual involved releasing earthbound souls to the White Light as he called it, and was said to be soothing rather than exorcising - perhaps it was a little too soothing as the spirits remained at the pub and are still seen to this day. The landlord said, “I quite like having them around, especially when you catch the scent of sweet, aromatic pipe tobacco in the air and it feels as if you’re part of the history of the building, part of an old story. Very occasionally, they catch me out and I do jump a little bit, but on the whole, I think to myself that they’ve been here longer than I have so they’ve got a perfect right to be here.” Continue down Broad Street to point 3.

3. Head straight over the roundabout and towards Outney Common, stick to the right through the gate and head over the field. Enjoy the change of scenery from cars to cows. Continue over the footbridge, then veering to the right head over the next two footbridges and join the Angles Way. Take a right and follow the track around until you reach the road and head right towards the roundabout.

On this road between Ditchingham and Bungay at lions grave there has been sightings of a ghostly horse and cart. Reported by a driver, a coach with a team of horses haunt the road, seemingly charging at incoming traffic and turning away at the last possible moment. One version of the tale says the coach is either seen or heard, but never both. Head straight over the roundabout, taking care crossing and head down along Ditchingham Dam to point 4

4. The road to the left is home to a spectral story of a black dog, does our friend the Shuck appear again? On an early autumnal night in 1938, Ernest Whiteland left his companions and set off on the half-hour walk back to his home in Ditchingham. As he crossed Bungay’s market place, the clock at St Mary’s Church struck 10pm. With the witching hour two hours away and the walk stretching out for a mile-and-a-half, Mr Whiteland was in no hurry to rush home – it was a clear, still night and the walk was no chore. Norfolk Fair, the county magazine, of June 1980, records what happened next.

“I went down Bridge Street and across Ditchingham Dam, turned to the right past the Maltings, which used to be a silk factory, and was about halfway between the foreman’s house at the Maltings and Ditchingham Station when I saw a black object roughly 75 yards away, coming towards me,” Mr Whiteland said. “I was on the left hand side of the road, close to the hedge. As it came close, I could see it was a large black dog, trotting along the same side of the road as I was on. It was a lovely evening – no wind, and everything was quiet and still. As it came to about nine or ten yards away, I could see that it had a long, black shaggy coat and was about 28 or 30 inches tall.

“I moved into the middle of the road to let it pass. When it got level with me, it vanished. I looked round to see if I had made a mistake, to see if it was still running along, but could not see it. I then went and looked over the hedge, expecting to see it on the meadow, or her it, but could do neither.

“I stopped, it seemed to me, for some minutes. Then a sudden fear came over me and it did not take me long to cover the distance to my home.” Shaken, Mr Whiteland wasted no time in telling his friends what he had seen on Pirnhow Street – now the home of the Bungay Black Dog Running Club – the night before. They told him they were sure that he had seen Black Shuck, the famous devil dog which first visited Bungay in 1577. Continue along Ditchingham

Go over the bridge then down bridge street to point 5, just before the market place.

5. Take a left down Trinity Street until you reach point 6 at St. Mary’s Church.

6. At St Mary’s Church, Old Shuck makes a third appearance at no surprise due to his notoriety in Bungay. A stormy night on 4 August 1577, Shuck left the dead in his wake after bursting into churches at Blythburgh and St Marys and scattering the worshippers, killing those who got in his way. In his 1577 pamphlet ‘A Straunge And Terrible Wunder’ the Rev Abraham Fleming recounted the story:

‘This black dog, or the divel in such a linenesse (God hee knoweth al who worketh all,) running all along down the body of the church with great swiftnesse, and incredible haste, among the people, in a visible fourm and shape, passed between two persons, as they were kneeling uppon their knees, and occupied in prayer as it seemed, wrung the necks of them bothe at one instant clene backward, in so much that even at a moment where they kneeled, they strangely dyed.’ Some believe the black dog still patrols the area.

The Druid’s Stone in St Mary’s churchyard is believed to be at least a couple of thousand years old and the large rounded stone is rumoured to have been used by druids. Local legend states you can summon the Devil by dancing around it twelve times. I wouldn’t advise it though!

The ruins of the priory lie next to the church. It was founded in the 1100’s around the same time as the castle by Hugh Bigod’s wife. Gundreda. The sound of plainchant has been heard coming from the ruins of the old priory, accompanied by the ringing of bells that have now been long gone. Continue down Trinity Street the short distance to point 7.

7. Now stood in front of Trinity Hall where another apparition is said to have appeared and knocked a boy over. The Eastern Daily Press of June 12 1901 reported the curious tale of the Bungay ghost which had hastily become the talk of the town.

“Rumours of a ghost to be seen issuing from Trinity Hall, a residence which has been untenanted for several years, were rife on Friday evening at Bungay, and attracted a number of boys and girls to the spot after nine o’clock,” it read.

“From their statements it appears that a flash of light was seen coming from the building, and a figure attired in white crossed the road. One of the boys asserts that he was pushed or knocked to the ground by the phantom and when he got up, he saw it vanish into space through the palisading.”

Head back up Trinity Street, pass point 6 and find yourself back at the Market Place. Although our spooky stories ends here I’m sure the locals have many a tale to tell.

To head back to the castle, keep left at the market place and follow St Marys Street around where there is another entrance to the castle or why not drop into the Three Tuns where drinking company might not just be the living!

This season also brings colder weather and muddier walking conditions. Be prepared before you venture out, dress appropriately, take suitable provisions and a route map with you. If you do not have a mobile phone to hand, let someone know where you are going. Be respectful of wildlife, take care around livestock and take your litter home with you. If in doubt follow the Countryside Code.

You can download the walk here

Many thanks to Ella Meecham at Water, Mills and Marshes for all her help putting this walk together.


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