Weird Suffolk: Was Denham Suffolk’s most-haunted village?

Denham Hall pictured by C.E.Jarman in the book "Denham Parish Registers 1539-1850" published in 1904

Denham Hall pictured by C.E.Jarman in the book "Denham Parish Registers 1539-1850" published in 1904. - Credit: Internet Archive

We have previously shared the story of the ghost in chains who haunts Denham’s St Mary’s church – today, Denham is back under the spectral spotlight as we take a closer look at Denham Hall and the area surrounding it.

Before the ghosts of Denham began to appear in the village, a speckled monster had plagued those who lived there.

Smallpox, after plague, was the most dreaded disease of its era – those it didn’t kill it often blinded or left sickened for life, survivors often terribly disfigured by the rash of deep pustules which wreaked havoc on princes and paupers alike.

In the 1600s, around 400,000 people a year died from smallpox and a third of those who survived were blinded.

Spread from person-to-person, victims would become ill around 10 days after infection, feeling unwell with a fever, vomiting, a headache and backache. After two to four days, the rash would appear on the face, arms and then the legs growing over the days to large, pus-filled blisters.

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If death was approaching, it would claim its victim within the first or second week of illness. And so, in Denham near Bury St Edmunds, smallpox ravaged the Lewkenor family leaving two sons and six daughters without parents, a tragedy which is depicted in a spectacular monument in St Mary’s Church.

Sir Edward Lewkenor and his wife Susan both died of smallpox within a day of each other in 1605, a disease which would also claim their grandson, 30 years later. The pair died at Denham Hall, close to the church where both rest for eternity, and it is the church, the hall and the surrounding area which concern us today.

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For there, in that undulating countryside – Denham boasts not one, but almost a dozen different ghosts which have been spotted by incredulous villagers and visitors and which vary from a phantom monk that walks along a pathway to a ghostly woman stepping from the church gate. Could they be connected to the tragic deaths of the Lewkenors?

Witnesses have also seen a spirit walking over a nearby bridge and a misty figure has been seen floating down a steep hill close to 16th century Denham Hall – terrifyingly, on the very same hill, a pair of evil-looking glowing red eyes can be seen in the steep bank, watching whoever passes by.

At the foot of the hill a ghostly lady has been spotted beside an old cottage while another has been seen wearing what looks like Victorian garb in the gardens of the hall walking not at the dead of night, but in daylight.

Suffolk Paranormal Investigations, a group which no longer operates, also received reports of a farm worker’s ghost which had been seen by locals around the farm building and was believed to be the spirit of an unfortunate man who had died in a grisly accident where his head was separated from his body when it was driven over by a horse-drawn cart.

The ghost, unsurprisingly, is headless.

At the moated hall, which is now a series of private residences, there have been historic sightings of small coloured lights which dance around the house, a bloodstain on the floor which appears and disappears and a series of footsteps and whisperings that can be heard inside. There are no recent reports, however, so perhaps the spirits have left to walk with their kin outside…

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