Weird Suffolk: The ghost which stood guard over the Dallinghoo treasure

The 840 iron age gold coins discovered in Dallinghoo. Picture: Supplied

The 840 iron age gold coins discovered in Dallinghoo. Picture: Supplied

They searched through the lonely earth for them, climbed through the briar and bramble - and finally, the detectorists found the treasure said to have been guarded by a ghost in a Suffolk field.

But while the Dallinghoo haul was celebrated when it was unearthed at the end of March 2008, the riches turned out to carry a curse of their own that left a friendship in tatters and took the shine off a glittering discovery.

A total of 840 Iron Age gold coins – dating back to life in Britain before it fell under the influence of the Roman Empire – were found in the Dallinghoo filed, near Woodbridge. The Dallinghoo Gold, valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee at £300,000, was initially found by detectorist Michael Darke, who brought the haul back into the light with friend Keith Lewis.

A lengthy legal battle began between Mr Darke and Mr Lewis about who should benefit from the find. By the end of the fight, the men could agree on one thing: after finding one of the most exciting and interesting archaeological finds in years, neither felt as happy as they should. Mr Lewis admitted the dispute had left a “nasty taste” while Mr Darke said it had caused him to have sleepless nights. “I sometimes wish I had never found the coins because of all the hassle it has caused,” Mr Darke said. “Without exaggerating, it should have been exciting and interesting and something to look forward to. But it has been a nightmare.”

Might the ghost of Dallinghoo Gold have attached itself to the find after all? For centuries it was said that a ghost guarded a treasure hoard in Dallinghoo and that 12 clergymen had failed in a bid to exorcise the spirit and release the curse of the coins. Did a metal detector succeed where the clergy had failed, or did the ghost simply seek revenge through the breaking of a friendship? The original legend placed the treasure “beneath a post of a high gate” - there is both a Highgate Lane and Highgate Farm in Dallinghoo and there was once a Highgate Wood.

While we are in Dallinghoo, it would be remiss not to mention the village’s other spectral resident, the Widow Shawe, the famous footless ghost of Suffolk. Seen flitting around the local lanes, floating as if she has no feet, she is said to be the unquiet spirit of a woman who committed suicide by slitting her own throat.

Today, the ghost who lost her life and her feet keeps company with the ghost who lost his treasure and two enthusiasts who lost a friendship.

For more Weird Suffolk stories click here.

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