Weird Suffolk: The ghost of Peggy’s stile, Wenhaston
PUBLISHED: 16:00 25 January 2019
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
She’s the witch-donkey woman of Wenhaston, appearing to some as an old woman and to others as a spectral pack-horse.
Set in the beautiful rolling Suffolk countryside, Wenhaston is four-miles from the sea and the drowned village of Dunwich and close to Blythburgh Church where saucer-eyed hell hound Black Shuck appeared during a great storm in 1577, leaving scorch marks on the church door referred to by locals as “the devil’s fingerprints”.
Opposite the Star Inn in the village, a footpath leads from Star Hill to Narrow Way and, along that path is the site of an old stile, known for many years as Peggy’s Stile and said to be haunted by a woman of that name who appeared to passers-by in the gloom at dusk and late at night.
While Peggy is described by some witnesses as looking like an old woman, or witch, others say that she has appeared to them in the form of an animal renowned for being gentle and kind: a donkey. Interestingly, some sightings of East Anglia’s famous devil dog Shuck have been described by witnesses as a creature that looked somewhat like a donkey.
Wenhaston is steeped in history: a stone’s throw from the site of Peggy’s Stile crop marks indicated that a ring ditch had once been close by, surrounding a Bronze Age burial mound and excavations in 2009revealed prehistoric activity in the area alongside Roman, Anglo-Saxon and medieval settlements.
The village also boasts a “druid stone”, known by locals as the Devil’s Stone, which sits in a hollow called Devil’s Pit – a glacial erratic – and the Wenhaston Doom, a 500-year-old painting of the Day of Judgement in which sinners are gobbled up by a giant fish (more of this fishy tale another day).
Peggy’s Stile was feared by villagers and avoided during hours of darkness, the threat of the terrifying witch-donkey woman used as an invisible menace and a timely warning to children to stay on the righteous path or face punishment from a creature that feeds off darkness and fear.
Like the Bogeywoman of the River Blyth, Peggy was conjured up by parents to frighten children into good behaviour who were told, up until relatively recently, that if they didn’t do as they were told, that Peggy would “get” them.
But was there any truth to the parental threats? We dare you to take a walk towards Narrow Way on a dark and stormy night…
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