Weird Suffolk: A secret well where kings fought, blood was spilled, traveller’s took shelter and where some believe spirits lurk.
- Credit: Archant
Blythburgh is teeming with stories which could keep Weird Suffolk busy for months: from Black Shuck to Black Toby, a ghostly highwayman to an eerie woman in white. “The most unsettling place I’ve been to,” said our photographer.
For many years the Lady's Well at Blythburgh was camouflaged in a dense thicket, a tangle of greenery which cloaked it from sight. Close to the A145 at Blyford, the well is an arched shelter of brick and stone which supports two seats and is set into an earthen bank: known as Spring or Springhole Lane, the well has also been called - somewhat less romantically - Tramp's or Traveller's Rest due to the brass cups once attached to the structure allowing people to drink the spring water that fed the well. The stream that once trickled close to the well and down to the flooded estuary at Blythburgh is now dry and the traveller's rest is now covered in undergrowth, its last reported use in the early 1900s.
Tree branches have been hacked back and the well is now visible for all to see: a solar light illuminates it during the hours of darkness, offerings have been left there, our photographer said it was the most unsettling place he has photographed for Weird Suffolk, that he felt deeply uncomfortable there.
This is, according to legend, the place where Saxon King Anna, or Onna, met a bloody fate in 654AD during the Battle of Bulcamp where Onna met the fearsome Pagan Penda. King's Lane, which cuts through the parishes of Sotherton, Henham and Blyford to this spot was named after the clash of the titans and the well is where Onna and son Firminus were killed. It was the last battle fought in East Anglia for many years. According to some legends, the spring that would later feed the well miraculously appeared on the very spot that the region's king was slain - he was buried either on the site of the later great church or in the priory in Blythburgh where his tomb was still being visited by pilgrims in the 12thcentury.
Although the current well was probably built in the 19thcentury, it is believed a structure has been on the site since 1280 and that an arch was present at the spot since 1740. Historian Claude Morley, who died in 1951 and whose extensive work can be seen at Ipswich Museum, said that the well had "…beenheld sacred throughout Roman Catholic times as indicating the spot where King Anna…was slain in the Battle of Blythburgh, AD654". Over the years the well has been given other names such as the Wishing Well and the Lady's Fountain, the latter because the 1stCountess of Stradbroke had a fountain placed at the spot and Agnes Strickland of Reydon Hall wrote a poem of that name in 1833. In the poem, a lady is out walking, becomes lost and - growing tired - happens upon a child filling a pitcher at a fountain, who offered the weary walker a drink, saying: "This is the Lady's Fount; we call it so, because the noble lady at the hall, when first the waters of this pleasant spring, that long were sealed, gushed from the gnarled roots of an old tree beneath the woodman's axe, built up this little fountain for the sake of thirsty and o'er-weary travellers, who, when they bow to drink, should bless her name."
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Some believe the well to be haunted, possibly linked to the fact that the well was close to Bulcamp Workhouse where those in need would find shelter and work, but also a long walk for many that resulted in arrival after the gates had closed, meaning a cold night shivering in the shelter of the arch.
Does the spirt of a poor unfortunate who didn't survive the journey to the workhouse still haunt Blythburgh's well? And is there something behind the well? A tunnel?
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