WEIRD SUFFOLK: The many ghosts of Badwell Ash village, including a cursed coach and horses
- Credit: Archant
In a Suffolk village said to have been burnt to the ground to eradicate plague, it may come as no surprise that ghosts from the past can still be seen.
From a haunted pond named after its ghost to the mysterious woman seen gliding through hedges, an eerie white figure to a cursed coach and horses, Badwell Ash has more than its fair share of spooks. According to scholar Eilert Ekwall, who wrote numerous books on English placenames up until his death in 1964, Badwell Ash takes its name from Bada’s stream near the field with ash trees. The ‘Ash’ part of the name is believed to be derived from the ‘Reaping of the Bad’ of 1659 when the local Lord burned the settlement of ‘the Bad’ in an attempt to stop an outbreak of the plague which had broken out.
On the Badwell Ash village website there are accounts from Margaret Symonds. The Nan Silvers pond in the village is named for the jilted young woman said to have drowned herself there when her love left her: on nights when there is a full moon, her face can be seen shimmering in the water.
Another ghost is seen on Richer Road. Margaret recalls her as Mrs Etteridge, but Weird Suffolk research suggests that the name may have been Etheridge, who lived at Parker’s Farm, where the ghost in questions was seen.
“According to an account given to me years later, Mrs Etteridge was most famously spotted in the 1920s by a yard boy at Parkers Farm (corner of The Street and Richer Road),” wrote Margaret.
“This boy was watching a horseman digging his garden one evening, across the road from the old cemetery. As it became dusk he saw the figure of a woman walking beside the hedge.
“He did not recognise her but noticed that she had long hair, down to her waist. She seemed to pass through the hedge, crossed the road, and passed again through the cemetery hedge.
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On returning home, he told his father what he had seen and described the woman to him. His father recognised her as the wife of the farmer who had lived at Parker’s Farm some years before.”
On Holland’s Hill, now known as Ashfield Hill, a white figure has been seen on dark nights while at The White Horse pub – a coaching inn since the 14th century – a ghostly coach and horses is seen driving from Badwell towards Walsham on New Year’s Eve.
Weird Suffolk counsels against trying to spot the ghostly carriage: those who see it are reputed to drop dead or die soon after.
“According to local legend the phantasm is the product of a curse,” wrote Margaret.
“The story goes that the coach and horses knocked down and killed a small boy, whose mother pronounced the curse upon the driver, dooming him to drive his carriage forever.”
Badwell Ash is also associated with other strange stories: Dr Ernest Rudge, a professor, believed that a prehistoric trackway 200 miles long ran from Thatcham in Berkshire to The Wash in Norfolk, marked by so-called Puddingstones, one of which was in the Suffolk village. Puddingstones, named due to their resemblance to plum puddings, marked a flint route to and from Grime’s Graves near Thetford, he claimed. One is said to be the erratic that can be found on The Street.
And finally, there’s the curious case of the ‘ghost lights’ of Badwell Ash seen in the 1960s by couples parked in a ‘lovers’ lane’ close to Ladybrick Barn. Witnesses reported what looked like “a spectracl lantern carried by an invisible hand” which seemed to drift towards the parked cars. Sadly, the voyeuristic Will O’ the Wisps turned out to be a somewhat duller optical illusion involving distant house lights spotted across the fields.
As for Badwell’s other ghostly residents…no such easy explanations appear to be close to hand when it comes to those.