Weird Suffolk: Have you heard the strange story about Suffolk’s haunted frozen pea factory?
- Credit: Nick Butcher
It sounds like the opening to a corny joke, but for those who worked at the Bird’s Eye factory in Lowestoft, and those who had worked or lived close to the site for hundreds of years beforehand, it was no laughing matter.
For centuries, Rant Score in the middle of the town, one of the famous scores which link the streets to the beach, has been plagued by a host of unusual activity, from the appearance of Black Shuck to haunted tools to an unexpected chill in the air at the office for a frozen food factory.
The Lantern of Autumn 1973 has an article by DJ Fletch about the Rant Score Ghosts which admits that “the origin of the haunting lies lost in the mists of time, among the bustle and clamour of the beach village, which has disappeared for all time beneath the industrial developments of modern Lowestoft”. Fletch adds: “However, the ghost, unlike its original haunt, seem remarkably resilient, surviving both the bulldozer and the 24 hour hustle of modern factory life.”
Shuck was seen in the score in the 17th and 18th century but more recently the slender thoroughfare was in the heart of Lowestoft’s herring industry and was filled with fish houses used for storing and curing the fishermen’s haul.
In a building on Rant Score, fisherman were perplexed when their boxes – left neatly stacked at night - were found in disarray the next morning.
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Without a rational explanation, the men began to whisper that the area was haunted and many refused to pass Rant Score after dark.
Long-forgotten stories were, like fish, dredged up from the deep as tales were told of an old pub that had once stood on the site, The Dutch Hoy.
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Owned by Youngman and Preston Brewers, the pub once stood on the corner of Rant Score East and Whaplode Road and was renowned for spectral activity: a woman was often spied in one of the bedrooms at night, but when approached, she would disappear into a wardrobe.
At a workshop on the Score, tools would move in the night and the workmen who worked there became convinced that there was an uneasy spirit in the building. No one mourned when the workshop was torn down.
As the fishing industry dwindled and new industry grew in the town, the hauntings appeared to end as the modernisation began. But by the late 1950s, the ghost had returned.
Birds Eye Foods Ltd had moved to Lowestoft and began to buy properties, one of which was on Rant Score and was used as an office.
Almost immediately, staff working at night were troubled by footsteps approaching the door but when they looked, no one was there. This happened for some time until one night, the footsteps were heard as usual but instead of disappearing, the door swung open of its own accord, the temperature in the room plummeted and a second door opened through which the footsteps receded.
Things went quiet for a decade. Then in July 1970, the ghost made itself known: and this time, it was seen.
Two workmen were repairing an oven in the commercial kitchen when they saw the figure of a man glide across the room and through a wall.
Shaken, the pair left the room and refused to return that evening - the following night, workmates attempted to contact the spirit through a ouija board, but no contact was made.
The ghost was seen at around the same time in cloakrooms close to the office: a man on his own in the room felt something touch him on the shoulder.
He turned and saw a blue-tinged glowing ball disappear through a wall. Terrified, he shouted for his workmates and told them of his horrifying experience.
The ghost appears to have been quiet for decades - unless any readers can fill in any gaps - but its appearance raises a host of questions: are they all the same ghost? Is the ghost able to move to different sites and take different forms?
Our research shows that in 1715, five-year-old William Pilot was crushed to death by a cart on Rant Score - is he returning to haunt the area where his life was so cruelly stolen from him?
And most importantly, when will the ghost return?