WEIRD SUFFOLK: The ghostly secrets of Kate’s Parlour in Suffolk

Weird Suffolk: The tale of Kates Parlour, Sotterley Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Weird Suffolk: The tale of Kates Parlour, Sotterley Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

The ghost of poor Kate, whose restless spirit stops the hedge growing at Sotterley and who haunts a hill in the dead of night.

The village looks like any other that sprang up close to a grand hall but Sotterley hides a secret that binds love and loss to the underworld. As you approach the village and before the road dips down steep Jay's Hill, there is a spot that most would pass without a second thought, but locals know it as Kate's Parlour - a place where no hedge will grow. At this precise spot, unnerving sights have stopped both man and beast in their tracks. Horses have trembled and refused to pass by, villagers have taken diversions to avoid passing the area, children spoke of Kate's Parlour in hushed tones. And when you find out the reason why, it makes perfect sense.

Villagers once told the story of Kate, a parlour maid at Sotterley Hall who disappeared one day and was never seen again - alive, at least. Some say that she disgraced herself and, in shame, took her own life while others think she may have been murdered, perhaps following a fight between two men who claimed her as their own. But most agree on one thing: where the hedges won't grow is where Kate's body lies and where the unfortunate maid herself walks in the dead of night, dressed in shimmering white.

In the Eastern Daily Press of February 22 1968, the tale was recounted. "We have always known about Kate as long as we have known anything," 74-year-old Mrs Eveline Artis, of Waterloo Cottage, Sotterley said. "They say Kate hung herself at the spot where the hedge never grows. They say she haunts the hill still." Another witness, Maud Crane of the Hulver Gate pub, remembers that a man, George King, was cycling along the lane when he had an accident caused, it was believed, by the appearance of Kate. "He was thrown off his cycle and went over the bank," she recalled, "he would never go that way again". Soldiers were trained in the grounds of Sotterley Hall and airmen were stationed at nearby Ellough during the Second World War. "Many of them reckoned they had seen Kate," said Mrs Crane.

Frank Killick, 80, remembered that many of the older people who lived in the village had refused to pass Kate's Parlour at night while Florence Hamblett, who had lived in Sotterley for 17 years in a gamekeeper's lodge felt there was a more obvious explanation. "When we first came here, they tried to frighten us with stories about Kate haunting the lane," said Mrs Hamblett, "but they didn't me. I don't believe in ghosts. It is true the hedge will not grow, but it won't grow under beech trees anyway."

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Another story based in the same area came from a moth collector who had stationed himself in Kate's Parlour to watch the night-time activity of the creatures that fascinated him. One night, just after midnight, he heard the approaching hooves of a horse travelling at speed and, after bundling the sheet he was using to attract moths and the lantern that drew them to it, he went to investigate. There was no horse, but the sound of pounding hooves continued and, suddenly, he felt a rush as an invisible force raced past him, the warmth of the creature's body and the smell of the stable. As the sound of galloping disappeared, the man found himself running too - away, far away from Kate's Parlour.

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