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WEIRD SUFFOLK: Did Druids used to worship in Mutford Big Wood by standing stones?

PUBLISHED: 18:00 16 May 2020 | UPDATED: 18:55 16 May 2020

Did Druids used to worship in Mutford Big Wood by standing stones? Illustration by H.K.Creed for Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History, published in 1872.

Did Druids used to worship in Mutford Big Wood by standing stones? Illustration by H.K.Creed for Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History, published in 1872.

Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History

The Suffolk standing stones found hidden in a wood on a search for a lost ferret.

Did Druids used to worship in Mutford Big Wood by standing stones? Illustration by H.K.Creed for Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History, published in 1872.
Did Druids used to worship in Mutford Big Wood by standing stones? Illustration by H.K.Creed for Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History, published in 1872.

Think of standing stones, and it’s likely Stonehenge will come to mind – but closer to home, strange stones have been found standing in Suffolk. The Lowestoft-based Borderline Science Investigation Group shone a light on the mysterious Mutford Wood standing stones in its Lantern publication from 1982. It’s a story that involves a lost ferret, as all the best kind of stories are, and is from an account given of a find in March 1870.

“In a small natural hollow on the south-west side of the wood, close by the road which runs from the parish of Carlton Colville to the village of Mutford, the Rev. W. H. Andrew’s gamekeeper was digging for a lost ferret when he came upon some large stones of a peculiar shape, and they were subsequently excavated,” it reads.

“All the stones were found imbedded perpendicularly in the post-tertiary formation of the district, their ends nearest the surface being about three feet below it, and all upon the same level.

“Some of the stones are not more than three feet in length, others nearly seven. The top-soil of the hollow was loam to the depth of about two-and-a-half feet; below this is the pure yellow sand, lying in horizontal strata.

“In the loam above the stones were found bits of (perhaps mediaeval) pottery, some bones of a young horse, and a small portion of apparently half-burnt bones, with a few small oyster shells.”

The stones are believed by some to have occurred naturally while others believed the strange outcrop of rocks to have been deliberately placed. Creek references a visit from a “Professor Sedgewick” – possibly Adam Sedgwick, a Professor of Geology who lectured at Cambridge University – who visited the site in 1871.

There, he “…at once pronounced them to be natural sandstone formations, produced probably by infiltration of lime, and very peculiar from their columnal character.

“The sandstone composing them in horizontal strata, similar to that of the soft sand around. One of the stones is so like a small column, with a weatherworn capital, that it is difficult not to imagine it the crude work of human hands; and upon first entering the excavation the group singularly striking, reminding one of the (so-called) Druidical erections on a small scale.”

In addition to being used as places of burial and ritual, standing stones have – throughout the ages – been connected to agricultural events, such as the summer solstice with many such stones aligned with the sun and the moon to form a kind of prehistoric calendar. Another Suffolk stone said to be associated with Druids is the granite glacial erratic in St Mary’s churchyard in Bungay known by a number of names, including Druid’s Stone and Giant’s Grave and believed to possess magical powers.

Regardless of whether the stones in Mutford Big Wood, half a mile north-east of the village church, were placed by nature or human hand, what we do know is that there is no longer any sign of them. They are, like the ferret that prompted their discovery, lost.

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