Weird Suffolk: The strange tales of Cedd’s Stone, Chediston

Cedd's Stone, Chediaton pictured in the 1970s. Picture: Mike Burgess/Hidden East Anglia

Cedd's Stone, Chediaton pictured in the 1970s. Picture: Mike Burgess/Hidden East Anglia - Credit: Mike Burgess/Hidden East Anglia

It’s a holy stone which, if stories passed down through generations are true, has helped grow an entire village.

The strange stone of Chediston is a magnet for weird and wonderful stories as many such remnants from an icier past are wont to be – some say that the stone was an altar to the Pagan god Woden, whose worship at the stone Bishop Cedd stamped out in 660AD, others that it was once the tallest standing stone in England, dwarfing those at Stonehenge at a vast 9.1m tall.

There are tales told that say the stone was used by smugglers as a guiding landmark from the coast nine miles away and there’s a story about an old lady who was told as a little girl that if she stood still and watched the stone it would slowly but surely begin to turn.

The stone itself is sandstone, 1.82m high by 1.5m is on the site of the ancient Starvegut Pit and quarrying in the area has been taking place since the 13th century – a Geological Survey in 1887 recorded the stone as being 3m high and 2.4m wide, suggesting that even in recent years, pieces have been removed.

In the 1970s, there are reports that the owner of Rockstone Lodge – today a privately-owned bungalow – built on land belonging to the old Rockstone Manor claimed that the stone had once been in a sand pit and that as the sand was quarried, the stone had fallen, broken and the pieces had been used in the village to make walls. The owner also said the stone, known by many as Cedd’s Stone, had been a Druidic sacrificial site.

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There are also stories of a second stone, which it is said was discovered many years ago by some adventurous boys in woods near Chediston Hall, but which has since disappeared without a trace. It is believed that this stone, or stones, were erected at the site from fragments of the original Cedd’s Stone, which in 1932, Beccles antiquarian William Fowler called “the celebrated Rockstone”.

It is thought that Chediston takes its name from St Cedd (Cedd’s Town) or from the stone where he was said to have preached (Cedd’s Stone), although there is no concrete – or sandstone - evidence linking St Cedd and the village.

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Born in Northumbria and brought up on the island of Lindisfarne, he was born in the early 620s and was invited to preach among the Middle Angles by Peadea of Mercia, before being sent as a missionary to Essex, when the East Anglian king Sigbert converted to Christianity.

In Suffolk in the Middle Ages by Norman Scarfe, the author says: “The formidable Cedd was not a stranger, then, in Suffolk. Divining the magic that must have surrounded these gigantic, unaccountable stones, I see very well how Cedd might have come here to preach and to try to dispel pagan fear of them. That the place bears his name may be a coincidence, but it could mean that he succeeded as he generally did.”

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