Weird Suffolk: The Wetherden curse
- Credit: Archant
Mary I’s reign was steeped in controversy, tragedy and blood with the Tudor queen said to have been “the most unhappy lady in Christendom” – and in a quiet corner of Suffolk, some believe her legacy has thrown a curse over a field which refuses to yield a crop.
Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 to the time of her death in 1558, Mary and was renowned for her aggressive attempts to reverse the English Reformation which had started during the reign of her father, King Henry VIII.
The executions which marked her dogged pursuit of the restoration of Roman Catholicism in her domain and gifted her the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’ from her Protestant enemies. The only child of Henry’s to survive adulthood, her younger half-brother Edward VI had succeeded their father in 1547 at the age of nine, but died in 1553 having desperately tried to remove his sister Mary from the line of succession.
While his funeral was planned, leading politicians sought to bring Lady Jane Grey to the throne and she was, indeed, proclaimed queen on July 10 1553 but as she waited for coronation, plotting was afoot to crown Catholic Mary, instead.
When the Privy Council of England switched sides and proclaimed Mary as queen on July 19 1553, Lady Jane Grey’s primary supporter, the Duke of Northumberland, was accused of treason and executed and the Lady herself, her husband, two of his brothers and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, followed his fate in February 1554.
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During her five-year reign, Mary ordered almost 300 religious dissenters to be burnt at the stake in the Marian persecutions (a fraction of the 57,000 Protestants and Catholics executed during her father’s reign) – Sir John Sulyard of Suffolk was among the first to take up arms and levy men in Queen Mary’s service against supporters of Lady Jane Grey
Sulyard lived in Wetherden in Suffolk and was a Roman Catholic lawyer who was appointed High Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk in 1555 and commissioner of the sewers for Norfolk and Suffolk in 1566: he was knighted in 1557, around a year before Queen Mary’s death.
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As with many stories passed through generations, a kernel of truth becomes a field over time and, as it happens, our tale concerns a field on a hill known as Brennen or Burning Hill beside the main road between Wetherden and Woolpit.
It is said that in 1556, Robert Rosier, a yeoman of Mutton Hall at Wetherden (the dates don’t quite add up, but this is a story about the supernatural and not an entry in an encyclopaedia) was accused of heresy despite his allegiance to the new queen Mary. Simply supporting the new monarch wasn’t enough, as Robert was a Protestant and not a Catholic.
He was, it is claimed, arrested by Sir John, lashed to a post and burnt at the stake at Burning Hill. Some say he chose that spot himself so that the last thing he saw on earth was the home he’d loved, others that it was Sulyard’s choice to rub salt into the wound.
Whatever the reason, the field is said to be under a curse since that day and no crops have been able to thrive there since.
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