Weird Suffolk: The Christmas ghost at one of Suffolk’s most haunted houses
- Credit: Archant Library
At one of Suffolk’s spookiest houses, Christmas Eve is met with much anticipation as everyone looks forward to the annual festive visit of a mysterious man…a headless horseman driving a coach at great speed.
Rather than Father Christmas and a reindeer-driven sleigh, Roos Hall is said to be visited by the ghostly carriage, driven noiselessly by the headless man and pulled by headless horses which speed down the driveway towards the house.
As the spectral coach reaches the door, it stops and a beautiful women steps out of the coach – but those who are drawn to her beauty would do well to look away, it is said that if you look into her eyes, you will be driven to madness or instant death.
The red brick Tudor Hall is set in medieval parkland and is said to be one of the most haunted houses in England, with a host of ghosts. It is said to take its name from the family of de Roos, who were the Lords of the manor close to Beccles at the beginning of the 13th century.
The Colby family lived at Roos Hall having inherited the house through marriage and scratched on the lead water pipes from the roof are the initials T.C B.C 1583, Thomas and Beatrice Colby – the pair had 12 children, one of whom was Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and Serjeant at Arms for King James I.
In 1603, the heir to Roos Hall – also called Thomas – figured in the Court of Insolvency and the estate was lost and the family dispersed, their fortunes lost. The hall went to Sir John Suckling, Secretary of State before being sold to Thomas Rede for £12,160. By 1909, the Hall was owned by Mr FWD Robinson.
In the EDP of that year on January 26, a mysterious story was told involving Christmas ghosts of a different nature.
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“A good deal of interest has been aroused Beccles by the statements of two labourers in the employ of Mr F.W.D. Robinson of Roos Hall, Beccles, that they have seen an apparition in the neighbourhood,” the article read.
“Benjamin Benns says he has seen it four times since last November, while Robert Elvin, his next door neighbour, says he first saw it for the first time a week before Christmas, and again on Monday night, the 18th, about eight o’clock, when he was walking with Benns towards Beccles.
“They both agree that the ‘ghost’ was of very shadowy appearance, that passed them very swiftly on the Low Road leading to Shipmeadow Lock [now Geldeston Lock) and mysteriously disappeared.
“They described it as about 5ft 9in. In height, with nicely-cut features like a woman. On each occasion that Elvin saw the phantom it appeared to come from Ashman’s plantation and over the hill to Low Road.
“Benn says it ‘brushed’ past him once as he was coming to Beccles, and another time when he met it the form disappeared over a five-barred gate into a ploughed field. “Both maintain the suggestion that it was ‘flesh and blood,’ and maintain that what they saw was an ‘apparition’ and Benns added, ‘we don’t wish to see it anymore.’”
Could the woman be the dangerous beauty from the coach? Could the coachman have anything to do with the insolvency case brought against the Colby family?
Roos Hall is a house filled with strange stories.
A gibbet once stood in the grounds and when it was taken down, an oak tree called ‘Nelson’s Tree’ was planted above the very spot where countless local criminals had drawn their last breath.
Witnesses have seen a lady wearing white and a man wearing torn trousers and a brown jacket haunting the spot where they died - the woman has been sighted walking around the tree six times in order to summon the devil himself.
Others have tried the same trick to call for Lucifer, whether they have been successful is unknown. There are other stories about Roos Hall that refer to what happens behind closed doors, but those are for another day or indeed to be kept close at hand by the family that lives there today.
As the year dies, it is natural to turn our attention towards stories about those who are no longer with us and draw closer to the fire to tell tales of death, winter and darkness.
Weird Suffolk wishes you a Merry Christmas. Don’t have nightmares.