Weird Suffolk: The ogre that guards Eagle Street in Ipswich
- Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND
You may have passed it hundreds of times without realising you’re being watched by a monster with paper-white skin, crimson lips, fangs and somewhat crazed eyes. Between shop fronts on Eagle Street in Ipswich is a white door, number 11. Above that door, which leads to a three-storey 17th century house, is the grotesque face of what looks like a cross between a man and a monster.
Made of plaster, the face is quite terrifying on first, and indeed on second, sight. With black hair, thick black eyebrows, bloodshot staring eyes, black nostrils and a protruding tongue, the face wouldn’t look out of place on a fairground ghost train. The legend told to explain away the grotesque head is somewhat fanciful.
This area, it is said, was once desolate and swampy and fit for no right-minded house-owner other than a fearsome ogre. As the nearby townspeople began to reclaim the flooded land, they inched closer to the ogre’s house as they built their own homes: he was not amused. At night, he would leave his house on the swamp and creep to the newly-built homes and destroy them, bit by bit, smashing the timbers, walls and roofs.
Arguments between the townspeople and the ogre broke out but eventually turned to negotiations – finally, realising that he was fighting a losing battle, he agreed to let the land be used for building on one condition. He wanted, the ogre told them, an image of his head to be carved into the new street to remind everyone whose land they stood on. Removing the head was unadvised: “If ever you take my image down I will come and take the whole street down…in one night!” he threatened.
Grotesques are similar to gargoyles and have been used for centuries to protect buildings from evil spirits – and Eagle Street, it is said, could use some protection from evil. It is on this street where poltergeist activity has been recorded at a property which was once a family restaurant and has since been a shop. Furniture would move across the room on its own, unknown powder would appear on floors and tapping was heard and even after an exorcism the building remained active. Does the plaster ogre protect this stretch of Eagle Street from poltergeists?