Weird Suffolk: Tales of the Devil at Akenham Church near Ipswich
PUBLISHED: 17:00 02 February 2018 | UPDATED: 17:08 02 February 2018
It may be God’s house, but it’s said that the Devil lives at Akenham Church near Ipswich, and that he can be woken from his infernal sleep by anyone brave enough to risk his ire.
St Mary’s is only four miles from Ipswich town centre but stands as a lonely sentinel on raised ground, almost a mile from the nearest thoroughfare and at the end of a muddy track where fields stretch into the countryside – it looks as if life passes it by, but in fact, it is at the centre of a host of unusual phenomena.
The church is, for example, where Sir Edward Walgrave was laid to rest – chief advisor to Queen Mary I – and was also involved in the Burial Reformation Act after a two-year-old child, Joseph Ramsey, was apparently denied a Christian burial by the Reverend Drury, a clergyman known for preaching hellfire and damnation from the pulpit.
Poor Joseph’s gravestone can still be seen to the north of the churchyard, a short life that led to a change in the law when a legal dispute broke out over whether or not an unbaptised child of a non-conformist family could be buried with a service in a Church of England graveyard. The scandal led to a change in the Burial Law of England in 1880 and a greater level of acceptance in burial practices and guaranteed access to consecrated ground with or without the services of any Christian church or denomination.
But is the devil is in the detail – could the new laws have unwittingly offered access to Lucifer himself?
A local legend claims that the Devil lies in St Mary’s under a split gravestone, sinisterly quiet, waiting for anyone brave enough to test the theory that walking anti-clockwise around the church 13 times will wake him from his infernal slumber.
The theory has, of course, been tested. A number of paranormal investigation groups have noted a change in the atmosphere after the required trek 13 times around the church – in a video posted online by The Priory, a group which investigates sites of interest, a brave soul completed the task set by Old Nick himself.
“When all circumnavigations were completed, we all certainly felt a change in the atmosphere of the surrounding area and the energies became a lot darker, the atmosphere heavier and a kind of darkness descended around the church,” the group noted, “now was this imagination? Was it an illusion, the weather, general atmospherics or was it real? But ‘something’ did most certainly change and as we all know there is no such thing as a coincidence and nothing is ever what it seems.”
Another account recalls the legend being a source of fascination when he was younger: “ We used to dare ourselves to go up here (St Mary’s) as kids. There are loads of different stories of Devil worship and possessions relating to this church…My Mum told me the stories that were told to her as a kid.
“I myself have met a bloke that claims the Devil jumped on his back while they were mucking about up there! He really does still wear a big cross to this day…”
There have been further claims about poor St Mary’s, no longer used for religious services, but cared for diligently by the Churches Conservation Trust – some say the bells ring by themselves, others that a ghost has appeared at the window. There is, of course, only one way to settle the matter of the Devil’s residence – count carefully as you walk round the church.