Village with a lot of mystery

Woolpit landmarks
Woolpit landmarks
Have your say

There must be few, if any, Suffolk villages shrouded in as much mystery as Woolpit.

From the curious origin of its name to the enduring tale of its ‘green children’, it is difficult to distinguish between the lines of fact and fiction.

Woolpit landmarks

Woolpit landmarks

Some have suggested, as the name implies, a connection between the village and Suffolk’s wool trade, but this is unlikely with the name predating the trade’s prominence in the county.

Others suggest a link to a nearby wolf pit but, and perhaps most likely, it could refer to Earl Ulfketel, a warrior who gave Woolpit to the Abbey of Bury and whose name, translated, means wolf trap.

More intriguing is the legend of the green children which, imaginary or true, is significant enough to be depicted in the village sign.

It tells of two children found near Woolpit with an unusual green-tinged skin. They spoke in an unknown language and only ate green beans.

Woolpit landmarks

Woolpit landmarks

Local historians Elizabeth and Edward Cockayne have speculated that, if the children did exist, they could have had a condition called chlorosis.

There are unsupported rumours that white bricks made in the village were used to construct prestigious buildings, including the White House, in Washington.

John Wiley, chairman of Woolpit Parish Council, explained how Woolpit bricks were used to balance ships that unloaded in Suffolk’s docks. He recalls a bridge in India in which the bricks were found in the mid-1990s.

The village has such an interesting past that a museum, thought to be Suffolk’s smallest, was set up in its centre, itself a conservation area.

Near St Mary’s Church, admired for its steeple, roof, porch and carvings, is Our Lady’s Well. Its water had a reputation for healing sore eyes and, when analysed in the 1970s, was found to have a high sulphate content.

Home to actor Stanley Bates, Bungle in Rainbow, and Ian Lavender, Private Pike in Dad’s Army, Woolpit is also known for its weekly car boot sales and annual steam rally.