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Spooky tale of the little green people of Woolpit

PUBLISHED: 13:32 19 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:09 20 February 2013

Spooky tale of the little green people of Woolpit

Spooky tale of the little green people of Woolpit

Stories of the supernatural abound in Suffolk. Martin Sawyer investigates an unnerving legend from a quiet village

Stories of the supernatural abound in Suffolk. Martin Sawyer investigates an unnerving legend from a quiet village





The legend of the Green Children of Woolpit, has throughout the centuries created huge interest and stirred endless local debate.


To find the source of the legend we must travel back in time to the reign of King Stephen, who ruled England between 1096 and 1154, a period of social upheaval and civil war.


The village of Woolpit nestles in gentle countryside between Stowmarket to the east and, Bury St Edmunds to the west. Its name originates from the old English wulf-Pytt, literally meaning a pit for trapping wolves. For those who visit or travel through Woolpit, the village sign gives a clue to both the origins of its name, with a lone wolf standing proud facing a boy and girl, holding hands next to the church, and to the tale that caused such excitement all those years ago . . .


It was harvest time, and the late summer sun had shone brightly that day. Church bells were ringing in the harvest as the local labourers worked tirelessly in the fields. A more idyllic rural scene could hardly be imagined until, that was, some local villagers came across two extraordinary children.


They had been found hiding near the village and were said to be in a state of shock and fright. The villagers, unable to understand them and apprehensive due to the unusual green tinge that the children had to their skin, immediately took them to the home of local landowner, Sir Richard de Calne, or perhaps Colne.


Richard immediately set about trying to question the children but found them unable to understand a word of English. Instead, the children communicated with each other in a strange and alien tongue.


Their clothes were made of a material unknown to the inhabitants of Woolpit, and the greenish hue to their skin was quite striking.


Sir Richard was informed that the children had been found coming out of a particularly deep pit and appeared disorientated by the brightness of the summer sun. They seemed hungry but initially refused offerings of bread and water. For several days they ate nothing, until fresh beans that had been picked locally were put in front of them.




Their clothes were made of a material unknown to the inhabitants of Woolpit, and the greenish hue to their skin was quite striking





Immediately the children broke open the stalks and on finding nothing they thought edible became distressed. Gently, they were shown how to get at the succulent beans inside and for some time managed to exist solely on these.


The girl grew stronger daily and her skin slowly began to lose its green hue. adly, the young boy grew steadily weaker, becoming depressed, eventually passing away due, many locals believed, to the sorrow of his position.


In time, the girl grew strong, her diet adjusted so as to be able to eat bread, and, other usual foods of the time, and developed into a fine young woman. She learnt to speak English and gave an account of her early life.


She said she had been born in a place called St Martin and that it was a land of perpetual twilight. The boy with whom she had been found was her brother and on the day they were discovered they had been tending their fathers herds.


The pair had become aware of a luminous glow emanating from a place they could see across a wide river. They had stumbled upon a large cavern, from which they heard the sound of bells ringing. Enchanted by the sound, they followed it through the caverns and, after a long time, come out into a place with such blinding light that they became completely disorientated. It was at that point she said they had been found by the villagers of Woolpit.


The girl is said to have married a man from nearby Lavenham or Kings Lynn in later life and become rather loose and wanton in her behaviour. Some reports said she became known by the name of Agnes Barre and it is rumoured that she married a senior ambassador of Henry II.


Later unsubstantiated claims suggested that Earl Ferrers was descended from her through marriage but, more likely, rumours persist that there are local residents known only to a select few who are directly related to her still living in the Woolpit area today.


The tale poses several interesting theories. Had they inadvertently travelled through some portal, or anomaly from a parallel universe into our own? Or, had they, as Duncan Lunan suggested, been transported here by mistake from an alien planet as a result of an advanced matter transmitter malfunction? Whatever the explanation, the tale of the Green Children of Woolpit, has endured and is still as strong today as ever it was.


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