A bridge has spanned the River Bure at Acle since 1101, but the structure that stands today is markedly different to the crossing that would have existed back then. Indeed, the original three-arch stone bridge was replaced in 1931, and again in 1997, to better allow the flow of river traffic. Despite these changes, the bridge is still said to be the site of an annual apparition; each year, on the 7th April, a pool of blood is said to manifest on the bridge.
The locals tell a tale of a man named John Burge, a renowned brute who was acquitted of his wife’s murder. Unable to contain his anger, the wife’s brother waited for Burge on Acle Bridge and brutally murdered him. Returning to the scene some years later, and following the execution of an innocent man who’d been charged with Burge’s death, the wife’s brother is said to have met a similar fate at the bridge – at the hand of an unknown assailant. Making your way across the bridge on the 7th April – if you dare; will you see anything out of the ordinary?
Sir Thomas Boleyn’s journey of penitence
We’ve cheated here, as this tale refers to 12 bridges, rather than a single structure. Local legend tells a tale of Sir Thomas Boleyn, the father of Tudor Queen Anne Boleyn. Each year, on the anniversary of his daughter’s execution, Sir Thomas must make a journey from his former residence at Blickling Hall to Wroxham, crossing 12 bridges as he goes. Undertaking this feat in a ghostly carriage pulled by headless horses, the spectre crosses bridges at Aylsham, Burgh, Buxton, Coltishall, Meyton, Belaugh, Oxnead, Braydeston and Wroxham, amongst others. If you happen to be in the area on the 19th May do keep a careful eye out; you may bear witness to this event.
Potter Heigham Bridge
In the year 1741, it’s said a Lady Carew sought out a local witch to request a love potion; she wanted her daughter, Evelyn, to marry a wealthy bachelor by the name of Sir Godfrey Haslitt of Bastwick. Taking no money for the potion, the witch instead asked that a single wish be granted should it work. Lady Carew agreed and left with the potion.
In May of that year, Sir Godfrey and Evelyn did indeed marry, the potion seemingly doing its job perfectly. At the stroke of midnight, as family and friends of the couple celebrated, a skeleton stormed into the lavish party and snatched Evelyn away. She was taken to a coach pulled by four black horses, which immediately darted away. The wedding party gave chase in vain, finally losing the ghostly carriage at the bridge in Potter Heigham. The coach burst into flames and plunged into the river below, seemingly fulfilling the witch’s wish. It’s said that the same coach can still be seen each year on the 31st March, before it too falls into the depths.
Do let us know if you ever overhear a spooky tale or two when you’re in the local pub; we like to add such stories to our collection ready for Halloween.