In February 1862 a riot broke out in a Suffolk churchyard over a ghost story. Margaretta Greene, the story’s author, originated an enduring legend of the ghost of a nun, Maude Carew, who haunts the ruins of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds. But the story of Maude Carew, and the riot she inspired, raises intriguing questions about the origins of folklore and beliefs about the supernatural.
British regional folklorists of the 19th century remain, in many cases, rather obscure figures. Margaret Helen James (1859–1938) deserves particular attention for using her writing about folklore to give a voice to ordinary women and critique a patriarchal society, but until 2017 James was completely forgotten.
Suffolk might seem the very last place to look for fairylore; after all, most of us have grown up with the idea that belief in the fairies flourishes in wild, untamed places, and specifically in the ‘Celtic’ areas of the British Isles – Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Ireland.
The influences of folklore in the beliefs and rituals of exorcism are traced by Dr. Francis Young, who explores these effects in a practice common to many cultures and countries.
The city of Peterborough in the east of England and its surrounding region is one of the few English areas that has not previously benefitted from a thorough study of its folklore.