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Suffolk’s Woolpit owes its name to wolves, not wool

Posted in Animals, British Countryside, Interesting Words, Language on Saturday, 31 December 2011

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This edited article about place-names originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 888 published on 27 January 1979.

Wolves, picture, image, illustration

A pack of wolves

Do you live at Woolpit?

Woolpit is a picturesque little village in Suffolk. But you would be wrong if you thought that it got its name from producing wool – Woolpit’s name came from its wolf pits. These were deep holes dug in the ground to catch the wolves that used to menace the countryside.

However, in the 11th century, during the reign of King Stephen, something very strange happened in Woolpit.

Two children, a boy and a girl, suddenly appeared from nowhere. They seemed perfectly human apart from one thing – their skins were green.

They said that they came from St Martin’s Land, where it was always twilight. They had entered a cave, trying to trace the source of some music they had heard coming from it. This had led them into Woolpit, but when they turned around the cave’s entrance had shut behind them.

The two green children stayed in the village into which they had so mysteriously come. The boy died fairly soon afterwards, but the girl is supposed to have married a man from King’s Lynn.

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