Like most villages, gossip spread fast through Woolpit – but the sudden arrival of two children with green skin really gave locals something to talk about.
Centuries later, the story of the Green Children of Woolpit still gets people talking – with the true identity of the pair hotly disputed by historians, ufologists and folklore experts.
It is claimed that at some point early in the twelfth century, two small children were discovered next to a dug out wolf pit near the sleepy Suffolk village.
They were wearing unusual clothes, spoke a strange language only understood by one another, and they both had bright green skin.
A local brought them back to the village, where they were cared for by local knight Sir Richard de Calne.
It is claimed that for several days they refused to eat, until eventually presented with a platter of raw broad beans which they eagerly munched upon.
Were the Green Children aliens or is there a logical explanation? Tell us in the comments below!
Gradually they began eating other foods and their green tinge vanished, but they were not in great health.
The little boy, who was the younger of the pair, died shortly after they were baptised.
What we know about their origins comes from what his sister said, once she had learned English.
She told people that she and her brother had followed their father’s livestock into a cave only to come out the other side in Woolpit.
Two variations of her story were published by twelfth century historians William of Newburgh in The History of English Affairs, and Ralph of Coggeshall writing in the English Chronicle.
They claim she said “they came from a land where the sun never shone and the light was like twilight. She called her home St Martin’s Land and adds that everything there was green.”
Newburgh writes she further added: “The land of St. Martin, who is regarded with peculiar veneration in the country which gave us birth.
“The sun does not rise upon our countrymen; our land is little cheered by its beams; we are contented with that twilight, which, among you, precedes the sun-rise, or follows the sunset.
“Moreover, a certain luminous country is seen, not far distant from ours, and divided from it by a very considerable river.”
It is thought that the girl – referred to as Agnes in some later texts – went on to marry a nobleman and had a child.
More than eight hundred years later, the strange story is still hotly debated, and two children remain the symbol of the town, looking down over the once feudal farmlands from its official sign.
One of the biggest questions is whether St Martin’s Land was a mishearing of the word ‘Martian’?
In 1998 Paul Harris suggested in Fortean Studies 4 that the children were Flemish and from a nearby town called Fornham St. Martin, which was separated from Woolpit by the River Lark.
But what explains their green skin?
There is every chance that their shade of green has been hugely over exaggerated, but it’s been argued that they were sick with arsenic poisoning; perhaps had been accidentally dyed green as their parents worked in a textiles mill; had an illness called chlorosis ; or had simply eaten too many broad beans.
Yet there is one theory that to many people is the most likely – and just as hard to prove as the more logical arguments.
It is that the two children were aliens who had been mysteriously sucked through a time vortex that opened up a portal between their home planet and Earth.