Dunwich, view down St. James Street; to the right is the local museum.
Dunwich shown within Suffolk
|Population||84 (2001 census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Ambulance||East of England|
|EU Parliament||East of England|
|UK Parliament||Suffolk Coastal|
Dunwich // is a village and civil parish in the English county of Suffolk. It is located in the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB around 92 miles (148 km) north-east of London, 9 miles (14 km) south of Southwold and 7 miles (11 km) north of Leiston on the North Sea coast. Its population at the 2001 census was 84.
In the Anglo-Saxon period, Dunwich was the capital of Kingdom of the East Angles but the harbour and most of the town have since disappeared due to coastal erosion. Its decline began in 1286 when a storm surge hit the East Anglian coast, and it was eventually reduced in size to the village it is today.
Since the 15th century, Dunwich has frequently been identified with Dommoc – the original seat of the Anglo-Saxon bishops of the Kingdom of East Anglia established by Sigeberht of East Anglia for Saint Felix in c. 629–31. Dommoc was the seat of the bishops of Dommoc until around 870, when the East Anglian kingdom was taken over by the initially pagan Danes. Years later antiquarians would even describe Dunwich as being the 'former capital of East Anglia'. However, many historians now prefer to locate Dummoc at Walton Castle, which was the site of a Saxon shore fort.
On 1 January 1286 a large storm swept much of the town into the sea, and the River Dunwich was partly silted up; this was followed by two further surges in the following year, the South England flood of February 1287 and St. Lucia's flood in December. Residents fought to save the harbour but this too was destroyed by an equally fierce storm in 1328, which also swept away the entire village of Newton, a few miles up the coast. Another large storm in 1347 swept some 400 houses into the sea.
Most of the buildings that were present in the 13th century have disappeared, including all eight churches, and Dunwich is now a small coastal "village", though retaining its status as a town. The remains of a 13th century Franciscan priory (Greyfriars) and the leper hospital of St James can still be seen. A popular local legend says that, at certain tides, church bells can still be heard from beneath the waves.
By the mid-19th century, the population had dwindled to 237 inhabitants and Dunwich was described as a "decayed and disfranchised borough". A new church, St James, was built in 1832, after the last of the old churches, All Saints, which had been without a rector since 1755, was abandoned. All Saints' church fell into the sea between 1904 and 1919, the last major portion of the tower succumbing on 12 November 1919. In 2005 historian Stuart Bacon stated that recent low tides had shown that shipbuilding had previously occurred in the town.
As a legacy of its previous significance, the parliamentary constituency of Dunwich retained the right to send two members to Parliament until the Reform Act 1832 and was one of Britain's most notorious rotten boroughs.
The Dunwich 2008 project funded by English Heritage and the Esmee Fairbarn Foundation was intended to collate all reliable historic mapped data on the same coordinate system and combine this with aerial photography and an underwater survey. Despite problems of very poor visibility and strong currents, maps were produced by Prof. David Sear of Southampton University, marine archaeologist Stuart Bacon and the Geodata Institute. They are displayed in Dunwich Museum which is accredited by the Museum Archives Libraries Council and show the Dunwich coastline as of 2000, 1826, 1587 and 1300 overlaid with 2006 aerial photography. Details of Dunwich's 800 year battle to protect against coastal erosion are also displayed in the museum and it is hoped more work will be done in future. A database of references to Dunwich "designed to aid academic researchers, family historians and students" is available online.
Churches and other notable structures
- Greyfriars: Franciscan priory situated in the south west of the city. This inland position has resulted in it being one of the few significant parts of ancient Dunwich still visible. It was founded on a site nearer the sea in 1277, moved to its current position in 1290 and survived to the Dissolution of the monasteries in 1538. The priory was originally enclosed by a stone wall much of which remains. The most impressive structures still standing are part of the refectory and the 14th century gateway which would have been the main entrance to the monastic buildings.
- St Bartholemew's and St Michael's were both chapels of ease that had been constructed by the end of the 11th century.
- St Leonard's: was a parish church that fell to the sea in the 14th century.
- St Nicholas: this was a cruciform building which lay to the south of the city. Lost to the sea soon after the Black Death.
- St Martin's: built before 1175, it was lost to the sea between 1335 and 1408.
- St Francis Chapel: standing beside the Dunwich River, the chapel was lost in the 16th century.
- St Katherine's Chapel: situated in the parish of St John, this was lost in the 16th century.
- Preceptory of the Knights Templar: the preceptory is thought to have been founded around 1189 and was a circular building not dissimilar to the famous Temple Church in London. When the sheriff of Suffolk and Norfolk took an inventory in 1308 he found the sum of £111 contained in three pouches - a vast sum. In 1322, on the orders of Edward II, all the Templars' land passed to the Knights Hospitallers. Following the dissolution of the Hospitallers in 1562 the Temple was demolished and the foundations washed away during the reign of Charles I.
- St Peter's: similar in length to the church at nearby Blythburgh, St Peter's was stripped of anything of value as the cliff edge drew nearer. The east gable fell in 1688 and the rest of the building followed in 1697. The parish register survives and is now in the British Library.
- Blackfriars: Dominican priory situated in the south east of the city. It was founded during the time of Henry III by Roger Holish. By 1385 preparations were made for the Dominicans to move to nearby Blythburgh as the sea front drew nearer, although these were certainly premature as the priory remained active and above sea level until at least the Dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, with the last building recorded as having fallen to the sea in 1717.
- All Saints' Church: last of Dunwich's ancient churches to be lost to the sea, All Saints' was abandoned in the 1750s after it was decided the parishioners could no longer afford the upkeep, although burials occurred in the churchyard until the 1820s. The cliff edge reached All Saints' in 1904 with the tower falling in 1922. One of the tower buttresses was salvaged, however and now stands in the current Victorian-era St James' Church. One of the last remaining gravestones, dedicated to John Brinkley Easey, fell over the cliff in the early 1990s. A single gravestone still remains (as of 2011) around 15 feet from the cliff edge in memory of Jacob Forster who died in the late 18th century.
- 2001 Census data. Retrieved 2012-01-02.
- Bede, Ecclesiastical History, Book II, Ch.15 (accepitque sedem episcopatus in ciuitate Dommoc), who stipulates Felix's mission in relation to Sigeberht's rule.
- Mee, Arthur. The King's England: Suffolk. pp. 124–128.
- Richard Hoggett, (2010), The archaeology of the East Anglian conversion, pages 35-40. Boydell & Brewer
- Gardner, Thomas (1754). An historical account of Dunwich, antiently a city, now a borough;: Blithburgh, formerly a town of note, now a village; Southwold, once a village, now a town-corporate; with remarks on some places contiguous thereto .... London: Printed for the author, and sold by him at Southwold, in Suffolk; and also by W. Owen, at Homer's Head near Temple-Bar. p. 6. Retrieved 18 November 2010. (Archived by Oxford University, 6 March 2009).
- "Abandoned Communities...Dunwich". Abandonedcommunities.co.uk. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
- Simons, Paul (2008). Since Records Began. London: Collins. pp. 175–6. ISBN 978-0-00-728463-4.
- "All Saints, Dunwich". SuffolkChurches.co.uk. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
- Parker, Rowland (1979). Men of Dunwich: the story of a vanished town. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. p. 10. ISBN 9780030468018.
- Leader, R. (1844). William White History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Suffolk. Sheffield.
- "St James, Dunwich". SuffolkChurches.co.uk. Retrieved 18 November 2010.
- "Low Tide Reveals Lost City Find". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 10 October 2005.
- Philbin, J Holladay (1965). Parliamentary Representation 1832 - England and Wales. New Haven: Yale University Press.
- "Underwater city could be revealed". BBC. 14 January 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
- Dunwich museum plaques viewed 26 April 2012
- "Dunwich Museum Research". Retrieved 9 June 2012.
- "Visualising Coastal Change at Dunwich". Time Team. Channel 4. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
- Simon Knott (September 2009). "All Saints, Dunwich with an account of Dunwich's other lost churches". The Suffolk Churches Site. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
- Comfort: The Lost City of Dunwich: Churches and Chapels, pp 99–102
- Thomas Hinde: 'The Domesday book: England's heritage, then and now'
- "Chain Home Low Stations". 11 Group Stations of the the [sic] Battle of Britain. RAF. 16 February 2005 (last updated). Retrieved 1 April 2011.
- Ancient Dunwich: Suffolk's Lost City, Jean Carter and Stuart Bacon. (Segment, 1975)
- The Lost City of Dunwich, Nicholas Comfort (Terence Dalton, 1994), ISBN 0-86138-086-X
- Men of Dunwich, Rowland Parker (Alastair Press, 1978), ISBN 1-870567-85-4
- A Suffolk Coast Garland, Ernest Read Cooper (London: Heath Cranton Ltd, 1928).
- Memories of Bygone Dunwich, Ernest Read Cooper (Southwold: F. Jenkins, 1948).
- The little freemen of Dunwich, Ormonde Pickard
- "By the North Sea" and Tristram of Lyonesse, Algernon Charles Swinburne, in Major Poems and Selected Prose, Jerome McGann and Charles L. Sligh, eds. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004) 189-202, 206-312.
- Dunwich: A Tale of the Splendid City, James Bird, 1828.
- Bernard Cornwell, The Saxon Chronicles, Book 5 - The Burning Land
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