the elusive beauty of the Suffolk coast"
Vincent Crumb, Sunday Times
Though it's hard to believe now looking at this tiny, peaceful village, Dunwich was once the capital of East Anglia; a port of such size and importance that in the whole of England it was second only to London.
Settled originally by the Britons and Romans, it was the Saxons who saw its potential as a port. By the year 630, Dunwich had its first Bishop (a Burgundian monk named Felix), and under the Normans it grew to become a huge and prosperous city. According to a history of Dunwich written by Thomas Gardner in 1754, Dunwich at the time of Henry II had 52 churches, chapels and religious houses, as well as hospitals, a King's palace, a mint and a bustling harbour.
But only one Ship today prevails
Dunwich's glory was short-lived. This dramatic shore had always been hacked and gouged by the sea, but during the reign of Henry III one terrible storm changed Dunwich's fortunes forever. At one stroke, the sea claimed over 400 homes, altering the shape and the very nature of the coastline. In 1321 a spit of land built up across the harbour, cutting off the port. Channels were cut, only to silt up again. Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries brought further ruin to the once rich city, and throughout the 17th and 18th centuries further hammer-blows from the sea sealed Dunwich's fate, sometimes taking whole streets in a single night. Dunwich's days of glory were consigned to the waves.
The last church, All Saints, was taken by the sea in 1919, leaving only the haunting ruins of the once great monastery to hint at its former grandeur. There are those who say you can hear the peal of ghostly bells beneath the waves now and then. Perhaps, after all, it's just a tall tale told by smugglers to keep strangers and the eyes of the law away - but it's not the only strange story told hereabouts. There's the Wild Man of the Sea, caught in fishermen's nets off Orford. The mysterious Green Children of Woolpit. And Black Shuck, the red-eyed, spectral hound who paid a terrible visit to Blythburgh church... But we'll leave you to discover those for yourself.