Formerly the early medieval capital of East Anglia, Dunwich is now a small village that over the past eight centuries has been suffering from coastal erosion. Today it is no larger than a few streets, a pub, and a few houses. And, famously, the Flora Tea Rooms, an excellent fish-and-chip shop.
Most of the former town lies underneath the waves, as the local museum demonstrates, and the town has made an industry out of its lost heritage (which included around a dozen churches, a market square, and a guildhall). Walking along the shingle beach it is frequently possible to pick up small artefacts and bits of archaeology (including bones from an eroding cemetery) from the crumbling cliffs overhead.
Once a prosperous seaport with a population of 3000 and listed in the Domesday book, the town was largely destroyed by storms in 1286 and 1347, then fell further victim to the eroding coastline. Today, almost the entire town has disappeared, leaving only the remains of a couple of buildings.
Ruins of Greyfriars’ Monastery are a striking part of the landscape, but most affecting is the palpable sense of absence to the village, and the realization that within another century, it may well disappear for good.
Know Before You Go
Located between Walberwick and Southwold in Suffolk County, England.
- Nicholas Comfort. 1994. The Lost City of Dunwich. Lavenham, Suffolk: Terence Dalton Ltd.
- Benjamin Morris. 2006. "In Defence of Oblivion." MPhil Thesis, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.