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Dunwich Waves

By freewilluk      
The sea at Dunwich where over the centuries the coast has been washed away.

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.

Tags: Landscape and travel Wildlife and nature

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