After having a great time with the House in the Clouds and Thorpeness I fitted in a visit to Dunwich, a village which has been mostly reclaimed by the sea; it’s a fascinating story and well worth a look at the historical maps. This is a photo of a postcard I bought at the Dunwich Museum showing the town as it was in the 12th century. The yellow dotted line shows the coastline today.
Dunwich was subjected to a double whammy of natural forces which added up to a catastrophe for its inhabitants. On the one hand the silting up of the river-mouths of the Dunwich River and the Blythe River led to the loss of the harbour and its associated income from fishing. Then, as if that weren’t enough, savage storms and shifting currents ravaged the coastline to such an extent that by 1602 only a quarter of the town still survived. The inundation has continued unabated and on November 12th 1919 the last remaining tower of All Saints church toppled into the sea.
At www.dunwich.org.uk/history there’s a fascinating series of illustrations documenting the demise of the church as it slowly surrenders to the sea.
It’s hard to judge if the history of Dunwich is any more interesting than that of other towns in East Anglia but, for me, the plethora of information available, including recent scientific investigations, makes it a town worth the effort of delving into its history.
For more information go to the site above and click on Reconstruction. This shows the town as it was believed to be in 1250 (or thereabouts). Check out Archaeology as well to see the present estimation of the position of the coastline in the year 1050. Riveting stuff if, like me, you’re into that sort of thing!