Dunwich - Encyclopedia

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DUNWICH, a village in the Eye parliamentary division of Suffolk, England, on the coast between Southwold and Aldeburgh, 5 m. S.S.W. of Southwold. Pop. (1901) 157. This was in Anglo-Saxon days the most important commercial centre and port of East Anglia. It was probably a Romano-British site. The period of its highest dignity was the Saxon era, when it was called Dommocceaster and Dunwyk. Early in the 7th century, when Sigebert became king of East Anglia, Dunwich was chosen his capital and became the nursery of Christianity in Eastern Britain. A bishopric was founded (according to Bede in 630, while the Anglo-Saxon chronicle gives 635), the name of the first bishop being Felix. Sigebert's reign was notable for his foundation of a school modelled on those he had seen in France; it was probably at Dunwich, but formed the nucleus of what afterwards became the university of Cambridge. By the middle of the 11th century (temp. Edward the Confessor) Dunwich was declining, as it had already suffered from an evil which later caused its total ruin, namely the inroads of the sea on the unstable coast. At the Norman Conquest the manor was granted to Robert Malet; but the history of the place remains blank until the reign of Henry II., when it re-emerged into prosperity. In 1173 the sight of its strength caused Robert earl of Leicester to despair of besieging it. The town received a charter from King John. In the reign of Edward I. it is recorded to have possessed 36 ships and "barks," trading to the North Seas, Iceland and elsewhere, with 24 fishing boats, besides maintaining i 1 ships of war. But early in the reign of Edward III. the attacks of the sea began to make headway again. In 1347 over 400 houses were destroyed. In 1570, after a terrible storm, appeal was made to Elizabeth, who parsimoniously granted money obtained by the sale of lead and other materials from certain neighbouring churches. But the doomed town was gradually engulfed, and now the only outward evidence of the old wealthy port is the ruined fragment of the church of All Saints, overhanging a low cliff, which, as it crumbles, exposes the coffins and bones in the former churchyard, the greater part of which has disappeared. A small white flower growing wild among the ruins is called the Dunwich Rose, and is traditionally said to have been planted and cultivated by monks. Many relics have been discovered by excavation, and even from beneath the waves. Until 1832 Dunwich returned 2 members to parliament.

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