Monastery remains help tell story of England

Greyfriars Abbey, Dunwich. Picture: SUE RUSACK

Greyfriars Abbey, Dunwich. Picture: SUE RUSACK - Credit: Archant

The ruins of a Suffolk community which vanished into the sea after a series of devastating storms in the 13th Century have been named as one of the 100 places that tell the story of England.

Remains of the Greyfriars Monastery at Dunwich. Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND

Remains of the Greyfriars Monastery at Dunwich. Picture: HISTORIC ENGLAND - Credit: Archant

Scholar Mary Beard chose Greyfriars Monastery and the village of Dunwich in the loss and destruction category of Historic England’s campaign.

She said: “The idea of a major settlement being lost to the waters around England is a timely warning on the destructive powers of gradual change, rather than instantaneous catastrophe.

“It has been a pleasure, but also very hard and sometimes distressing to select ten places out of the nominations in this category.

“It has reminded me how important it is to remember and to memorialise tragedy”.

At its height Dunwich was the 10th largest town in England, an important international port and the seat of power for the Anglo-Saxon bishops for over 200 years.

Its streets, buildings and churches were lost to the sea and today less than 100 people remain living in the village.

Most Read

The majority of the medieval buildings have been lost to the waves but the ruins of the monastery remain. It was founded nearer the sea but moved to its current position in 1290, surviving until the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Rising sea levels mean that coastal erosion will continue to eat away at the settlement. Dunwich’s story is one of gradual loss to the forces of nature: something humans will increasingly face with climate change.

Historic England’s campaign A History of England in 100 Places is sponsored by Ecclesiastical Insurance.

Mary is one of a panel of expert judges, including Professor Lord Robert Winston, George Clarke, Tanni Grey-Thompson and David Olusoga, who have been asked to choose their top 10 places in a range of different categories from a long list of public nominations.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter