Lost churches sculpture slammed

BUILDING steel sculptures to represent the lost churches of Dunwich would be "archaeological vandalism", a marine archaeologist has claimed. Stuart Bacon, director of Suffolk Underwater Studies and of Deep Sea Exploration, has dived for many years in the waters off Dunwich, which are rich in historical material.

BUILDING steel sculptures to represent the lost churches of Dunwich would be "archaeological vandalism", a marine archaeologist has claimed.

Stuart Bacon, director of Suffolk Underwater Studies and of Deep Sea Exploration, has dived for many years in the waters off Dunwich, which are rich in historical material.

He likened the proposals to create six church-shaped steel sculptures on the sites of the lost buildings to "erecting steel sculptures on the mounds at Sutton Hoo".

The majority of what was once a major medieval settlement was lost to the sea, and the story of how it now lies under the waves is the inspiration for the proposed sculptures.


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But Mr Bacon fears the award-winning idea to create steel sculptures in the shape of the lost churches of Dunwich and erect them in their original positions does not take account of the archaeological and historical value of the medieval site.

Munich-based architects Johannes Ingrisch and Anne Niemann are currently carrying out a feasibility study into their ambitious proposals.

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Their idea to create the sculptures off the Dunwich coast was among four winners of the East of England Development Agency's Landmark East contest, and the pair won a share of a £250,000 award to carry out the study.

They are currently looking at the viability of a range of alternatives, including the possibility of creating floating structures to prevent environmental damage, and creating four rather than the original idea of six sculptures.

Mr Bacon is due to see the architects on Monday after they requested a meeting with him.

Many artefacts recovered from the site by divers are now on display at the Dunwich Museum and the Suffolk Underwater Studies Unit exhibition at Orford.

"The actual area including the debris field of each ruin could be in the order of 70m sq. Therefore, the thought of erecting steel sculptures on church sites amounts to archaeological vandalism equal to erecting steel sculptures on the mounds at Sutton Hoo," he said.

He added: "It has been hoped that land reclamation in the future will allow us an archaeological investigation to unlock many of the secrets of medieval Dunwich."

He hoped that with the development of underwater technology capable of penetrating the sand and silt the actual extent of the medieval site could be revealed.

All of the major structures so far discovered, such as All Saints Church, St Peter's Church, Knights Templars and Maison Dieu, which would have fallen off a cliff and onto the beach, were clearly defined on the seabed by the sheer bulk of material and the ruined buildings were almost in situ, he said.

Anne Niemann responded: "What's so fascinating about this place is the history, so we don't want to destroy anything of the history or the remains. We don't have any solutions yet, and the study is not finished."

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