Suffolk's Most Haunted?
With Halloween just around the corner, my thoughts have turned to the spooky goings on of the county and I remembered back to my local school days, when I learned about the wonderful lost city of Dunwich.
Set on the Suffolk coast betwixt the bustling seaside town of Southwold and the strangely beautiful white dome of Sizewell B power station near Leiston, lies the quiet and unassuming village of Dunwich. Home to a handful of chocolate box cottages, a wonderful pub with fabulous food and a great fish and chip restaurant just off the beach, Dunwich is popular with those looking for a holiday in Suffolk or just a day trip out.
Dunwich is graced with spectacular cliffs and dramatic stony beaches scattered with a few colourful local fishing boats. There are beautiful vistas in every direction across land and sea. But the views of today are very different to those of years gone by, in fact, the coastline of yesteryear is some two kilometres out to sea.
In Medieval times, Dunwich was a hugely important and wealthy city. It was the 10th largest place in England and its wealth came from trade, ship building and fishing, thanks to its natural deep sea harbour. Dunwich was a centre of religion, with many splendid churches. There was a naval base and even a mint!
But disaster struck in 1286 when a terrible storm occurred. It lasted three whole days and swept away the lower town and harbour, starting the decline of the town. Nature struck again in 1328 when another big storm resulted in further loss of land, life and livelihood. As the centuries passed, the coast continued to be eroded, and by the 15th Century, only a fragment of the town’s former glory was left.
Today, the remains of a chapel from medieval Dunwich’s leper community, which sits in the St James’ graveyard, and the ruins of Greyfriars Monastery which have been restored and are conserved by the English Heritage are left as reminders of this quiet village’s intriguing history. But the destructive power of the North Sea has also left an abundance of ghostly stories and local folklore.
It is said that on occasions, a brightly dressed young Elizabethan sailor boy can be seen walking along the beach, and others have spoken of seeing apparitions of grazing cows and sheep along the shoreline. Many tell of the peeling bells that can be heard from beneath the sea, and the warning they bring that a storm is on the way.
Further inland at Dunwich Heath, there have been sightings of Victorian squire galloping through the forest on a stunningly majestic horse. Another piece of folklore tells of a man who wanders the woodland trying to catch a glimpse of his sweetheart. He was younger brother to the Lord of the manor and he died of a broken heart, having fallen in love with a serving maid, whom he was forbade to marry. There have also been sightings of ghostly monks prowling the ruins at Greyfriars.
The Dunwich Museum is a fascinating place to immerse yourself in the history of this once grand location and is well worth a visit during your break in Suffolk. And if you’re visiting this October, keep your eyes and ears open for the unusual!