Until 1286 Dunwich was one of Englands largest towns. A Franciscan Priory was founded between 1228 and 1230 by Richard FitzJohn but it was destined to have a quite short life.
In 1286 a massive storm swept about half of Dunwich into the sea, in 1328 a second storm, even more ferocious, destroyed the harbour and most of the rest of the town (as well as taking away the whole of the village of Newton a few miles up the coast). At this point the Franciscans moved out and left Greyfriars to its own devices. Sure enough in 1347 a third storm arrived and took another 400 houses out to sea.
Over the next 200-300 years much of the rest of Dunwich fell victim to the encroachment sea and crumbling cliffs. The few buildings that remain today were a mile inland less than 200 years ago.
Today Greyfriars ruins are the only sizeable remains dating from Dunwichs heyday, although there are also remains of a Leper Hospital nearby. Although the erosion has slowed, it is only a matter of time before Greyfriars joins the rest of the town underneath the North Sea.
Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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