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MARKET TOWNS OF SUFFOLK (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Dunwich in 1842

Dunwich is on the coast , in the hundred of Blything, 28 miles from Ipswich, through Woodbridge and Rendlesham. While East Anglia subsisted as a separate kingdom, Dunwich was a place of importance, and the seat of the first East Anglian bishopric, which may be considered as the predecessor of that which is now fixed at Norwich. It is called in the Saxon Chronicle Domuce or Domue, and is variously written in other ancient authorities Domoc, Dommoc, and Dornmoc-ceaster. Various notices in ancient authors show it to have been still a place of importance at the time of the Plantagenets, although it appears to have declined under the rising importance of Southwold and Yarmouth. It was the seat of a considerable herring fishery. It was threatened by the insurgents, who in the rebellion of the younger Henry against his father Henry II overran the county.

In the civil war of John, the townsmen adhered to the king, who had befriended the town, and granted it a charter of incorporation. They lost several vessels, and many men, which they had contributed to the king's naval service in the French wars of Edward I and III. In the war of the roses, they embraced the Yorkist party ; and this, by inducing Henry VII to incorporate the rival town of Southwold, contributed to the decay of the place. But this decay was mainly owing to the encroachment of the sea, which not only ruined the port but washed away the greater part of the town. Of seven parish churches which it once contained, one only (All Saints) remains, and that is a mere ruin, in the place of which a new church (St. James's) was built a few years since by subscription. Besides All Saints church there are the remains of a Grey Friars' house, and of the chapel of St. James’s hospital : they all contain some portions of good architecture, partly Norman.

Dunwich is at present a mere village. The market has been discontinued. There is a yearly fair, and some sprats and herrings are caught and cured. The area of the borough and parish (for these are co-extensive) is 3,240 acres. The population in 1831 was 232. The corporation has been maintained chiefly for parliamentary purposes, and, as the borough was disfranchised by the Reform Act, will probably go to decay. It has a revenue of about £150 a year, and is untouched by the Municipal Reform Act. Sessions are held once a year by the borough magistrates, and an Admiralty Court occasionally.

The living of Dunwich is a perpetual curacy, of the clear yearly value of £40, in the rural deanery of Dunwich, in the archdeaconry of Suffolk, and diocese of Norwich. The only school in the parish in 1833 was a Sunday-school, containing from 30 to 40 children, about half of each sex.