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Eric Shackle Writes: Great Britain's Getting Smaller

Eric Shackle tells of English villages being gobbled up by the hungry sea.

When an exceptionally rough sea topples a coastal building into the water during a storm, we Aussies are disturbed, but quickly forget about it, unless it happens to be our own home.

But to the 84 people living in Dunwich, an English village in Suffolk, on the North Sea coast, such an event is pretty ho-hum. They’re used to it. Dunwich has been losing vast areas of its land and buildings for ages.

Centuries ago, Dunwich was the third–largest port in Britain, beaten only by London and Bristol.

On New Year’s Day in 1286 a particularly severe storm caused much of the town to be swept into the sea. The River Dunwich was partly silted up. Two more surges occurred in the following year: the South England flood in February and the St. Lucia’s flood in December.

In 1328 a storm swept away the village of Newton, a few miles up the coast. In 1347 the raging sea claimed about 400 houses.

Fast forward a thousand years: These days marine archaeologists are searching the sea at Dunwich to find its underwater churches and houses. It’s rumoured that divers can hear the bells of a sunken church.

In June 2011 a BBC Time Team investigated the Anglo-Saxon and medieval history of Dunwich. British television viewers watched these programs more than two years before we in Australia could see them. Time Team is only now being broadcast in Australia by the ABC. We wonder what’s the reason for this long delay.


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