History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 13th century refectory
The ruins consist of a perimeter stone wall enclosing the monastic site, with a very attractive 14th century gateway. Once through the gateway you walk along a path that runs along a field boundary for about 100 yards to the remains of the monastic refectory. This was a two storey building used for dining. The remains consis of several window enclosures and a grotesque carved head projecting from the wall.
Dunwich was founded by Richard FitzJohn sometime between 1228 and 1230 for monks of the Fransiscan order (the Fransiscans wore grey robes, hence the name). The priory had a fairly limited lifetime; the original Greyfriars site badly damaged in a storm in 1286 (a storm so powerful that it was dubbed 'The Great Storm'). The new priory was erected outside the town boundary in 1289.
After Greyfriars was dissolved by Henry VIII the friary was scavanged for its stone, and part of the monastic buildings converted into a house. The house (later called 'The Place') became a prison and town hall. In 1802 these later additions were pulled down, leaving only the remains of the 13th century monastic buildings which exist as part of the refectory and the gateway.
There are two gateways; a larger, ornate gateway that was used for ceremonial occasions, and a smaller, plainer gateway used for everyday purposes by the townsfolk. There is a niche beside the small gate that may have originally held a statue of a saint. On the seaward side of the Greyfriars site is Pales Dyke, an earthwork defense that originally encircled the entire town of Dunwich.
Greyfriars is now administered by the Dunwich Greyfriars Trust, a charitable organisation composed of local residentsl.
Our Verdict: Greyfriars is pretty scant in terms of monastic remains, but the site is beautifully located, as is Dunwich itself. There's something magical and very poignant about this deserted site where so many people lived and worshipped centuries ago, before the sea rolled in.
About Dunwich Greyfriars
Address: Westleton Road, Dunwich, Suffolk, England
Attraction Type: Abbey
Location: There is no parking onsite. There is a parking area at the seafront in Dunwich, several hundred yards downhill. Open access site.
Website: Dunwich Greyfriars
Dunwich Greyfriars Photos
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Opening Details: Open access site, usually accessible at any reasonable time
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Dunwich Leper Chapel - 0.2 miles (Historic Church)
RSPB Minsmere - 2.1 miles (Countryside)
Blythburgh, Holy Trinity Church - 3.5 miles (Historic Church)
Darsham, All Saints Church - 3.7 miles (Historic Church)
Southwold, St Edmund's Church - 4.1 miles (Historic Church)
Leiston Abbey - 4.3 miles (Abbey)
Blyford, All Saints Church - 5.1 miles (Historic Church)
Bramfield, St Andrew's Church - 5.3 miles (Historic Church)
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