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A PLEA FOR EAST SUFFOLK.
BY J. EWING RITCHIE.
In these days when travelling has become universal, and when railways and steamboats afford pleasure-seekers every opportunity for gratifying their propensity, it may be as well to remind those of that interesting class who peruse our unworthy lucubrations, that the eastern coast of Suffolk is rich in antiqnarian remains, in interesting, historical, and personal associations; that it is a land that has nursed here and there a man of note, and that it will repay the trouble of a visit. As most of our readers are aware, for unfortunately the Eastern Counties line, notwithstanding the superintendence of the railway king, has, as the worst aud dearest in the kingdom, obtained an unenviable notoriety, there is direct railway communication between London and Ipswich. Arrived at the latter place, we should recommend our traveller at once to reach the sea at Aldborough, where he may spend some little time, not un profitably, in looking over that pleasant town, rendered illustrions as the birthplace of Crabbe, and the scene of his youthful life. If he be at all familiar with the life-like painting of the poet, he will recognise many a description, and will be prepared to admit the truthfulness of the poet's verse. Not many miles from Aldborough, supposing the traveller's back still turned on London, he will reach Dunwich, a place not altogether unknown to song, since it was made the subject of a poem, by the late William Bird. At one time Dunwich was the seat of government, inhabited by the wealthy and the brave; here
“ There was a sound of revelry by night;"
but no trace of the stately halls where that revelry reigned can now be found. Dunwich is now silent and desertedshorn even of the faintest record of the splendours of the past.
The associations connected with Dunwich, are of no ordinary kind. The last writer on the topography of this part of the coast, Dr. Wake, in his History of Southwold, mentions the
July, 1819. VOL. LIII.-NO, CCVII.
fact, that there was born John Daye, the printer of the works of Parker, Latimer, and Fox. With a strong lion-heart he imbibed their spirit, and shared their fate. In the reign of Mary he became a prisoner, and at length an exile for the truth. He also has the reputation of being the first in England who printed in the Saxon character. Among the records of typefounding, the name of Daye stands with the most illustrious. When the Company of Stationers obtained their charter from Philip and Mary, he was the first person admitted to their livery, of which he was master in 1580, and to which he bequeathed property at his death. The following is the inscription which marks the place of his burial, in Little Bradley, Suffolk :
“Here lyes the Daye that darkness could not blynd,
When popish fogges had overcast the sunne ;
Obiit 23, July, 1584.
to the poor.
May all printers have an equal amount of light with Daye. But we must return to the town itself. Dunwich, or the splendid city, became a royal residence, and the capital of East Anglia, in the reign of Sigubert. In his time, also, it became the first episcopal see in this part of the kingdom. According to Rede, as quoted by Mr. Gardiner :
“ At Dunwich then was Felix first Bishop
Of Estangle, and taught the Chrysten Faith,
Thus nurtured, Dunwich speedily became a place of powerlearned and scientific men flocked to it—and we may suppose that the public buildings required by the circumstances of the times, were such as would beautify the town. According to our old historian, it was a city surrounded with a stone wall and brazen gates; it had fifty-two churches, chapels, and religious houses; it also boasted hospitals, a king's palace, a bishop's seat,
a mayor's mansion, and a mint. A forest appears to have extended some miles into what is now the sea. During the wars of the Roses, Dunwich, unlike the fickle fair, who, according to Chaucer
“ To speken in common,
unhappily sided with the losing party, and King Henry vii. appears to have transferred his affections to the rival port of Southwold, and by degrees its superiority left it. Even in 1590, it was spoken of as a town that had once been great, but whose glory was now past away. Dr. Wake has reprinted a MS. of that date, in the British Museum, part of which we will extract. It describes Dunwich as “an ancient city of the East Angle king, although now a town and borough, wherein Felix, a Burgundian, placed his episcopal see, and was the first bishop of the East Angles, who reduced the same with the country adjacent, into the faythe of Christ, Anno Dom, 630. Wherein also was a mint and much coyn there, called Dunwich half-pence; which also in the reigne of King Henry the Second, was a town of great and strong defence, environed with great dykes and banks, withe many sundrye high hills about and within the same town and libertye; whereof eight of these remayne within the town, and within the palace dyke, and one without it. *
Soe that at that time, in the reign of King Henry the Second, Robert, Earl of Leicester, which took part with Henry the son of Henry II., came to the said town of Dunwich to have it taken against the king. But when he came ncere and beheld the strength thereof, it was terror and fear unto him to behold it; and soe retired both he and his people. It was also an ayde to King John, with divers shippes in time of his warres with their lords, for the which these good services he granted unto them the first charter of their liberties. It hath been greatly frequented by marchands and with marchandize, insomuch that divers and many townes of this land have made compositions with it for mutual commerce and trafficke, as by their compositions under their seals, remayning in their chest, may appear.
“It had in it sixteen fayer ships, twelve barkes or cray curs, four and twenty fishing barkes, in the time of King Edward the First, which few towncs in England had the like. It served the same king in his warres with France, with eleven shippes of war well furnished with men and munition, the most of which shippes had seventy-two men a piece; the rest fifty, forty-five, and forty men a piece, and served thirteen weekes at their own cost
and chardge; of which shippes, four of them were taken by the Frenchmen, and many men slain.
“It lost in the time of Kynge Edward the Third, by the huge warres in France in the same service, the most part of their shipping, with the loss of five hundred men of the same town, which were slaine in the said warres ; as by some of the ancient records of the same doth and may appear.
“ There was in old tyme, between the sayd towne and the sea, a forest of the kings, as by graunts of the king unto some gentlemen for hawking and hunting therein, dwelling neere may appeere, which forest long time since is eaten in with the sea, and most part of the town also.
“ It seemed it was a great cittye and towne in old time: for after that it began to be consumed and eaten with the sea (as it hath been wonderfully), soe that there was, in and before the xxvii. yere of King Edward the Third, taken in and consumed withe the sea above 400 houses, which payd rente to the town toward the fee farm, besides certain shops and windmills.
“ The haven of the same towne, allso called Dunwich Haven, which did run out into the sea hard under the sayd towne, was large and deepe, about the same tyme and by the extremity of the sea stopped, and could never be brought, by all the cost and labours Dunwich men bestowed about it, to continue there agayne; although that before it stopped, the shipping that was there at and before that tyme, both in Bliburgh, Welberswick, and Southwold, came all down to Dunwich to go into the sea.
“The situation of the towne is upon a cliffe, for the most part of eight faddomes high, and the chiefest buylding there is about the market place and the market crosse, is not above eight rodds, and the rest of the buylding of the towne standeth most part scattered; and for parish churches there remayneth at this day only two, that is to say, St. Peter's, All Saints, and St. James's Hospital, and how many there hath been in old tyme, when it was a cittye, is not now certainly knowne.
“ 'The towne hath been greatly consumed with fire allsoe, soe that one quarter of the towne remayneth not now of that it hath beene at this daye, bein the last day of August, Anno Domini, 1590.”
Such was Dunwich in the gorgeous Elizabethan age, it was even then a wreck, a memorial of the past, when the impress of chivalry and feudalism was yet strong in the land. The ravages of time had already made silent and deserted its once thickly peopled streets, before England had worn for herself the imperishable wreath time has placed upon her brow. Not then was Shakspeare a household word, not then had Milton proclaimed truths that our children's children will do well never to
forget; not then had the freedom for which Eliot died in the dungeon been secured by the slaughter of one king, and the deposition of another; not then could the most accurate observer have perceived the presence of that potent spirit by whose magic spell it is, that the masses of Manchester, and Birmingham, and Liverpool, give the law not merely in St. Stephen’s, but in Downing Street and St. James's as well, and by means of which the then untilled wastes of Lancashire are now teeming with indomitable life. Before leaving Dunwich, we must transfer to our pages the following graceful poem by a Suffolk lady, well known and honoured in the world of letters ; we mean Miss Agnes Strickland :
“Oft gazing on thy craggy brow,
We muse on glories o’er.
Renowned and sought no more.
Above the ocean wave;
The wide and sweeping grave.
The home-returning bark.
One crumbling spire we mark.
She sat in ancient pride,
Reflected on the tide.
With patient care will look,
Of time's extended book.
Because my verse shall tell
When mighty Dunwich fell."
When the traveller has gazed sufficiently on the few remains of what was once a powerful and well-peopled town, and meditated on the transitory nature of all earthly things, if he be fond of the sea, his best plan will be to hire a boat, and stretch across the bay to Southwold, a town not far from Dunwich, a town
The remainder of the ballad is to be read in “ Worcester Field; or the Cavalier : : a Poem, in Four Cantos.”