by alice | Oct 13, 2016 |

Spooky Suffolk - Myths & Legends: Haunted Dunwich


There are plenty of ghost stories in Suffolk with myths and legends still told today. With Halloween so close we thought it was the time of year to tell a few tales of the strange and peculiar.

Haunted Dunwich

It is no surprise that the Suffolk Coast has had a long history shaped by the sea. Whole towns have been devoured by the crashing waves over time leaving only legends in their wake. Dunwich is one such place -  once the capital of East Anglia, a great city with a total of eight churches, two monasteries and even a mint. Lost to the sea, now only a few houses remain. The legend states that in times of danger you can hear the ringing of the bells from under the waves.

After the loss of the city due to coastal erosion and great storms, Dunwich was little more than a hamlet, and the people living there were reliant on the sea. Most of the villagers worked as fishermen and livelihoods depended on the catch and trade of what could be found in the sea. Returning to Dunwich after a day’s work or trading, the villagers found themselves walking through dense mist. The mist chilled the villagers and brought illness, especially to the frail. Lighting fires seemed pointless as their warmth did nothing to keep the mist out. It was believed that the mist was caused by restless spirits, namely those of sailors who met their end in the waters of the Suffolk Coast. Rising out of the water, the spirits sought out warm places on land as means to return to the homes they once had. The mist would seep under doors and through windows which made the houses in Dunwich cold and damp.

One place which was unaffected by the mist was the ruins of the old abbey. Rumoured to be haunted, it was not the kind of place the restless spirits were looking for. One day a villager took some stones from the abbey to repair his house and uncovered a bronze bell. He took the stones and the bell home only for the villagers to demand the bell be taken back to the abbey and buried. This was done and the mist did not encroach on the ruins. The villagers believed the bell possessed magical qualities and went about acquiring bells of their own in order to keep the mist and the spirits at bay. Bronze was too expensive a material and so they made clay bells mixed with earth sourced from the abbey ruins. The finishing touch of red paint was added as means of protection against the restless spirits and the bells were hung up in the houses of Dunwich.

The story goes that if a mist of restless spirits were heading inland, good spirits would ring the bells to alert the villagers of the danger. The villagers would then stay inside and block up their windows and doors to keep the spirits out. Even if it looked to be a fine day, the villagers dared not go out for fear of what the mist might bring. 

Dunwich was also plagued with the ghost of a young maiden named Eva. The story dates back to the twelfth century when Eva was was engaged to marry the son of a landowner only to fall in love with another man. This man had his way with Eva then deserted her, running off to sea. Eva waited in vain for her love to return and cut out her heart and hurled it into the sea. This meant she was unable to die and is said to haunt the area where the land meets the sea. The heart is said to appear similar to a wooden heart, and when it washes ashore brings misfortune to anyone who keeps it. 

Today you will find the people of Dunwich far less superstitious - although you might hear a ghost story on a particularly cold and stormy night. 

Stay in Dunwich with Suffolk Cottage Holidays! Bridge Cottage (sleeps 6) is nestled in the village close to the pub and a short walk from the beach. Keep an ear out for the ringing of bells and eerie mists.

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