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Dunwich Town Defences

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Pales Dyke

In the civil parish of Dunwich.
In the historic county of Suffolk.
Modern Authority of Suffolk.
1974 county of Suffolk.
Medieval County of Suffolk.

OS Map Grid Reference: TM47857024
Latitude 52.27502° Longitude 1.63166°

Dunwich Town Defences has been described as a probable Urban Defence.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


C12 and C13 defences of Earthen banks. Scant traces of C13 work. Single grant of murage in 1253 but this may have been for sea or flood defences rather than fortification. Last remnant exists, rest destroyed by coastal erosion.

The surviving stretch of Pales Dyke was surveyed by the RCHME's Cambridge Office in October 1993, following a request from Suffolk County Council. The ditch is up to 14m wide and between 0.5 and 1m deep. The name Pales Dyke is recorded as early as 1573, supposedly deriving from the former existence of a pale or timber palisade. In 1589 Radulp Agas described Pales Dyke as an 'auncient bancke', part of which had been overlain by the precinct wall of Greyfriars (TM 47 SE 3). Agas' map marks the course of the bank and the location of Middle Gate. The date of the Pales Dyke is unknown, since the excavations of 1970 were unable to provide conclusive evidence (West, 1971). The defences must have existed in 1253, when the Calender of Close Rolls refers to a building near the South Gate of Dunwich, and probably in 1173 when the town survived a siege by the Earl of Leicester. The Dyke had become obsolete by 1290 when the Franciscans demolished part of the existing circuit. Either the useful life of the Pales Dyke was short or it may be earlier than has hitherto been suggested, little is known of Saxon Dunwich. (PastScape–ref. RCHME: Dunwich Greyfriars Survey)


TimeTeam evaluation in summer 2011 found late Saxon Thetford Ware pottery at the base of the Pales Dyke suggesting the town defence originated in C10/C11. Given the amount of the town lost to coastal erosion this suggests the Saxon settlement was of considerable size.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:06

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