Linda Bailey / Bridge Street, Bungay

A Magnificent Saxon tower, a well dating back to Roman times, a beautiful castle, a Butter Cross from the 17th century, and a medieval church can all be found in the charming market town of Bungay in the county of Suffolk. The town centre has even been designated as a Conservation Area by the English Heritage. You’ll find the lovely market town of Bungay on the southern bank of the River Waveney. The town borders Norfolk next to Suffolk closely and sits thirteen miles west of Lowestoft in the very heart of Waveney Valley.

In addition to the multitude of things to do and interesting attractions in the Town and the region beyond, Bungay sits between the sea and the countryside, ensuring that you won’t have to look far to find what piques your interest—whether it’s exploring the area, visiting the ancient city of Norwich, the neighbouring market towns, or the coastline.

The History of this Charming Market Town

Although it is not entirely clear where the unusual name of the town originates, history largely dictates that it was named according to the word for the Bonna tribe’s enclosed settlement, Bunincga-haye. Bonna was a Saxon chief of the town.

Wainford is located near Bungay and served as a significant military camp, and a large road dating back to Roman times runs close to the town. The location of Bungay was put to better use by the Saxons, and a big Saxon cemetery close to Joyce Road led us to believe that there was a large Saxon settlement located here in the 7th century.

William de Noyers was granted the estates of the Saxons after the Norman Conquest. The castle in Bungay was most likely the work of de Noyers, built with the purpose of protecting him against aggressive Saxons.

Around 1164, Hugh Bigod, Earl of Suffolk, built a much stronger stone castle in place of the first one. The irrepressible Hugh was renowned for his frequent rebellions against the crown. In defiance of the English crown, he built a new castle at Bungay to assert his wealth and independence.


Bungay Castle Towers by Ashley Dace, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Standing over 70 feet high, the castle’s formidable remains are situated just off the market square, where the walls were up to 22 feet in thickness. The castle’s prominent twin towers were built by a 13th-century descendant to defend against Henry II’s army. Hugh bribed him to spare the castle.

Standing next to the Market Place, St Mary’s Church is an imposing and spacious ancient structure. A small Benedictine priory, whose remains can still be seen in the churchyard on the east side, was once housed in the church during the 12th century.


St Mary’s church in Bungay by Evelyn Simak, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The devil is said to have visited St Mary’s in 1577 in the form of the “Black Dog of Bungay,” as it was called. The terrified parishioners must have been quite impressed by the Black Dog since he is symbolised on the town crest.

Just a bit further east, you can see the oldest structure in Bungay, Holy Trinity Church. This charming church has a round tower dating back to the late Saxon period.

The damaged stones at the south entrance are a reminder of the terrible fire that devastated the town in 1688. A memorial plaque on the church porch commemorates the fact that the fire was halted at the church door.

Although the fire did not completely demolish the medieval market place, rebuilding this bustling town centre gave rise to what is arguably the most sophisticated old building in Bungay, the Butter Cross. It is here, in this classic and elegant backdrop, that a weekly market has been taking place since the 1300s.

The Butter Cross once served as a prison containing a dungeon. The prison and dungeon were later replaced by a cage made of iron to contain criminals. Surrounding the Butter Cross are several historical buildings that show the scars of the fire of the 1700s.

Borough Well Lane was named after Borough Well, which served as a major water source for the surrounding area. The well was constructed in a Tudor style. In 1797, Chateaubriand, a French writer and politician, sought refuge at number 34 on Bridge Street when he fled France during the French Revolution.


Borough Well Lane, off Bridge Street by Glen Denny, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Spend The Day in Bungay

Visit The Theatre

Despite being one of the country’s most recent provincial theatres, the Fisher Theatre is still a fulcrum for social events, including plays, films, exhibitions, and many other exciting gatherings.

The town of Bungay has a prominent literary tradition, and many writers are residents of this location, including Louis de Bernières, Elizabeth Jane Howard, and H. Rider Haggard.

The largest printworks in the whole UK is found in Bungay, Suffolk. “Clays” came to be in 1795 and was the site where the first copies of the famous Harry Potter books were printed.

Explore The Town’s Historic Trails

You can take two different walks to experience – The Town Trail and the Bigod Way Trail.

The Bungay village centre is dominated by the ruins of Bigod’s Castle, a once-mighty Norman stronghold now protected as a Grade I listed building. The Bigod Way Trail consists of several walks of various lengths and difficulties centred on the castle.

Historic buildings, churches, and the River Waveney are included in the Town Trail of Bungay. The ‘old world charm’ of the town can be discovered on this walking route, which is ideal for first-time visitors to Bungay.


The River Waveney at Bungay by Glen Denny, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Black Shuck

Many believe that the hound in the famous Sherlock Holmes tale ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ was inspired by Black Shuck, also referred to as ‘The Bungay Black Dog.’

For centuries, Bungay and Blythburgh heaths and coastlines have been haunted by the creature, according to folklore.

An account of a demonic black dog destroying St Mary’s church in Bungay and killing a man and a boy in 1577 is the first mention of this terrifying creature. It is believed that the Black Shuck ventured off to Blythburgh Church after this event in search of other victims.

If you want to be sure what to believe, you should visit Blythburgh Church, where the scorch marks on the door are said to be evidence of the hellhound’s enormous claws.


Nbauers, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Visit The Town Centre

The Butter Cross, which stands in the centre of Market Place and dates from the 17th century, is accompanied by the statue of Justice atop the dome, erected six decades ago. Bungay was once a thriving market town, and the Butter Cross was paired with a Corn Cross, which has long since been demolished, to signify this fact. At Butter Cross, you can still explore the weekly market every Thursday. Bungay still thrives as a bustling market town with its yearly Street Markets, where independent shops and food producers line the streets.


Butter Cross, Bungay by Geographer, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

When walking from the Butter Cross, you have direct access to the old Benedictine priory ruins behind St. Mary’s church, or you can stroll across the road and through the passageway between the Bungay Shopper and The Swan to Bungay Castle. The café sits beside picturesque ruins, so visitors can access the Castle, which is certainly well worth a visit.

Besides having many independent shops, pubs, restaurants, and cafes, Bungay provides delights along the river, so you should definitely explore either Outney Common or Falcon Meadow.

Nearby Accommodation

There are plenty of self-catering options available if you plan on staying in Bungay a bit longer. Check out the Little Beck Cottage in Harleston, The Frater House, and St Micheals House for a comfortable stay. Some hotels in the area include The Swan Motel, St Alfred Munnings Hotel, and Sugarbeat Eating House for a luxurious hotel experience during your visit.

Bungay is a wonderful place for a family to discover countless historic sites. If your visit Bungay once, you’ll certainly be inclined to return to this enchanting market town.

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