Borough Well - Alan Irvine
Illustration by Alan Irvine

A Brief Introduction

Bungay, with its attractive location in the Waveney Valley, and wealth of historic sites, is one of the most fascinating towns in Suffolk.

Situated on sloping land, partly encircled by the River Waveney, it commands extensive views over lush water meadows, often flooded in winter, but fringed with silver green willows, and grazed by cattle in the summer months, creating a vista of serene beauty.

The town centre displays a Roman well, a Saxon church, the remains of a Norman castle and a Benedictine priory, and a fine lead-domed Butter Cross. The street scene is dominated by the majestic tower of St. Mary’s which, rising above the landscape for miles around, serves as a symbol of Bungay’s rich heritage.

The origin of the name of Bungay is thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon title ‘Bunincga-haye’, signifying the enclosure of the tribe of Bonna, a Saxon chieftain. On high land protected by the River Waveney and marshes, the site proved a good defensive position, and attracted settlers from early times.

During the Roman Occupation it was connected by the road they built, named Stone Street, with their camp at Caistor St. Edmunds. Wainford, just across the river from Bungay, was an important military station; and various Roman artifacts have been found in the region. When the Romans returned to their own homeland in the early 5th century, Britain was invaded by Saxon tribes, and the extensive settlement at Bungay is indicated by the large burial site in the Joyce Road area dating from the 6th – 7th century.

Major land-holders by the 11th century were Godric, and the Saxon Archbishop, Stigand, but, following the Norman Conquest of 1066, the Bungay manors were granted to William de Noyers. He is thought to have erected the first mound castle on the present castle site, in order to protect himself and his followers from hostile Saxons in the vicinity.

Coat Of Arms

Grant of Armorial Bearings was made to Bungay Urban District Council in 1953 and transferred to the Bungay Town Council in 1974.

Description of Arms: Barry wavy of six Vert and Argent; a Norfolk Wherry in full sail proper. Pennon flying Gules: a chief Or, thereon a Port between Towers Sable, the Port ensigned by an Escutcheon Or, charged with a Cross Gules.

Description of Crest: The Black Dog of Bungay courant proper upon a flash of lightning fessewise Gules.

Motto: Moribus antiquis pareamus – Let us ever hold fast to the old virtues.

On the shield is a pictorial representation of Bungay Castle, standing above the River Waveney. Above the gateway is the shield of Hugh Bigod, Norman builder of the castle in about 1164, Floating on the river is a wherry as a reminder of the water-borne trade which used to be carried on by these Norfolk craft upstream as far as Bungay, a town then well known as a boat-repairing centre. The crest shows the Black Dog of Bungay running along a flash of lightning, as seen in the great storm of August 4th, 1577, when the Devil was said to have appeared in this form in the Priory Church of St. Mary.