BUNGAY, a market-town, in the union and hundred of Wangford, E. division of Suffolk, 40 miles (N. N. E.) from Ipswich, 40 (N. E. by E.) from Bury St. Edmund's, and 109 (N. E. by N.) from London, on the road to Yarmouth; containing 4109 inhabitants. This place is said to have derived its name from the term le-bon-eye, signifying "the good island," in consequence of its being nearly surrounded by the river Waveney, which was once a broad stream. Soon after the Norman Conquest, a castle was built, which, from its situation and the strength of its fortifications, was deemed impregnable by its possessor, Hugh Bigot, Earl of Norfolk, in the reign of Stephen; but that monarch, in the 6th of his reign, in the year 1140, came with his army and took it. In 1154 also, the 1st year of Henry II., the fortress was yielded by the same earl; but it was restored in 1163, and in the following year he again took up arms against the king, and fortified himself in the castle, which he was compelled to deliver up, and permit to be demolished: on its site a mansion was erected, which, in the 22nd year of Edward I., 1293, Roger Bigot embattled, by royal permission. The form of the castle, the remains of which belong to the Duke of Norfolk, appears to have been octangular. Portions of the west and south-west angles are still standing, as are also three sides of the main keep, situated nearly at the back of the two portal towers; the walls are from 7 to 11 feet thick, and from 15 to 17 feet high: in the midst is a well of strongly impregnated mineral water, long since disused. Near Saint Mary's church are the ruins of a Benedictine nunnery founded about the year 1160, in the reign of Henry II., by Roger de Glanville and the Countess de Gundreda, his lady: at the Dissolution the revenue was estimated at £62. 2. 1½.; there were then a prioress and 11 nuns. In March 1688, a fire broke out, and the flames spread with such rapidity that the whole town, with the exception of one small street, was reduced to ashes, and property, to the amount of nearly £30,000, together with most of the ancient records of the castle, as is supposed, was destroyed. One house, which escaped the conflagration, is still standing near the nunnery, to which it is supposed to have been attached, as the hospital for travellers and strangers.
The town is pleasantly situated on the river Waveney, which here forms the line of boundary between the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, and over which are two neat bridges. The streets diverging from the marketplace in the centre of the town towards the principal roads are spacious, well paved, and lighted with gas: the houses are in general modern, having been built since the fire; and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water from springs. The theatre, a neat edifice erected in 1827, is opened occasionally; and there is an assembly-room; also a book-club, established in 1770. On the northern side of the town is an extensive common, nearly surrounded by the Waveney, along the edge of which, on the Norfolk side, is a pleasant promenade, one mile and a half in length, leading to a cold bath, where a bath-house has been built, and requisite accommodation provided. The trade is principally in corn, malt, flour, and coal; and a new corn-hall has lately been opened: there are several flour-mills, and malting-houses, on a large scale; also a paper-mill, a large silk-manufactory, and an extensive printing-office. The Waveney is navigable from Yarmouth, whence the town is supplied with coal, timber, and other articles of consumption. The market is on Thursday; and fairs are held on May 14th and September 25th. In the market-place is an octagonal cross, surmounted by a dome, on the top of which is a fine figure of Justice: so late as the year 1810, the ancient cross, called the Corn Cross, was standing. The town is within the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, who hold petty-sessions every Thursday; and a town-reeve is appointed annually, who, and the feoffees, are trustees of the estates and rent-charges devised for the benefit of the town: courts leet and baron for the three manors of Bungay Soke, Priory, and Burgh, are usually held twice a year.
Bungay comprises the parishes of St. Mary and the Holy Trinity; the former containing 2248, and the latter 1861, inhabitants. The living of St. Mary's is a perpetual curacy; net income, £115, with a house; patron, the Duke of Norfolk. The church is a handsome and spacious structure, with a fine tower, having been chiefly rebuilt between 1689 and 1701, of flint and freestone: the original steeple was struck by lightning on the 4th Aug. 1577, at which time two men were killed in the belfry. The living of the parish of the Holy Trinity is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £8. 0. 5., and endowed with the rectorial tithes; net income, £256; patron, the Bishop of Ely: there is a good glebe-house, with 10 acres of land. The church is a small ancient edifice, with a round tower. There was formerly a church dedicated to St. Thomas, which was used later than 1500; but it has been destroyed. There are places of worship for Wesleyans, Independents, and Roman Catholics. The free grammar school was instituted in 1592 by the Rev. Thomas Popeson, who also founded ten scholarships in Emmanuel College, Cambridge, now reduced to four; and subsequently it was endowed by Henry Williams with the vicarage of St. Andrew, Ilketshall; also with 33 acres of land by Mr. Scales, of Earsham: the income of the master, who is appointed by the college, is from £180 to £200. The town lands comprise 155 acres, and yield an income of from £300 to £400. The remains of a Roman encampment are still to be seen upon the common: numerous antiquities have been found on its eastern side, including several hundred very small brass Roman coins, called minimi; and a tournament spur, a leaden bulla of Celestine III., and a fine silver Saxon penny of Offa, King of Mercia, have been found during the present century near the castle.