A Little History of Bungay Lake

By JoAnne Riley

Some people call it Greenwood Lake, but the old-timers call it Bungay, and with good reason: the name is drenched with history.

The name Bungay had its origins with the Earl of Bungay, who at one time occupied Bungay Castle on the Waverney River, which seperates Norfolk and Suffolk Counties in England. The English town of Bungay reportedly dates back to to the year 1160, but even earlier, in 1140, Bungay Castle was the scene of historic strife. Ancient records say the castle was seized in that year by King Steven, after a bitter struggle, and later was taken by Henry XI. The town of Bungay still exists, even though the it was nearly wiped out by fire in 1688. Back in 1930, Bungay, England, located 20 miles from Attleborough, and 113 miles from London, boasted 3,100 residents.

According to records kept by the Massachusetts Department of Public Works and now kept by the Division of Waterways (DEQE), Bungay Lake, also known as Greenwood Lake, was created in 1794 when the owners of a sawmill built the original dam. There was not a lake at this time, but a spring fed river. I am a little confused because there are so many names mentioned, and so many documents to look at, but piecing it together, I think I an come close to give the owners of property on Bungay Lake a basic idea of what happened so many years ago.

Seventeen ninety-four was the beginning of a process of many changes that would eventually become Bungay Lake.

The Starkey family owned the land at the fish hatchery, and to make 100 years go by faster, through the process of children and grandchildren getting the land thorugh wills, etc., brothers and sisters of Andrew Starkey put the land together and had a great deal of land, about 90 acres. Andrew decided he didn’t want the land anymore, and sold it to John New in 1751. Mr. New was a stonecutter by trade. In 1784, John New deeded to Andrew Starkey, and others related to him, the right to flood part of Mr. New’s land by damming the Bungay River, which ran through New’s property before it crossed into Starkey’s land. This is the first reference to the use of the Bungay River, and in other documents I have read, a dam was there 100 years before it was destroyed. It seems that this is the second dam in existence today. In the area of the fish hatchery, there had been a huge say mill, gunsmith shop and stonecutter shop.