Diss sign

Diss Mere

Aerial view of Diss Mere. Photograph © Mike Page 2005

If there is one thing that epitomises Diss it is the strange body of water known as the Mere. It covers about six acre and is thought to be many thousands of years old. It has been at the centre of life in Diss going back for centuries. Many theories have been proffered as to how it was created. Years ago some people believed it was the mouth of a volcano, whilst others wondered if it was a crater left by a meteor hit. One online blog claims it could have been formed from a historic 'plasma discharge event'! The scientific community now think that it is a natural basin, created by the collapse of the underlying chalk at the end of the ice age.

The Mere has an average depth of six metres of water, but beneath that there is estimated to be over 20 metres of mud, making it one of the deepest natural inland lakes in England. In Victorian times, in this mud there was a population of eels. It is said they 'committed suicide' by jumping out of the Mere due to the toxic water, polluted by the hat makers and dyers who dumped their waste mercury-rich chemicals in the Mere, as well as the town's sewage. When the textile industries collapsed in 1861 things improved drastically for the quality of the water, and so too for the eels. Diss Town Council still battles dangerous growths of toxic blue-green algae during the warmer months of the year.

In the harsh winters of the 19th century when the water froze over, ice carnivals with fancy dress and Chinese lanterns would be held, and on one famous occasion in 1827 a cricket match was played on its frozen surface. On 10 January 1891 lots of people in fancy dress turned out to ice-skate on Diss Mere.

In more recent times local people have enjoyed raft races on the water as part of summer festivities. For many years people regularly swam in it, a practice that was banned in the 1930s for a really good reason. According to The Diss Book, edited by Diss Museum manager Basil Abbott, in the winter of 1944 two evacuee boys drowned after falling through the ice, as one boy tried to save the other. Again in the 1990s, a teenage boy died swimming across the Mere with his friends.

Nestled in heart of Diss, undoubtedly the Mere will continue to fascinate for many years to come, as well as act as a major tourist attraction.


Recent photos of Diss Mere

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Higher resolution digital copies of the above photos are available royalty-free by making contact.




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Page last updated: 27 Oct 2021
© Diss Family History Group & Nigel Peacock 2021