Little Bits of History

Bristol Channel Flood

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 30, 2015
Bristol Channel map

Bristol Channel map

January 30, 1607: The Bristol Channel flood takes place. The channel is a major inlet along the island of Great Britain. It separates South Wales from Devon and Somerset in South West England. It takes its name from the English city of Bristol and is over 30 miles across at its widest point. The damage on this day was most severe on the Welsh side. Cardiff was the most badly damaged with the foundation of St. Mary’s Church destroyed. The flooding covered an estimated 200 square miles and killed more than 2,000 people. Farms were washed away and livestock lost along the coasts of the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary in what was then the Kingdom of England.

The coasts of Devon and the Somerset Levels were awash in seawater with water reaching Glastonbury Tor, 14 miles inland. The seawall at Burnham-on-Sea was destroyed and water entered the low country and the moors. Thirty villages in Somerset were affected. Brean was said to have been “swallowed up” while the Church of All Saints at Kingston Seymour had water to a depth of five feet standing for ten days. A chiseled mark shows the crest of the water to be at 25.4 feet. Many area churches today sport signs showing how high the water reached during the flood. Some of the signs give the date as 1606 because at the time, the new year didn’t begin until March 25.

At the time, the cause of the flood was given as God’s punishment. A contemporary pamphlet entitled God’s warning to the people of England by the great overflowing of the waters or floods was printed. Later supposition was given as a storm surge resulting from extreme meteorological conditions associated with high tide. Newer theories as to the cause of the flood have surfaced since comparing the explanations of what happened in 1607 to what happened in 2004 in the Indian Ocean when the tsunami struck there. It is believed that the great flood in Bristol was caused by this type of phenomenon.

A huge landslide may cause a tsunami as can an earthquake. There is no evidence of a landslide. There is an unstable fault off the coast of Ireland which has caused a vertical displacement of the sea floor. One contemporary report mentioned an earth tremor on the day of the disaster. Other reasons to accept a tsunami as the cause is the displacement of large boulders onto beaches which would have taken extreme force. There is a layer up to eight inches thick composed of sand, shells, and stones within what is otherwise constant deposits of mud. This was found in boreholes from Devon to Gloucestershire. Rock erosion in the area is characteristic of high water velocities. While it is unlikely that such an event would repeat itself, if it occurred today, the cost would range from £7 – 13 billion at current insured values.

You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. – Rabindranath Tagore

To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float. – Alan Watts

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water. – W. H. Auden

Water is the driving force of all nature. – Leonardo da Vinci

Also on this day: “Look that up in your Funk and Wagnall’s” – In 1922, Dick Martin was born.
King Richard III – In 1835, an attempt was made to assassinate President Jackson.
Assassination attempt – In 1835, the first US Presidential assassination attempt takes place.
Mr. Music – In 1858, the Halle Orchestra performed.
Really, Really Dead – In 1661, Oliver Cromwell’s body was exhumed in order to be executed.

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