Deadly Storm Changes UK Coastline
The 14th of December 1287 AD
We are used to great leaders, battles and inventions changing history, but in 1287 a massive storm changed not only our coastline but also by extension the nature of our economic development.
The impact of the December storm was far greater in the Netherlands, where what is known as St Lucia’s Flood killed more than 50,000 and created the Zuider Zee. But in East Anglia it is thought some 500 people died in the flooding, with 180 deaths recorded at Hickling alone.
Such was the power of the storm combined with what is believed to have been a tidal surge that enormous changes were wrought on the South and East Coasts of England. Dunwich in Suffolk was one of the great ports of England at this time; the storm began the inexorable silting up of the harbour, and swept many houses and other buildings away, signalling the town’s decline. The old city of Winchelsea in East Sussex stood on a great shingle bank, and it fared worse than Dunwich, destroyed by the floods, eventually to be replaced by rebuilding on the new site. Hastings lost part of its castle, the cliff on which it stood collapsing into its port thereby filling much of it in; New Romney likewise was no longer a port as vast quantities of silt, sand and mud engulfed it; and adding to the damage to trade there the town was robbed of its river, the Rother.
The economic map of England was thus redrawn with the geographic. Most significantly the Cinque Ports had suffered a blow to their power and their long-term financial health.
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