The Great Severn Tsunami
The 20th of January 1606 AD
We may think of Tsunamis as phenomena that happen elsewhere, just as we dismiss tornadoes, ignoring historical evidence like the 1091 event. There is, however, persuasive evidence that one such disaster devastated the coastlines of Southwest England and Southeast Wales on January 20 1606.
It is said that around 2000 people drowned in the flood-waters which hit the shores at 9am. Minehead and Slimbridge were rapidly inundated; Burnham-on-Sea had its sea-bank broken; at Appledore in Devon a ship was thrown high up the shore; and in Monmouthshire and Gwent the wave over-ran those trying to outrun it.
At the time it was regarded as a flood, commemorated as such in various churches around the disaster zone including at St Brides in Monmouthshire and Kingston Seymour in North Somerset . But many facts point to this being a Tsunami rather than a tidal-surge or storm flood: the sea retreating before rushing back with enormous force; the great speed of the wave that crashed inland then abated as opposed to the gradual rise of floodwaters; the height of that wave, which when constricted by the terrain rose to 5m or so; fair weather and blue skies being reported on that morning; and the nature of the sea as it surged towards the shore, characteristically as if boiling hills of water were being created.
An earthquake in the Irish Sea or off Cornwall could have powered the wave; which with the recent spate of earth-tremors in the UK, such as those in Cumbria and Lincolnshire , gives pause for thought.
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