The Bristol Tsunami

Tsunami is not a word that you would typically associate with a disaster occurring on British shores, however in January 1607, the worst natural disaster in British history ravaged over 500 square kilometers of British land, claiming over 2,000 lives. 

Depiction of the 1607 flood, artist unknown

Depiction of the 1607 flood, artist unknown

The water spread from North Devon, through Somerset and Gloucestershire, and the South Wales coast, and reached heights of 7.6 metres and reached over 6 km inland in Devon. In Burnham, once the sea wall was breached, 30 villages became flooded and inundated with 3m of water. One eyewitness account of the flood said there were 'huge and mighty hills of water’ moving ‘faster than a greyhound can run’.

With houses and villages swept away, and farmland and livestock destroyed, it took a great deal of time for the south coast economy to recover, and some say it never really did.

While historically it is not known exactly known whether it was a tsunami or a storm, 20th century research had pointed to more evidence of a tsunami than ever before.

Even though this was only a once in a millennia event, If the same event were to happen today, the damage bill would be around the £12 billion mark.