Tsunamis of a kind happened here

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THE terrifying earthquake and tsunami of Japan prompts the question: Has it ever happened in our area?

No devastating earthquakes ever happened in the flatlands of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, but what might be regarded as tsunamis of a kind frequently occurred in the Marshland between King’s Lynn and Wisbech.

These were known as the Aegar, high velocity gales sweeping in from the east combining with high tides inundating the Marshland and Fens without prior warning.

Inhabitants had nowhere to escape and took refuge in church towers while their homes were flooded and destroyed.

Church towers at Terrington St Clement and St Johns, West Walton and Elm were occupied on these occasions.

It was recorded that boats from Lynn brought provisions to Terrington families stranded in the church tower, hundreds of marsh dwellers perished.

Dolpoon, a village near Sutton Bridge, was completely destroyed in about 1236 and at least 150 people drowned.

At Newton, overcome by the fury of the sea, only the church remained but not the people.

In the same century, the sea drowning the Marshland practically destroyed Wisbech castle as well as many homes, claiming many lives and wiping out numerous herds of cattle.

Several ancient churches in Marshland show salt water stains. At Wisbech, St Peter and St Paul I saw a family vault entered for the first time in 250 years, undergoing repair.

It contained half-a-dozen coffins some having floated from trestles and deposited untidily on the floor. Water from the river had invaded the church not for the first time.

Rivers were blocked by silt and embankments collapsed. Salt water rendered the land unusable for several years but the stoical marsh folk reclaimed flooded areas which extended as far away as Murrow and Parson Drove and halfway to Thorney.

To them we owe the benefit of outstanding crops in our own age. Against the odds the marsh men succeeded in making a new earth which we are fortunate to enjoy.

Let us hope the people of Japan succeed in their determination to restore their stricken land as our ancestors did centuries ago.

TREVOR BEVIS

March