TSUNAMIS are more commonly associated with southern Asia than south west England.
But in 1607, residents living along the River Severn were brought face-to-face with Britain’s deadliest natural disaster.
On January 30 that year, a brutal wave measuring more than seven metres high, swept up the river, flooding land on either side and claiming the lives of thousands.
For decades, those who survived called it an act of God, but modern scientific research has suggested it was actually Great Britain’s first recorded tsunami.
Now, author Mike Hall, a retired geography teacher, has published one of the most comprehensive accounts of the great flood and its aftermath.
The Severn Tsunami? The Story of Britain’s Greatest Natural Disaster is billed as the first book to delve into the deadly wave.
It begins with a piece printed in 1607, written by William Jones of Usk, which says: “Then they might see afar off huge and mighty hills of water tumbling over one another as if the greatest mountains in the world had overwhelmed the low villages and marshy grounds.
“Sometimes it dazzled many of the spectators that they imagined it had been some fog or mist coming with a great swiftness towards them, and with such a smoke as if mountains were all on fire, and to the view of some it seemed as if millions of thousands of arrows had been shot forth all at one time.
“So violent and swift were the outrageous waves that in less than five hours’ space most part of those countries (especially the places that lay low) were all overflown, and many hundreds of people, men, women and children, were quite devoured; nay, more, the farmers and husbandmen and shepherds might behold their goodly flocks swimming upon the waters - dead.”
Mike lives in Redwick, Monmouthshire with wife Linda and their interest was spiked in 2005 by a television documentary on the great flood, which affected areas they were familiar with in South Gloucestershire.
They moved to the village a little while after that and were soon taking part in events there marking the 400th anniversary of the disaster.
He is not the first to document the disaster, but his book aims to be one of the most comprehensive accounts.
Gloucester’s own waterways expert and city councillor Chris Witts has written about it too, in 2002’s Disasters on the Severn.
Mike’s book is compiled using fresh evidence and is illustrated with modern photographs and contemporary woodcuts. It is available through amazon.co.uk