1287 A Terrible Year for Storms
In Feb 1287, a storm hit the southern coast of England with such ferocity that
whole areas of coastline were redrawn - towns that had stood by the sea now found
themselves landlocked, while others found themselves in possession of new harbours.
In Hastings, the storm caused the cliff and with it half the Norman castle to fall
into the sea, blocking off the harbour and ending the town's days as a port. The old
town took over as the port, but the protected inlet was totally destroyed. The old
harbour is where the Shopping Centre in Hastings can be found.
Further along the coast, the port of Old Winchelsea , an island which was where the
current Winchelsea Beach can be found was completely destroyed.
It was later rebuilt several miles inland, where it became the first example of town
planning in England being built on a grid system familiar to our American friends.
Despite its new hilltop position Winchelsea still retained its place as a Cinque Port .
The most dramatic change wrought by the great storm was to the towns of Rye and New Romney .
Before the storm New Romney was a thriving harbour town with the River Rother flowing through
it into the English Channel. The storm silted up the harbour completely and diverted the
river away from the town to enter the sea at Rye about 15 miles away. More or less overnight
New Romney became landlocked, a mile from the coast. So much silt was deposited by the flood
that the land level in the town rose by 5 inches. If you visit the parish church, which is
the only building in the town pre-dating the flood, you will find that the floor of the church
is several inches below street level. The pillars in the church provide further evidence of the
flood - the level the water reached can still be seen on them. The River Rother that had
previously entered the sea at New Romney , changed course and now entered the sea at Rye ,
creating a brand new harbour.
At the time of the great storm of 1287, and for two or three hundred years after,
the Rother flowed north of the Isle of Oxney by Smallhythe .
|The Coastline in 1250 AD
||After 1287 AD
|The Rother changes its outlet to the sea from New Romney to Rye
14 December 1287, North Sea Countries: A mighty storm sends a high storm surge onto Holland,
drowning a reported 50,000. In East Anglia, England, 500 lives are lost.
Hickling Norfolk, in 1287 a great flood engulfed the Village, and 180 people were drowned.
The waters rose a foot above the high altar of the Priory Church.
Hickling was one of the townships that suffered most severely from the tremendous storm of
December, 1287, no fewer than nine score persons being drowned there. In the priory the
water rose more than a foot above the high altar, and all the canons fled away except two,
who stayed behind and managed to save the horses and other property by bringing them up
into the dormitory over the vaulted undercroft.
'Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Hickling'
A History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2 (1906), pp. 383-386.
By 1242 Dunwich was the largest port in Suffolk, but this changed dramatically after the
great storms of 1287
1287 Whitstable was hit by a tidal surge