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Research interests

On 20 January 1606/7 an exceptional tidal flood caused widespread damage and loss of life around the low-lying coastal land of the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary. The '1607 flood' is still relevant today, and is considered by some to be a consequence of the most significant storm surge in the Severn Estuary during the last four centuries. News pamphlets produced in London in the aftermath of the flood reported that between 500 and 2,000 people drowned, the loss of livestock was incalculable, and property and commodities were ruined. The flood continues to reverberate in the affected communities, but how much do we really know about the event, and did the pamphleteers convey the situation accurately?

Most of the flood's current historiography relies on cheap newsprint accounts written by an industry which existed to sell stories. My research examines a wide variety of contemporary manuscript records created at grass roots level including those relating to sea defence and land drainage (under the jurisdiction of courts of sewers), manorial courts and ecclesiastical matters. It studies local reaction to the flooding which was often quite different to that portrayed by the London pamphleteers.

The cause of the tidal inundation has been debated by scientists and engineers modelling the flood without a thorough examination of contemporary manuscript sources. My thesis challenges their findings and argues that scientists and engineers researching historic floods should collaborate with historians in order to understand the extent of available documentary evidence, and to ensure that such records are interpreted rigorously.

My edited transcription of the records of the Gloucestershire Court of Sewers 1583-1642 has been published by the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society as part of their Gloucestershire Record Series (https://www.bgas.org.uk/).

I am currently compiling The DITCHionary, a glossary of archaic and contemporary terms connected with land drainage and flood defence on the Gloucestershire, Gwent and Somerset Levels. Please contact me if you are interested in this project.

Interpreting local records in detail enables a better understanding of what it was like to experience the event first hand, and the story of those living in Goldcliff, Monmouthshire, is told through my children's book, The day the sea came in: 1607 on the Gwent Levels (http://gloucestershirehousehistories.co.uk/publications/).

Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Research Output

  • 1 Authored book
  • 1 Article (Academic Journal)

The Gloucestershire Court of Sewers 1583-1642

Hewlett, R., 3 Sep 2020, Bristol: Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society. 447 p. (Gloucestershire Record Series; vol. 35)

Research output: Book/ReportAuthored book

Open Access
File

Weird weather in Bristol during the Grindelwald Fluctuation (1560-1630 CE)

Jones, E. T., Hewlett, R. & Mackay, A. W., 28 Aug 2020, (Accepted/In press) In : Weather.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)