The Great Storm of 1703 raged across southern England and the English Channel on the 26th and 27th of November causing unprecedented damage and loss of life.
The Somerset Levels – prone to flooding at the best of times – was inundated as never before with hundreds of lives lost. Bristol experienced aberrant flooding with ships being washed up to fifteen miles inland.
Westminster Abbey lost part of its roof and tumbling chimney stacks claimed dozens of lives. The winds levelled a swathe of woods, copses and forests, with an estimated loss of four thousand oak trees in the New Forest. In The Storm, published the following year, Daniel Defoe described the event as “the tempest that destroyed woods and forests all over England“.
Ships on the River Thames in London were piled up on one another like children’s’ toys and thirteen Royal Navy vessels were lost at sea along with the lives of around 1,500 seamen. The newly built lighthouse was swept off Eddystone Rocks with the loss of several lives including that of its builder, Henry Winstanley. In all, up to 15,000 lives were lost over the two day cataclysm.