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Thursday, 28 November 2013

"Moonfleet", The Novel, The Old Fleet Church, The Fleet; The Great Storm of 1824

A walk in J. Meade Falkner's "Moonfleet" country, but not down into the Mohune Vault of the Old Fleet Church; no sign of Blackbeard or of 'the gentlemen of the contraband' above ground. Much talk of the events of November 22, 1824, exactly 189 years ago, when the sea breached the Chesil Bank and the storm surge caused great destruction.

"Twern't a sea - not a bit of it - 
twer the great sea hisself rose up level like 
and come on right over the ridge and all, 
like nothing in this world"

Eyewitness to the 1824 Storm Surge over the Chesil Bank at Fleet (Barnes and Legg, 1976)

Quoted by Ian M. West

Sir Frederick Treves (1906):

"Quite close to the edge of the Fleet Water are the remains of the village of East Fleet, the greater part of which was washed away in the memorable storm of 1824...Beyond the pass and near to the brink of the mere are the village graveyard and the chancel of the ancient Church. This solitary chancel of grey stone, with its roof of stone slabs and its ivy-covered buttresses, is all that remains of the church of Fleet. The nave and tower were destoryed in the gale. The chancel is now but a mortuary chapel of the De Mohuns, the ancient lords of the manor". Highways and Byways of Dorset, 1906, p.239-240.

In Moonfleet, J. Meade Falkner places his fictional flood in November, too, back in 1757:

"The wind blew fiercest about five in the morning, and then some ran up the street calling out a new danger- that the sea was breaking over the beach, and that all the place was like to be flooded...But what with it being a spring-tide, and the sea breaking clean over the great outer beach of pebbles- a thing that had not happened for fifty years- there was so much water piled up in the lagoon, that it passed its bounds and flooded all the sea meadows, and even the lower end of the street. So when day broke, there was the churchyard flooded, though 'twas on rising ground, and the church itself standing up like a steep little island".

More about the Great Gale of 1824

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