Water World as Another Home for the English Nation

: 3/11


Many tales are told of submerged lands, and of church bells ringing ominously from beneath the waves. Between Lands End and the Scilly Islands lies a group of rocks called The Seven Stones, known to fishermen as The City and near to which the land of Lyoness is believed to lie, lost under the sea. There is a rhyme which proclaims:

Between Lands End and Scilly Rocks

Sunk lies a town that ocean mocks.

Lyoness was said to have had 140 churches. These and most of its people were reputed to have been engulfed during the great storrn of 11 November 1099. One man called Trevilian foresaw the deluge, and moved his family and stock inland he was making a last journey when the waters rose, but managed to outrun the advancing waves thanks to the fleetness of his horse. Since then the arms of the grateful Trevilian have carried the likeness of a horse issuing from the sea. A second man who avoided the catastrophe erected a chapel in thanksgiving which stood for centuries near Sennen Cove.

Another area lost under water is Cantrer Gwaelod, which lies in Cardigan Bay somewhere between the river Teifi and Bardsey Island. Sixteen towns and most of their inhabitants were apparently overwhelmed by the sea when the sluice gates in the protective dyke were left open. There are two versions of the story as to who was responsible: in one it is a drunken watchman called Seithenin; in another, Seithenin was a king who preferred to spend his revenue in dissipation rather than in paying for the upkeep of the coastal defences.

A moral of one kind or another will often be the basis of tales about inland settlements lost beneath water. For example Bomere Lake in Shropshire now visited as a beauty spot was created one Easter Eve when the town which stood there was submerged as a punishment for reverting to paganism. One Roman soldier was spared because he had attempted to bring the people backto Christianity, but he then lost his life while trying to save the woman he loved. It is said that his ghost can sometimes be seen rowing across the lake at Easter, and that the town,s bells can be heard ringing. There is another version of the same story in the same place, but set in Saxon times: the people turn to Thor and Woden at a time when the priest is warning that the barrier which holds back the meter needs strengthening. He is ignored, but as the townsfolk are carousing at Yuletide the water bursts in and destroys them.

There is a cautionary tale told of Semerwater, another lake with a lost village in its depth. Semerwater lies in north Yorkshire not far from Askrigg, which is perhaps better known as the centre of Herriot country, from the veterinary stories of James Herriot. The story goes that a traveller variously given as an angel, St Paul, Joseph of Arimathea, a witch, and Christ in the guise of a poor old man visited house after house seeking food and drink , but at each one was turned away, until he reached a Quakers home, just beyond the village: htis was the only building spared in the avenging flood that followed.

One lost land off the Kent coast can be partially seen at high tide: originally, the Goodwin Sands were in fact an island, the island of Lomea which according to one version disappeared under the waves in the eleventh century when funds for its sea defences were diverted to pay for the building of a church tower at Tenterden. The blame for that is laid at the door of a n abbot of St Augustines at Canterbury who was both owner of Lomea and rector of Tenterden. However, sceptics say that Tenterden had no tower before the sixteenth century, nor can archeologists find any trace of habitation or cultivation of the sands. Even so, the tales continue to be told; one of these blame Earl Godwin, father of King Harold, for the loss of the island. He earl promised to build a steeple at Tenterden in return for safe delivery from a battle, but having survived the battle, he forgot the vow and in retribution Lomea, which he owned, was flooded during a great storm. The Sands still bear his name.

Yet worse was to follow, for scores of ships and the lives of some 50 000 sea farers have been lost on the Goodwins, and ill-fortune seems to dog the area. For example, in 1748 the Lady Lovibond was deliberatly steered to her destruction on the Sands by the mate of the vessel, John Rivers. Rivers was insanely jealeous because his intended bride, Anetta, had foresaken him to marry his captain, Simon Reed. The entire wedding party perished with the ship in the midst of the celebrations, but the remarkable thing is that the scene made a phantom reappearance once every fifty years until 1948, when the Lady Lovibond at last failed to re-enact the drama.

: 20/10/2006