Emma Carroll (and Olive) on The Somerset Tsunami


Hi I’m Emma Carroll, the author of The
Somerset Tsunami and today Olive and I are going around various locations in
Somerset to look at places that are mentioned in the novel. We’re starting
here at Kingston Seymour which is the lovely old church. It’s famous because of
the church tower which features in some of the wood cuts of the scenes of the
flooding. It also was flooded very badly, apparently there were fish swimming in
the aisles of the church. January 20th 1606 An inundation of the sea-water by
overflowing and breaking down the sea banks happened in this parish at
Kingston Seymour. The water in the church was five feet high and the greatest part
lay on the ground for about ten days. We’re here on Berrow Beach which is
where Berrow Hall the fictional home of Susanna and Ellis Spicer is situated. The
sea has very conveniently disappeared as it would have been in the moments before
the tsunami hit this stretch of beach in 1607. But we’re not expecting a tsunami.
This is a very tidal part of the Bristol Channel. We’re here at Glastonbury Tor. It’s the
furthest point inland that the floodwaters reached which is a
considerable distance from the sea. It’s about a good 14 miles from the coast at
Berrow. In my story a couple of very dramatic scenes happen at this location.
It also features on the cover of the book. This is a really, really familiar
landmark to people who live in Somerset and it’s a very strange and evocative place. We are here in Bridgewater in Somerset
at The Snug Bookshop and we’ve chosen Bridgewater because it’s where our main
character Fortune goes to a hiring fair where she lands the job of a servant for
a man called Mr. Spicer who needs her to ruffle up, shall we say, his son, Ellis. The
fact that this very, very dramatic flood happened would have probably been a very
bewildering, very confusing thing for the people at the time because they had no
sort of sense of what geological things might caused it.
I think the alarming nature of that would have made a very god-fearing
nation probably start to look skywards, if you like, for a reason why this thing
had happened. The idea of witchcraft sort of came along and I thought okay so
maybe my main character is actually then somebody who is perhaps blamed for what
happens with this natural disaster. Quite a lot of the research involved looking at things online, looking accounts that people had written. The geography of the area, looking at
how far the sea had come inland, all those sorts of things. So it’s quite
a lot of historical stuff, quite a lot of geographical research as well. And the
trusty notebook. So every time I write a book I buy a notebook and in that
notebook will be the essence of the story.

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