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A local inspiration for "The Tempest"?

In 1588, an enormous storm that hit Stratford-upon-Avon caused a massive flood that affected towns all along the River Avon.

Helen Rees

On 18th July 1588, a great storm hit Stratford, an event which Shakespeare may have remembered later when writing The Tempest. A contemporary account of the subsequent flood which affected several towns along the River Avon can be found in the Welford Parish Register. About 8.00 in the morning a sudden flood carried away all the hay around the Avon, broke down Grange Mill (at Bidford), broke up sundry houses in Warwick town, and broke both ends of Stratford Bridge. It was reportedly so high that old Father Porter (aged 109), who lived in the mill house, never remembered the water being so high. Three men attempting to cross Stratford Bridge reached the middle and found they could go no further, nor could they return as the water had risen so much. There isn’t any report of what actually happened to them. The water rose a yard for every hour between 8.00 and 4.00.

Clopton Bridge 1806
Stratford-upon-Avon's Clopton Bridge, illustrated by Robert Bell Wheler (p.297-9, Council Book A Chamberlain’s accounts for 29th Jan 1589, BRU2/1)

The damage to the bridge was obviously critical for a market town. Shakespeare’s friend Richard Quiney was acting Chamberlain and charged with raising funds for its repair. In the following few years there is mention of, in 1591, ‘money supplied for the repair of Bancroft after flood’ and mentions of new ‘ravens’ for the bridge. Does anybody know what a raven is? In January 1589, they cost 4d, with a further £3.10s 6d recorded on the same account.

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