1940 was a winter of severe weather. The ice was so thick that it was possible to walk across the creeks in West Mersea. The location of the Island of Mersea means that it is particularly susceptible to weather conditions that bring flooding. On 29th November 1897 (often called Black Monday) the tide was so high in West Mersea that houses were often under 3-4 feet of water. Residents took refuge on top of furniture and several bed-ridden people had to be moved to safer places. The worst weather event in Essex history was the 1953 flood disaster. Mersea Island was almost completely submerged and almost all of the livestock on the Island were drowned or had to be destroyed. The people of Mersea were lauded for their indomitable spirit in the face of such extreme weather conditions and many stories are still told of bravery and difficulty.
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West Mersea History
West Mersea is located on Mersea Island, the most easterly inhabited island in Britain. The history of Mersea can be traced to pre-Roman times, but the strategic importance of the island was recognised by the Roman invaders and settlements and defenses were placed there. The Anglo-Saxons built a church on the island in the 7th century and the Strood Causeway that provides land access to Mersea can also be traced to the Anglo-Saxons of that time. The area was particularly prone to invasion from the sea by the Viking and Norse peoples. The town of West Mersea began when Edward the Confessor granted the rights of the island to the Abbey of St Ouen (in France) in 1046 and the Priory of West Mersea was established as a result. The Church of St Peter and St Paul dates back to Norman times whilst the Priory was eventually dissolved in 1542. The Island is famous for its oysters which come from oyster beds dating back to Roman times.
It is rumored that among the most famous visitors to come to Mersea Island was Walt Disney, who played a round of golf at the golf club during his 1930's visit to England. Winston Churchill came to Mersea more than once with the War Cabinet during World War II and stayed at Besom House. Sir Robin Day, the noted broadcaster, wrote in his memoirs of holidays spent on the island at his parents house and recalled many happy times spent there.