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      Lucia DOVE

Lucia DOVE’s new work VLOED (published by Dunlin Press) is a work of creative nonfiction that, comprising historical analysis, poetry and photography, explores the shared cultural memory and landscape between Essex and the Netherlands in relation to the North Sea Flood of 1953. The book will launch as an element of the 2021 edition of the ESTUARY FESTIVAL, and see below for an excerpt from the book up on Hotel, FOULNESS ISLAND ...

Order VLOED direct 
from the publisher here.







        peat      slib







        mud          veen


Alternating layers of silt (MUD deposited by WATER) and PEAT (VEGETATION decomposed by WATER) in ESSEX, laid bare when excavation has been carried out during the construction of coastal works such as docks, gas works and power stations. These mark alternating periods of advance and retreat by the sea.


The topsoil is a natural
Build up mainly early
C20th finds were recovered
From this level.


The soil at this level appears to have
Been brought to the site to
Level the area prior to the
C17th building construction. 
It would seem most likely
From the make up of this
Strata level that the soil comes
at the time when the local
Pond was being constructed.
The finds at this level are
Mainly from the late C17th
However we do find in certain
Areas of the site earlier and later
Finds, this we believe is due to
Disturbance from modern
C20th Rubbish pits which were dug
After the original Gt. Burwood
Was demolished.


This is what is known as natural,
For this area that means a sandy
Type of soil lightish brown in colour
The C14th occupation is found at this level.

        which is only open to the public
        for seven days of the year.

TWO THOUSAND YEARS OF HISTORY can be told through Essex tidal mud. The beginning of Hilda Grieve’s The Great Tide is dedicated to how the sea has steadily encroached upon the land since Roman times. Excavations made during the building of docks in the River Thames since the Industrial Revolution have uncovered Roman artefacts. In many sites throughout Essex, salt marshes preserved under peat layers are home to occupational remains of the Stone and Bronze ages. Fire- hearths over 1,900 years old were uncovered on Canvey Island. The stumps of salt-intolerant yew trees were found buried in silt. According to Grieve, they must have grown when the land stood at least 15ft higher than it is now. °

It is not just the stumps of trees buried below salt marsh and mud. In 1327, an Essex hamlet called Milton was lost to the rising sea. A small settlement on the foreshore, without a church, without God. Land and tenants flooded. The town of Dunwich, one of the most important ports in Europe during the Middle Ages, also disappeared, the last of it 1919.

Salt preserves the ribs of shipwrecks. Stubborn alluvial material reveals ancient markers now slightly out of plumb. It is both man and tides that make islands. The geological make-up of these lands, where we walk, plunge out of boats moored up the mud bank, where we play, work, buy-up these lands, these lands seep through us until man is breached and reclaimed. ‘Silt: which shapes and undermines continents; which demolishes as it builds; which is simultaneous accretion and erosion; neither progress nor decay.’ *

(Essex County Council, 1959), pp. 2-3.
(Picador, 2015), p. 16.

© Dunwich Museum 2020

St James,
St Leonard,
St Martin,
St Batholomew,
St Michael,
St Patrick,
St Mary,
St John,
St Peter,
St Nicholas,
St Felix

churches, monasteries, convents, hospitals

shipyards, fortifications, fisheries, merchant fleets

earth, loam, stone, alluvial sand, gravel

dozens of windmills, walls, wells

1285, 1328, 1919

chimney shafts, stacks, towers 

churchyards, many thousand souls, bones of the dead, dead flowers

Alternating layers and material goods of Dunwich over time.

Forty square miles of the lower Thames marshes are the natural flood-plain of the Thames. The word flood-plain must be interpreted literally, for while the embanking restricts the lateral development of a tide it increases the heights of the tide, including of course the highest tide. These will inevitably spill over into parts of the flood-plain.˘

In the late 16th century Foulness had changed from a projecting headland into an island through a great tide. It is now the largest of the Essex islands.

On Foulness, at the end of one end of the ancient Broomway path, just beyond the sea wall, you will find the grassy foundations of a bungalow, visible not from its bricks and concrete, but from the high weeds and flowers tangling over what would have been the windows and roof of Mrs Rawlings’ home, growing from her garden. The shrubs reminded me of photographs I’d seen from 1953 taken in Zeeland: a fine but rusting gate leading to an empty field where a house once stood. A remnant of the flood, a monument. Mrs Rawlings was one of the two women to have died on Foulness from the great flood of 1953. Both were widows and both were called Mrs Rawlings: Bertha Rawlings and Violet Rawlings.

˘ In 1969, P.A. and D.P. ARNOLD, on behalf of the FOULNESS ISLAND RESIDENTS COMMITTEE, prepared a pamphlet entitled FOULNESS in order to present ‘a fair summary of the true facts concerning the geology, geography history and industry of the area.’ It was created in response to misleading statements about the area surrounding the suggestion of Foulness or the Maplin Sands as a possible site for London’s third airport. In the pamphlet, the authors write of rising sea levels, the composition of the land, and quote a paper in the Journal of the Institute of Navigation that states that ‘the whole of the sands in the Thames Estuary may be considered unconsolidated and that they are continually moving.’


The mystery was not that it had been snowing
but that the snow was of the same composition
and of the same temperature as the water.

Looking outside your window to see sweeping
water is not the same as seeing a fresh covering
of snow.


In the basement they found
a family, waiting for the end

in a farmhouse in Drenthe.
Just as on Foulness, waiting
for news of someone’s death.



Altho’ I was out sorting clothes
on a bench in our garden
for the most of it, so my
memory tells me, sister
and brother helped mother
on a Sunday morning. I,
just-turned teenager,
pairing socks and figuring
handmedowns to strangers,
our neighbours, mum would
have us say. Neighbour’s needs.
Neighbours wearing only what
they wore when rescued.
The Is. was below sea level


Come Mon., I’m at school you see,
the severity of the floods
was brought home to me.
We did not know what we had


Shoeburyness to Foulness Is.,
thence to London. Dot and I,
both eighty now, are still friends.
Our tales are enormous. Well,
her house on Foulness flooded.
Come Mon., after more than a week,
she returned. I can’t remember
the exact emotion.
On seeing her alive, school mistress asks,
‘Why are you not wearing your uniform?’
She had lost EVERYTHING


1963, bought a
house in Gt.
Living room
marked 3-4ft


There comes a time
when we move to the far-end
of somewhere. We either edge
away or closer to low lying land.
Distance measured in approximation
of how far you are from a sea wall.
People here measure their time by
before or after the flood.
Those living in the Nissen huts died,
so I’ve been told by Thames Barger
‘The Boy’


Altho’ I was only a teen
I remember thinking how
this will be remembered.
Cold, wet and frightened!


I was writing to a Dutch girl
who lived in Amsterdam. Penfriends.
She had relatives in the flooded areas
who were displaced. I met some of them,
tho’ I believe many had lost their lives.

                        She took me to the flooded place five
                        years later. My friend died last year,
                        I no longer receive any news


My husband’s father Tom,
Police Constable, was not known
to have survived or died.
Come Mon., young T was called
out of class and told
to go home, old T
had been found safe and well.
A wonderful outcome!

unless otherwise stated,

© Lucia DOVE &Tom van HUISSTEDE

The videos of DOVE reading from VLOED
were recorded by Tom van HUISSTEDE
and first broadcast as a part of the 2021
edition of the ESTUARY festivel (see here).

Lucia DOVE is a writer from Southend-on-Sea, living in the Netherlands. She is interested in ideas of heritage, memory, place and home. Her debut poetry pamphlet— SAY CUCUMBER—was published in 2019 by Broken Sleep Books. Her latest book, VLOED is a work of creative nonfiction, and was published in May 2021 by Dunlin Press; see here.


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Partner to a press called Tenement, Hotel is a publications series for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. 

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