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The Telegraph’s Reputation Slowly Sinks Beneath The Waves

June 27, 2022

By Paul Homewood


With the latest sea level scare stories, it is worth going back to this Telegraph article last year:






If the baby who wrote this had bothered to do a basic bit of journalism, he would have found out the Happisburgh coast has been eroding in leaps and bounds for centuries, and that “climate” has nothing to do with it at all.


For instance the village website reports:


The story of the village is inseparably linked with the sea. For residents of Happisburgh, and for hundreds who visit each year, the sea represents many different things: a source of livelihood; a place of recreation and fun; a sight to gaze at and wonder over; a worrying, unpredictable, dangerous and potentially destructive power.

Happisburgh has lost land to the sea throughout the centuries. The rate of erosion has been erratic – at times large areas have disappeared overnight, and at others the cliff has remained virtually the same for some years.

Whimpwell, was a parish adjoining Happisburgh The Abbot of St Benets was Lord and patron of the church. Its destruction was very rapid. By 1183 only one field remained. but the name lives on in Whimpwell Street and Whimpwell Green. In 1987, the Yarmouth Sub-Aqua Club discovered a large stone structure partly buried beneath the seabed of Happisburgh. It is L-shaped, 75 yards by 200 yards and at points rises to 40 feet. Could it be a quay heading from the medieval village of Whimpwell?

1845 A twelve-acre field at Happisburgh was drilled with wheat. A north-west gale raged all night, and by new morning the field had disappeared.

1854 White’s Directory for this year reported that the sea had encroached 250 yards in the last 70 years at Happisburgh.

1855 Doggett’s Farm -the house. a large barn and the premises – were lost to the sea.

1883 The Low Lighthouse was threatened with erosion. It was withdrawn from service and demolished.

1938 The sea broke through at Horsey near the Nelson’s Head forming a gap of 100 yards in the dunes. Land from Horsey Church to West Somerton was flooded with salt water to a depth of a foot for months, killing many willow trees and all other vegetation.

1953 On Saturday 31st January, a strong north-wester of over 110 miles an hour caused the worst disaster since the flood in 1287. The sea claimed the lives of 76 Norfolk people flooded thousands of homes. An exceptionally high evening tide whipped up by the gale was two hours earlier predicted. It surged down the East Coast smashing defences and flooding low-lying land. A bungalow at Happisburgh, which at teatime on Saturday stood 15 feet from the cliff, was hanging over the cliff edge on Sunday morning. By 8.00 p.m. the surge reached Sea Palling and burst through the sand dunes, carrying away four houses, a cafe, a general store and a bakery. Families clung desperately to roof tops until rescued by Stalham Fire Brigade in a commandeered dingy. Twenty or more were saved, but seven died, including a mother and her three children.

1976 During January heavy seas caused considerable erosion on the south cliffs of Happisburgh resulting in two bungalows hanging over the edge of the cliff.

21st February 1993 Ferocious tidal waves again caused considerable erosion along the coastline. At Happisburgh a large portion of the south cliff was swept away causing a bay to be formed and farm land lost.

19th February 1996 During a prolonged gale and snowstorm the defences were breached and another bungalow was perilously close to the cliff top, eventually succumbing to the sea.

March 1999 Encroachment continued, resulting in the destruction of more bungalows and an increasingly large bay.

As a result of these latest incursions a village meeting was held to express concern to the local district council. In 2001 a study was conducted to come up with possible solutions.

Preventative Measures over the years.

Many schemes have been tried over the years to prevent erosion.

1802 The Revd. John Hewitt, Perpetual Curate of Wale Vicar of Granchester, spent £100 in an attempt to fill up the breach between Waxham and Horsey. The Hon. Harbord, the first Lord Suffield, lent implements to aid the undertaking. The dunes were levelled to increase width at the base, the seaward side being sloped at such an angle that, it was hoped, waves would roll up and recede harmlessly. Transverse groynes were also erected. Unfortunately, before the work was completed, a spring tide coinciding with a north-west wind broke through the bank.

1803 During the 18th century land between Happisburgh and Great Yarmouth was flooded on numerous occasions, and disputes arose as to whether 1and1ords shou1d be responsib1e for the protection of their land. In this year the Court of the Commissioners of Sewers determined that ‘No particular persons are bound to sustain or repair the sea walls adjoining their land’.

1836 An entry under Happisburgh in White’s Directory states ‘it is calculated the Church will be engulphed in the ocean before the middle of the ensuing century. In the same year, William Hewitt, MRCS, a relative of the Revd. John and a Stalham surgeon, suggested that breakwaters should be constructed parallel with the cliffs. He believed that these would cause sand to accumulate on the foreshore. He noted that those set at right angles to the cliff caused sand to build up on one side only. His idea was based on observations of the wreck of the Revenue cutter the ‘Hunter’. A sandbank had formed between the wreck and the shore, and stretched almost to Walcott. A violent storm shifted the vessel and the bank disappeared. Hewitt also suggested sinking old ships a short distance from the shore. Some landowners acted upon his advice, but the wrecks became a hazard to shipping and were later removed.

1954 A sea wall was built at Walcott, and a local inhabitant is reported to have said. ‘Do you mark my words. Now they’ve built the wall at Walcott, Hasbro’ Church will be in the sea in twenty years. That’s the southern end, and wherever they’ve built they’ve never been able to stop the sea getting round the southern end of it.’

1958 Early in the year, the 40 feet cliffs at Happisburgh severely from erosion. Falls of cliff were frequent and access to the beach at Town Gap was impossible. No boats could be launched.

1958/59 The first sea defences were built at Happisbugh and were later extended. Steel, greenheart and jarrah wood were used in their construction. The rate of erosion decreased, any loss of land being due mainly to surface water causing falls of cliff.

During the last forty years portions of the revetment have been destroyed, and repairs have been carried out on numerous occasions, but have not succeeded in preventing the formation of a large bay to the south of Happisburgh. To attract grant aid for capital works, stringent Government criteria must be satisfied, which relies heavily on the value of land and property at risk, thus prejudicing the relatively low property value in Norfolk as opposed to for example the South Coast of England. The Government’s declared present policy (1999) is to maintain ‘a sustainable coastline’


Note the comment in 1854:

The sea had encroached 250 yards in the last 70 years at Happisburgh

Now the rate is only 1 meter a year, and according to the BBC there has been about 6m of erosion since 1998.

The cause of the erosion is well known – the cliffs along the Norfolk coast are formed of soft sediment laid down during the Ice Age, that literally crumbles away in your hands, as this video shows:


Photographic evidence from 1955 proves that erosion had already advanced far enough to threaten a row of houses clearly only built a decade or so before, which would have been erected a safe distance from the sea:



I bet Telegraph readers would have found all of this a much more interesting story than the half a page of juvenile twaddle presented to them!

  1. Christopher Hall permalink
    June 27, 2022 3:45 pm

    There is also the question of isostatic equilibrium. When the ice built up in the north, the land sank. Now there is no ice, Scotland emerges and parts of the south sink. It also depends on the geology of the coast, resistance to erosion, offshore currents. It is stupid to blame climate change but there you are. That’s the media.

  2. MrGrimNasty permalink
    June 27, 2022 4:33 pm

    According to the heinous alarmist block any contrary opinions Conversation, 17% of the UK coast is eroding, so 83% is stable or growing! Doesn’t sound like a disaster to me. You have to remember that coasts constantly remodel, it’s rather silly of man to shortsightedly build stuff in the wrong places then moan when it goes wrong.

  3. June 27, 2022 4:36 pm

    Even in my limited physical library at home i seem to have access to far more climate information than the media does. it is a mystery as to why journalists don’t seem to want to do any research into climate subjects but just accept press releases.

    I think history is little taught these days so perhaps journos just don’t have an interest in the past or have been so brainwashed that it doesn’t occur to them that most modern events are not unique. Or perhaps they WANT to believe what they are told.

    • Dave Andrews permalink
      June 28, 2022 5:47 pm

      They have to write their articles quickly so they can get back to the important stuff on Farcebook and Twatter!

  4. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    June 27, 2022 5:20 pm

    Does the idiot journo not remember the disastrous flooding of Doggerland recently?
    In geological time…

  5. Ian Wilson permalink
    June 27, 2022 5:23 pm

    i recall reading in my Arthur Mee Children’s Encyclopaedia around 70 years ago that the coast of eastern England was sinking under geological forces whereas parts of eastern Scotland are rising with raised beaches to tell the tale. Perhaps if more children were brought up on such reading fare there would be less scientific ignorance today.
    On similar vein, though a bit off topic, I also recall reading in the same source that a sudden retreat of the sea was a warning of a tsunami. It is tragic so many were caught out by the Boxing Day tsunami through ignorance of this phenomenon, although interestingly on one beach a teenage schoolboy who was aware of this warned people to go inland and saved many lives.

    • alexei permalink
      June 27, 2022 7:55 pm

      It is surely explained by plate tectonics and continental drift. Britain is moving very slowly westwards.

  6. June 27, 2022 5:33 pm

    Journalistic standards are abysmal these days. You really can’t believe anything you read in the press now; so all our decisions are now being based on emotional gossip. No wonder we are in a mess.

  7. chriskshaw permalink
    June 27, 2022 5:44 pm

    ATTP are quoting a study “confirming’ that levelized costs for wind are lower than CCGTG systems. I guess they miss the connection and grid stability and back up costs. But why do they choose to be so dumb or so malicious?

    • June 28, 2022 9:55 am

      My guess is because they (the journos) are told that unless they support the (lying) narrative their articles won’t get into print.

  8. Andrew Harding permalink
    June 27, 2022 6:11 pm

    I cancelled my Telegraph subscription a few months ago. I was sick and tired of the Telegraph banging on about the climate and other Woke issues.

    I was sad to have to do this, I have been a subscriber for over 40 years. I really liked the new format with the ability to comment, which I did frequently, including criticism of the current journalism, however it was clear that nothing was going to change!

  9. Ray Sanders permalink
    June 27, 2022 7:22 pm

    Is this actually “journalism” or is it yet another example of “paid for content” from an activist group? “Editorially Integrated Partnerships” seem to get around the need to describe something as an advertising piece (aka propaganda) and the pockets of the green activists are extremely deep.
    Alternatively are some media individuals simply being financially incentivised outside of their normal salary structure to place these sort of articles. After all journalists surely cannot be that badly educated to not know this issue is completely irrelevent to climate …or can they?

  10. Armitage Shanks permalink
    June 27, 2022 8:06 pm

    I always thought that cliffs were the result of erosion.

  11. cookers52 permalink
    June 28, 2022 9:13 am

    When the net zero cure for the disease is painful, then we must make the climate change disease an emergency. Even if there is actually no emergency.

  12. June 28, 2022 11:36 am

    My opinion is that the level of intelligence of journalists reduces every year – could be a lack of “proper” teaching?

  13. Stuart Hamish permalink
    July 3, 2022 4:01 pm

    According to The Telegraph ” The storms and sea swells caused by the effects of climate have led to the UK’s east coast losing up to one metre each year ”

    The East Anglia coastline extending up to the East Yorkshire region consists of crumbly boulder clay , sand and gravel strata vulnerable to marine erosion and the rates of erosion are indeed erratic as Paul has pointed out .
    If we examine say the historical Holderness coastline map from Flamborough to the Humber River estuary as a sample based on Thomas Sheppards 1912 book ” Lost Towns of East Yorkshire ” using the conservative estimate of 2 miles of coastline submerged during the centuries from the Roman occupation era [ 43 AD ] to the publication of Sheppards tome [ 1912 AD ] , this timescale translates to a loss of 3218 .68 metres of coastline eroded over 1869 years – considerably more than a metre on average lost annually . Is The Telegraph suggesting the erosion rate has slowed since 1912 or is it that a once reputable newspaper has not done its homework ? Nearly 30 English towns villages and hamlets have disappeared into the sea on that stretch of coastline from Flamborough to the Humber River estuary since Roman times – long before this centurys global warming hysteria . Among them Owthorne [ 1816 ] ; Hyde ; Old Aldbourough ; Hornsea Beck [ 1747 ] ; Auburn [ late 1800’s ] ; Withow ; Cleeton [ 1800 ]. Ravenspurn , Newsham ; Sunthorpe ; Dimlington and Old Withernsea [ 15th C ] It may be worthwhile posting this Holderness coastline map for perspective Paul

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