BHS logo Chronology of British Hydrological Events

Service Status: the Chronology is presently unavailable while some re-development work takes place. We aim to restore service by the 2nd week of June. Please contact me if you have any urgent queries. Apologies for any inconvenience. Andrew Black

Designed, developed and maintained by
Frank M Law, Andrew R Black, Robert M J Scarrott, John B Miller and Adrian C Bayliss

data protection

Welcome to the BHS Chronology of British Hydrological Events (British Hydrochronology) web site. This is a public repository for hydrological facts of the type that come from texts rather than tables. It is an attempt to bring into searchable view on the Web as much material as possible so that the spatial extent of events, and their relative severity, can be assessed. Every hydrological circumstance from flood to drought, from instantaneous to prolonged, from rain reaching the ground to the return of runoff to the sea is to be covered.

The database was launched in July 1998, on a server at the University of Dundee. Comments and suggestions are always welcome - by email to the Chronology Team. The system is described in detail in a published journal paper:

To return to this website in future, please bookmark this page for your convenience - other URLs within the site may change with time.

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The facility is provided for the benefit of all with an interest in the distant past behaviour of British rivers and all elements of the hydrological cycle. Recent years have seen an increased awareness of the varaibility of hydrological behaviour, resulting from climatic or land use changes, and decision-making is often thought to be enhanced by the use of information from the distant past regarding the behaviour of hydrological systems. The chronology aims to improve access to such historic hydrological information through the development of an on-line resource.

The Chronology is freely accessible for anyone to search and, if you have access to historic records which would complement our existing data holdings, you are encouraged to consider adding them to the database (but see 'Scope' and 'Data protection' first, below).

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The Chronology is intended to contain information which will complement existing instrumental records of rainfall, runoff, snow, etc. It is limited to Great Britain only, and to the years up to 1935 only: no later material can be accepted. It is anticipated that records of exceptional precipitation and runoff events will form the major part of the database, and will be of interest to hydrological practitioners and researchers when investigating the past variability of British catchment systems.

Contributors are asked to add to the database by drawing on reliable sources, such as:

  • Contemporary newspaper reports
  • Published diaries
  • Published accounts of major events

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Data protection
Inclusion of any information in the database constitutes a form of publication. Therefore, contributors must be sure that any source materials being added to the Chronology fall outwith the provisions of any copyright restriction, unless the written permission of the copyright owner allows otherwise. Short quotes are likely to be acceptable for relatively recently published material although, as in other cases, the source of quotation must always be given. In the case of any doubt, please
email Dr Andrew Black.

To ensure that copyright rules have been adhered to, and to guard against the possibility of spurious data entry, members of the Chronology Team will routinely check the content of the database, and reserve the right to remove any entires as necessary. As a means of assuring the quality of the database, and to allow verification or future query, contributors will be asked for their own names and email addresses. In addition, the unique IP number of contributors' computers will be stored in a hidden file.

By providing these name details, contributors accept that they are willing for their entries to be recorded by BHS under the terms of the Data Protection Act. Your name or email will not be passed to a third party for commercial purposes, however.

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Searching the database
From here you can specify a search of the database, or browse through its entire contents. The results of any search will be returned in summary form as a "hit list". The list then allows access to the full detail of individual database records.

When scanning the results of a search, it is necessary to realise that writers of certain eras express themselves more boldly than would occur in Britain today. E.g. the words 'a great flood' in a seventeenth or eighteenth century diary often meant a flood that had gone to bankfull or just over-bank. A 'flood' often meant a spate in our terms now.

Search the database now

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Adding records
This allows new records to be added directly to the database. Before adding any record to the database, you must know at least:
  • Date of the event (at least the year)
  • Location (at least in terms of which major river basin)
  • A direct quotation describing the event
  • Source of information
and you will be asked to add your own name to any entries you make. Data entries should be for the years up to 1933 only: information relating to more recent events falls outside the scope of the chronology.

If this will be your first contribution to the Chronology, read the full set of explanatory notes first, before beginning to enter data. You should have also read the 'Scope' and 'Data protection' entries above.
While entering data, explanatory notes are accessible through Help icons.

Read explanatory notes
Add new record now

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Some web sites referencing the Chronology of British Hydrological Events

Relevant publications

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Please send any comments or suggestions to any member of the Chronology Team:

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We wish to credit the following authors / copyright holders of anthologies who have kindly granted permission to us for the extraction of dated hydrological events:

We are grateful to Harold Potter for the historical hydrological research that he did over his working lifetime, culminating in Institute of Hydrology Report No 46 "The Use of Historic Records for the Augmentation of Hydrological Data" (January 1978). As a long-time employee of Trent River Authority, his work has particular strength in the events of the Midlands. However, this particular report will be of value to all those who are concerned to pursue long hydrological time sequences, for example, his Appendix A gives comprehensive coverage of dating methods in old documents. The reference list of IH Report 46 is also particularly strong in its ability to go back to original chronicles.

We express our appreciation to the increasing numbers of authors of web timetimes and chronologies for individual towns and villages, many of which bring to a wider audience outstanding floods and droughts.

We express our admiration for those who have collected and republished old riverside photographs; we do not present photos of flooded valleys or towns on this database, but draw attention by recording photo captions that there is a resource 'out there' to be used scientifically as well as aesthetically.

BHS is grateful to Mrs Sandie Clemas (CEH Wallingford) for her care when entering Frank Law's contributions. A good number of those would not have been possible without the advances achieved by the Internet Library of Early Journals (, for which we express our appreciation.

Andrew Black wishes to express thanks for assistance in the development of the software supporting the Chronology - in particular to members of the University of Dundee web administrators group for helpful suggestions, and to Mike Cranston for testing the prototype version.

Permission to use the CEH Wallingford (formerly Institute of Hydrology) map of UK hydrometric areas on this site is gratefully acknowledged.