Marine flooding, particularly that associated with North Sea storm surges, has posed a recurrent threat to human use of the Thames Estuary and its shorelines. During the later Middle Ages a growing frequency of surges placed increasing burdens upon the resources of coastal communities. This is reflected in expenditure upon sea-walls and related defences and in the frequent issuing of commissions of sewers, the mechanism by which the Crown intervened in matters of flood prevention and drainage. In the era of labour shortages initiated by the Black Death of 1349, the defence of some reclaimed marshlands around the Estuary and tidal river was abandoned in a precursor of managed retreat or realignment.
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