Historian Dan Snow reveals he ‘almost died’ in the River Deben
- Credit: AMY GIBBONS
The BBC TV presenter Dan Snow has stressed the importance of preserving Suffolk’s precious history – and shared an surprising anecdote about a near-death experience in one of the county’s most famous rivers.
Many of us will recognise him from TV hits such as The One Show and The Wright Stuff – but it is a little known fact that historian Dan Snow once rubbed shoulders with death on the River Deben.
Speaking about his new book ‘On This Day in History’ – which delves into a key historical event for each day of the year – Mr Snow described the “terrifying” moment his family were swept off course during a dramatic storm.
“Me and my dad and sisters were sailing from Amsterdam and we were aiming for the Thames estuary, and the sails ripped and the engine broke – big storm – and we got swept north up the coast,” he said.
“We just about got over the bar of the Deben on ebb tide with darkness falling, and we threw the anchor down and collapsed in exhaustion. That was so terrifying.”
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Signing books at the Ipswich Waterstones branch, Mr Snow also spoke about his love of the county’s most historic sites such as Orford Castle, Dunwich and the Ipswich docks.
When asked if Suffolk featured in any of the anecdotes that make up his new book, Mr Snow pointed to St Lucia’s flood in 1287, when “Dunwich went into the sea”.
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“I have dived on that site,” he said. “Zero visibility. The least fun I have ever had in the water. It’s terrifying – you just feel your way around the medieval city of Dunwich, once one of the most important ports in England.”
Another key Suffolk anecdote was “the most remarkable story of the invasion of Edward II,” which was led by his wife Isabella.
“I mean it’s the most embarrassing invasion in history,” he said. “The king’s wife was the commander of the invasion. They landed just here on the Orford.”
Speaking about the importance of remembrance, especially in the light of this year’s Armistice centenary, Mr Snow said it was vital to preserve the heritage of old towns such as Ipswich, as well as the numerous historic villages dotted around Suffolk.
“There’s a really interesting thing that’s going on in the world, which is we have seen the rise of the completely identical city. You can now go from China, to Wisconsin, to Lima, and you’ll be surrounded by Starbucks.
“Actually, what Ipswich has got, what Cambridge has got, what Norwich has got – they’ve got character. It’s our history that gives us a character and, if you want to stand out in this new world of globalisation and development, you’ve got to keep that character.
“There’s only one Ipswich in the world, but there’s a million boring malls and indoor shopping centres.”
He added: “People enjoy living, they enjoy working in beautiful surroundings – buildings that have been hallowed by time and have seen people come and go, and there’s something hugely comforting about that.
“So on every level we need to preserve our historic fabric and pass it onto our kids.”