The environmental changes caused by the ‘Little Ice Age’ had a great impact on the residents of medieval London, particularly in areas such as Barking and Swanscombe. People who lived along the Thames’ banks suffered from major floods. The lands of Barking Abbey, now close to London City Airport, were damaged by storms in the late-14th century. Due to the great expense of river bank and land repairs, the abbess (the head of the abbey) requested tax exemptions from King Richard II.
The environmental turmoil caused by the ‘Little Ice Age’ also had a very significant impact on the fishermen that lived and worked along Thames, whose riverbanks were damaged by the storms. Fish swam from the Thames onto the flooded farmlands, reducing the number of fish in the river and depleting fishing stocks.
Some fishermen took to illegal fishing on these flooded lands. In March 1489 residents of London sent a letter to King Henry VII asking for his support in the fight against poachers. The king granted their request. Many Thames fishermen were then forced to search further afield for their produce, leading to an increase in sea fishing. Evidence of this appears through the museum’s 15th-century net sinkers.