Great Floods of the English Towns

See also Great Fires of the English Towns.

1099 –  St Martin’s flood of London. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle ‘the sea flood sprung up to such a height and did so much harm as no man remembered that it ever did before’.

1236 – Great Flood in London. Possible to row boats into Westminster Hall.

1286 – A storm surge damaged the once-great Suffolk port, and alleged capital of East Anglia, Dunwich.

1287 – Great South Coast Storm. The harbour at Hastings was destroyed when the storm caused the cliff and half the Norman castle to fall into the sea.  The old town of Winchelsea was abandoned, and the town was rebuilt on a grid pattern several miles inland. The thriving port of New Romney was turned into a landlocked town when massive quantities of shingle from Dungeness, along with mud and soil, inundated the town, completely filled the harbour, and left New Romney nearly a mile from the sea. The river Rother, which ran through the town, was silted up by the storm and found a new outlet to the sea at Rye, 15 miles away, forming a new harbour. Visitors to the parish church of St Nicholas, the only surviving building from the period, have to step down into the church, as the rest of the town was raised in height by the debris: there are stains on the pillars marking the level of the flood. Whitstable in Kent was also hit.

1287 – Great East Coast Storm.  Killed hundreds of people in England and drowned thousands in Holland. An extreme low pressure coinciding with a high tide caused a storm surge. Dunwich was severely damaged.

1356 – Ravensrodd, a port with a Borough charter near the modern Spurn Point in the East Riding of Yorkshire, was flooded, and the town was abandoned.

1362 – Grote Mandrenke (the Great Drowning).  A huge south-westerly gale originating in the Atlantic Ocean swept across Western Europe, causing at least 25,000 deaths. Thousands of trees were blown down in Southern England. Massive damage was caused to the few high buildings, notably churches, and many spires or towers were destroyed. Most famously, the wooden spire of Norwich Cathedral fell through its roof.  As the storm reached the North Sea, it combined with high tides to produce a storm surge. Ports all along the east coast of England, including Ravensrodd and Dunwich were destroyed, and the coastline was redrawn.

1607 – Bristol Channel floods. Resulted in the drowning of a large number of people and the destruction of a large amount of farmland and livestock. The Bristol Channel was said to have burst “faster than a greyhound can run” on to the low-lying land of the Somerset Levels. Recent research has suggested that the cause may have been a tsunami.  The floods resulted in the drowning of an estimated 2,000 or more people, with houses and villages swept away, an estimated 200 square miles (51,800 ha) of farmland inundated and livestock destroyed, wrecking the local economy along the coasts of the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary.  The coasts of Devon and the Somerset Levels as far inland as Glastonbury Tor, 14 miles (23 km) from the coast, were also affected. The sea wall at Burnham-on-Sea gave way, and the water flowed over the low lying levels and moors. A chiselled mark remains showing that the maximum height of the water was 7.74 metres above sea level at the Church of All Saints at Kingston Seymour, near Weston-super-Mare.

1607 – First Great Flood of Lynmouth

1663 – Great Flood in Northampton. The diarist Samuel Pepys noted “Strange were the effects of the late thunder and lightning about a week since at Northampton, coming with great rain, which caused extraordinary floods in a few hours, bearing away bridges, drowning horses, men, and cattle. Two men passing over a bridge on horseback, the arches before and behind them were borne away, and that left which they were upon: but, however, one of the horses fell over, and was drowned.”

1663 – Great Flood in London. The diarist Samuel Pepys noted “At White Hall I hear and find that there was the last night the greatest tide that ever was remembered in England to have been in this river: all White Hall having been drowned, of which there was great discourse.”

1703 – Great Storm. In London, approximately 2,000 massive chimney stacks were blown down. The lead roofing was blown off Westminster Abbey and Queen Anne had to shelter in a cellar at St James’s Palace to avoid collapsing chimneys and part of the roof. On the Thames, around 700 ships were heaped together in the Pool of London, the section downstream from London Bridge. HMS Vanguard was wrecked at Chatham. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell’s HMS Association was blown from Harwich to Gothenburg in Sweden before way could be made back to England. Pinnacles were blown from the top of King’s College Chapel, in Cambridge.There was extensive and prolonged flooding in the West Country, particularly around Bristol. Hundreds of people drowned in flooding on the Somerset Levels, along with thousands of sheep and cattle, and one ship was found 15 miles inland. At Wells, Bishop Richard Kidder was killed when two chimneystacks in the palace fell on him and his wife, asleep in bed. This same storm blew in part of the great west window in Wells Cathedral.

1738 – Holmfirth Flood (more in 1777)

1755- Tsunami. Following Lisbon earthquake, Cornwall was struck by a ten-foot wave

1769 – Second Great Flood of Lynmouth

1791 – Great Flood in London

1796 – Second Great Flood of Lynmouth

1814 – London Beer Flood. At the Meux and Company Brewery on Tottenham Court Road, a huge vat containing over 135,000 imperial gallons (610,000 l) of beer ruptured, causing other vats in the same building to succumb in a domino effect. As a result, more than 323,000 imperial gallons (1,470,000 l) of beer burst out and gushed into the streets. The wave of beer destroyed two homes and crumbled the wall of the Tavistock Arms Pub, trapping teenage employee Eleanor Cooper under the rubble. Within minutes neighbouring George Street and New Street were swamped with alcohol, killing a mother and daughter who were taking tea, and surging through a room of people gathered for a wake. At least eight were killed. The brewery was demolished in 1922, and today, the Dominion Theatre occupies a part of the site of the former brewery.

1821 – Holmfirth Flood (more in 1852)

1864 – Great Sheffield Flood. Dale Dyke Dam burst, destroying 800 houses and killing 270 people.

1928 – Thames flood. A disastrous flood of the River Thames in London. 14 drowned and thousands made homeless.

1944 – Holmfirth Flood.

1947 – Thames flood.

1952 – Great Flood of Lynmouth. A disastrous flood wreaked havoc on Lynmouth. A storm of tropical proportions dumped nine inches of rainfall on to Exmoor, already saturated after a wet summer. As a result, the normally placid River Lyn turned into a raging torrent, sweeping vast amounts of water down into the town. 34 residents died and 420 were made homeless.

1953 – Great Storm in Eastern England. One of the worst natural disasters in recent English history. Strong winds and unusually high tides combined to create a storm surge, which sped down the North Sea and breached sea defences all along the east coast. The devastation was sudden, unforeseen and horrifying: more than 300 people drowned, while 30,000 more were evacuated from their homes. Across the North Sea, it was even worse: almost 2,000 people died in the Netherlands, while many also perished at sea.

1962 – Great North Sea flood. Storm surge

1968 – Chew Stoke Flooding. The River Chew suffered a major flood when two months’ worth of rain fell in 18 hours. Serious damage to towns and villages along the river, including sweeping away the bridge at Pensford. On the southern side of the Mendip Hills at Cheddar the flow of water swept large boulders down the gorge and damaged the cafe and entrance to Gough’s Cave, washing away cars.

1968 – South East England Flooding. The areas worst hit were Crawley, East Grinstead, Horley, Lewisham, Petersfield, Redhill, Tilbury, Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge.

1976-1978 – Storms, and storm surges in Eastern England. The January 1976 gale resulted in severe wind damage across Europe and coastal flooding around the southern North Sea coasts. One of the most severe storms of the century in England. Across Britain 1 million cubic metres of timber were destroyed; about half of England’s forests were flattened. 25 acres of glass (about ½ percent of the national total) were demolished, mainly in the West Midlands, East Anglia and the Lea Valley, at a cost of about £1m. The storm resulted in new sea defences being built along the Lincolnshire coast including 900m long sea wall in Cleethorpes (but 1000 properties were flooded in the 1978 North Sea storm surge before it could be completed. Skegness dunes needed reinforcement after severe damage.

1981 – Windstorm and storm surge in December.

1987 Great Storm. An unusually strong storm killed 18 people in England.

1990 – Burns’ Day storm. Winds of up to 100 mph killed 97 people and cause £3.37bn worth of damage, the most costly weather event in British history.

1993 – North Sea storm surge brought flooding to the Norfolk Broads.

1998 – Easter Floods. Severe flood event in the English Midlands and East Anglia resulting in 5 deaths.  Northampton was notably affected.

2000 – Flooding across UK. Among the worst hit were York, Shrewsbury, Lewes, Uckfield and Maidstone.

2002 – Great Flood in Northampton

2004 – Great Flood of Boscastle. Caused much damage to buildings in the Valency river valley. Further flooding took place in
surrounding valleys, and in the town of Camelford.

2005 – Great Flood in Cumbria. Flooding on the rivers Eden, Kent, Derwent, Greta and Cocker and others flooded around 2,000 properties and caused in excess of £250m. The City of Carlisle was badly affected.

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