A List of Floods

by Derek Round

Having investigated the 1947 flood, Derek Round was intrigued to find out more about other floods in History.[l] One valuable source is James Bennett, the Tewkesbury Historian, who gives valuable anecdotal evidence and the results of his own research into local sources. One frequently asked question about modern flooding concerns whether the flooding is abnormal and therefore caused by 'global warming.' By using Bennett and organising his accounts by season we can perhaps learn a little from history about how 'abnormal' our flooding has been, using Bennett's own delightful prose:

Autumn and Winter

1484 — 'A remarkably high flood, in consequence of the waters overflowing the banks of the Severn. Many men, women and children, with great numbers of cattle and sheep were drowned.[2]

1673 — 'On Dec. 22, there was so high a flood that the water came into the channel of the Church Street, at the Bull Ring.

1763 — 'December 2nd, about this time began a flood at Tewkesbury which continued eleven weeks or thereabouts.[3]

1770 — 'This year produced the greatest flood ever known at Tewkesbury; it was occasioned by an immense fall of snow, succeeded by a heavy rain, which continued without intermission for three days and three nights. On Nov. 17, the water came up St. Mary's Lane and Gander Lane, and united in Church Street; and on the 18th, it rose so high, that boats were necessary in order to pass from the Hop Pole Inn to the Masons Arms. In St. Mary's Lane, the lower stories of the houses were entirely under water, and many of the inhabitants were taken out at the chamber windows, with their beds and furniture. The flood was also in the Church, so that divine service could not be performed. Two houses, near the Mills, were washed down, but no lives were lost.

1821 — 'The latter part of the year was so rainy, that the banks of the Avon were overflowed seventeen times, and the Severn eight times, between the first of September and Christmas day. '[4]

1841 — December: 'Great inconvenience was sustained .... from the long and continued high floods. '[5] 

1843 — 25 November: 'waters of the Severn rose so fast and overflowed its banks so unexpectedly that, during the night, 39 sheep out of a flock of 40 were drowned.[6]

1845 — September 25: 'The water having been drawn from the Avon, to admit some reparations at the Abbey Mills, the tide flowed into that river and increased the height of the water therein full fifteen inches. It seldom happens that the Avon is affected by the tides of the Severn, and only two previous instances of it are upon record, one of which occurred in 1771 and the other in 1798.[7]

1847 — October 1: 'An incessant rain, for three entire days and nights, preceded by heavy storms for upwards of a week, caused the Warwickshire Avon to rise much more rapidly and to a greater height than had been experienced for many years. The lowlands of the neighbourhood were entirely flooded and all the roads into the town, except the Gloucester Road, were rendered quite impassable for foot passengers. ..... Dinners were put through the bedroom windows of many inhabitants, and pigs were obliged to be conveyed into the upper rooms of dwelling houses, to save them from drowning.[8]

Spring

1792 — 'On April 19, there was such a great fall of rain, that the water rose in the Severn to the height of sixteen feet within twenty-four hours. '

1807 — 'In January there was a remarkably high flood, occasioned by a sudden thaw. It was nearly as high as that in 1795.

1814 — 'During a flood in the Spring, the water was so high in the meadows and upon the turnpike roads, that persons sailed in boats completely around the town. This had frequently been done informer floods, but the roads are now so much raised, that there is no probability of its ever being accomplished again.

1840 February: all lowlands completely inundated (floods) — rivers 'overflowed their banks more frequently in the preceding 6 months, than had ever, within the recollection of any person living, been known within the same period of time. Rainy weather had indeed continued from the middle of August until the present time and the labours of agriculturalists were almost wholly suspended The weather was, in many respects the very reverse of that extra-ordinary season which was experienced just a century preceding.'[9]

1947 - March, The Great Flood

Summer

1587 — 'On the 19th of July, a very great and sudden inundation of the rivers occurred. Some of the meadows were un-mown at Bartholomew tide, and a great quantity of hay was spoiled and lost.

1640 — 'This was the wettest summer ever known and, in the midst of harvest, there was not one dry day in a fortnight. We had eight floods between Midsummer and Michaelmas.. So often was the Ham under water that all the hay was lost; and the meadows were not half mowed, but the grass left to rot upon the ground.[10]

1844 — 4 July: 'several hours of refreshing rain, after an almost unexampled drought —for not a single considerable shower fell during the entire months of April, May and June. 

1844 — 24-25 July: 2nd race meeting on the Ham --- weather delightfully fine. in consequence of great heat, several of the races were run almost in a canter. A Lace-maker from Nottingham named Gardener drowned bathing as did local tailor, Woodward. '[11]

1843 — 10 June: Ham flooded and hay crop ruined after 41 days of rain.. 9 August: thunderstorm with hail over vale of Evesham 'which did immense mischief to the standing of crops of corn etc..' [12]

2007  June, Flooding across the country

General

1727 — 'This year was remarkable for the number of floods of the Severn and Avon; there were not less than twenty, some of which did considerable damage.

1774 — Three such dismal days as Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday last, have scarcely been ever known in this climate. The rains on the two first days have occasioned an inundation that has only been exceeded by the great flood in 1770. Nor were the hills less incommoded by Wednesday 's snow than the vales by the floods Edward Vickers, who distributes this paper, was by the violence of the wind blown, horse and all, from the high causeway, between Tewkesbury and the Mythe, into the flood; his horse swam with him for a quarter of an hour, and just as the poor beast was exhausted, a boat most providentially came and saved both the man and his horse.....[13]

References

  1. Additional information was gleaned from the T.H.S. Database at the T0'•M1 Library. (Editor) 
  2. Holinshed says that "several persons were drowned in their beds, children in cradles swam about the fields, and beasts were droumed even on the hills!" That, for a century afterwards, this inundation was called "The Great Water" or "Buckingham Water", from the circumstance of its having prevented that unfortunate nobleman from passing the Severn, with the Welch forces, who had risen against King Richard. Encarta tells us that Buckingham led his rebellion in October and was executed in November 1484. 
  3. Vol.ll, p.477 (Feoffee Records). 
  4. Vol.ll, p.463. 
  5. Vol.ll, pp.44-49. 
  6. Vol.ll, pp.119-133. 
  7. Vol.ll, p.203. 
  8. Vol.ll, pp.334-5.
  9. Vol.ll, p.6. 
  10. Vol.ll, p.465 (Feoffee Records). 
  11. Vol.ll, pp. 157-167. 
  12. Vol.ll, pp. 119-133. 
  13. Vol.ll, p.479.

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