Memorable floods and frosts

  • 12 Oct 2011
  • Weather
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The first definite record of a great flood is that of October 1484, when the ill-fated campaign of the Duke of Buckingham against Richard lll, was brought to a halt by the great Severn flood which barred his way across England, and was passed into folk-memory as 'the Duke of Buckingham's water'.

Noake records seeing on a fly-leaf of a tract, reference to a flood in 1620 as follows: 'November ye 29, 1620. In the River Severn was the greatest flood that ever was seen since the flood of Noah, there was drowned at Homstone's Loade, 68 persons as they whare going to Bewdley Faire'.

Two great floods occurred in 1672 and 1770. A plate on the wall at the Water Gate records: 'On the 18th November, 1770, the flood rose to the lower edge of the plate, being ten inches higher than the flood which occurred on December 23, 1672'. 

Two storms caused great floods, the Severn rising at phenominal speed: the famous Worcester hailstorm of 1811, and the storm of August 1847, when the water at Diglis Lock rose 181/2 ft in five hours. It stopped the river current. and the water backed up like a tide, and forced the Camp Locks to open themselves. This has not happened since.

The greatest flood of all however, is considered to have occurred in 1886, in the month of May. On that occasion the water almost reached the crown of the arches of Worcester Bridge. In the parish of St.Clement's alone, it was estimated that no fewer than 250 houses were flooded. A punt laden with men, women and children was returning from the bridge towards Tybridge Street, when some of the passengers lurched suddenly to one side, and several were upset, though fortunately no one was drowned. During the flood, a man caught a pike in the sitting room of the Old Rectifying House.

Two more recent floods, but equally disastrous were those of 1924 and 1947. The flood of June 1924 destroyed the Three Counties Show on Pitchcroft, and prize cattle and exhibits had to be rescued from one of the fastest rising floods known. The other flood of 1947 is still remembered, when all passenger communication by road to St.John's was cut, and a free rail service ran from Foregate Street Station to Henwick. During the 1947 flood 20 buckets of lamperns were picked up at the Electricity Power Station in Hylton Road, and sold for 6s .9d per gross, or two a-penny. 

During great frosts, printing souvenirs or roasting sheep on the ice was a popular thing to do. A certificate of 1855, signed by the Mayor, John Goodwin, Esquire, records: 'Printed on the Frozen Severn river, February 24th, 1855, at Worcester, being the second time of a press working on ice here. The first was on January 25, 1795, by Grundy, being 60 years ago. H.F.Sefton, Printer and Music Seller, 33 Broad Street, Worcester'.

The two greastest frosts in the experience of local people were the frosts of 1890 and 1895, and on both occasions the Severn and Avon were frozen to such depth as to allow ordinary road traffic on the ice, and to permit sheep and pigs to be roasted on the surface. One week-end, a party skated from Stourport to Tewkesbury on the Severn, then up the Avon to Stratford. They intended a round trip, but it was an arduous task, and they returned by train.