The Severn, Storms,Floods and Periwinkles

  • 11 Jan 2024
  • Severn and Canals
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The River Severn which separates St. John's from the rest of Worcester has played a crucial part in the beginning's and developments of the city. Its tidal bore enabled Worcester to flourish as an inland port and up until about 180 years ago this great waterway - once known as 'The King's high stream of Severn'- was alive with commercial traffic. Only the coming of the railway ended the city's dependency for prosperity on the river. But the Severn always has been, and always will be, a force to be reckoned with for Worcester people - to admire and enjoy, and from time to time to fear.

In the first half of the 19th century two great storms caused the Severn to rise at what must have been a frighteningly phenomenal speed. The 1847 storm which caused an alarmingly rapid rise in Diglis Dock has already been mentioned. The hailstorm of 1811 was of ferocity scarcely known in this country, hailstones, according to the 19th- century historian Turberville 5-6 inches in diameter, the windows in almost every south-east facing house smashed, gardens laid to waste. All this was succeeded by tropical rain and the Severn rose 25 feet above normal level, sweeping away whole herds of cattle. Vast numbers of birds were found dead and the city's glass replacement bill amounted to some £5,000.

An unusual storm took place at Henwick in 1881 and was recalled by Mrs. Millward of Bromyard Road: 

I was 8 or 9 at the time. There was an awful storm. When we left school in the afternoon, as soon as we heard what had happened, we ran there and picked up shellfish, putting them in our pinafores.                        They were alive and sodden in water, making our clean pinafores wet and dirty. Mother said they were snails. There was much talk about it at the time. They were chiefly on Oldbury Road. They were all over the road, the banks were full of them, and they extended over the hedges into gardens. They began about where Laugherne Road is now, continuing along Oldbury Road to Comer Gardens corner. It was a sight! There seemed to be tons of them.

The greatest flood of all prior to modern day times is considered to have occurred in May 1866 when 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. the 20th century saw two particularly disastrous floods. 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 water levels known. The flood of 1947 - still remembered in Bill's time - cut off all road communication to St. John's and a free rail service was run from Foregate Street Station to Henwick. Twenty buckets of lamperns were picked up at the coal tips at the power station in Hylton Road and sold for 6/9d per gross, or two-a-penny.

Now in the 21st Century past patterns of flooding have now been greatly increased to a more often and severe 

Current 21st Century times due to the extreme weather events caused by climate change, flooding not only in Worcestershire but unfortunately through the UK will continue to become more common and  the frequency of large floods is changing fast .