Monday, 25 October 2010

1878 and all that


IF you canoe through Norwich often enough you get used to small plaques high above the water line. Invariably they mark the flood level from the summer day in August 1912 when Norwich was hit by its famous flood. Six and a half inches of rain fell in just 12 hours. But that’s not the case with this plaque. This one near the site of the old Bullards brewery on Westwick Street harks back to November 1878, the date of yet another deluge and one I had never heard of. Today’s EDP contains the answer. Or rather the supplement celebrating 140 years of the newspaper contains the answer in the shape of a full report from that very day, together with a dramatic photo of the River Wensum flooded over fields which would later become home to Norwich City. There’s loads of great detail, with the “ferry-houses” of  Horning, Surlingham, Cantley and Coldham Hall all reported to be several feet under water. But it’s Norwich, and in particular what the paper calls North Heigham, where the combination of high tide, heavy flow and heavy rain wreaked particular havoc.

“Before the evening had far advanced the usually insignificant stream of 26 feet wide had swollen into a stream which was more than a mile across it. On the one hand it had poured its waters up the densely populated courts and alleys in St Martin’s at Oak and St Miles, and on the other hand it had converted Heigham Street and Causeway into a deep river and spread its waters up the various streets which ran into them. The thousands of people who dwell in these neighbourhoods seemed to be paralysed, for they were powerless to save their homes….”

In fact reading the whole supplement you are struck by how many of Norfolk’s big stories were weather-related. Two inland floods, the coastal floods of 1953 and the Great Storm of 1987. Let’s hope the  next one is still a long way off.

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