THE SEA
 
KILLER FLOODS
 
9 -11 Victoria Street, Southwold, Suffolk IP18 6HZ - Tel: 01502 726097 email
 
 
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We are grateful to Mr John Nottage for permission to include his movie of the 2007 surge, and to Prof. Michael Rowan-Robinson for permission to publish parts of an article on North Sea seiches which first appeared in Michael's 'Stars & Tides' series in the Southwold Organ. To read more of these articles, visit Prof. Rowan-Robinson's own web page.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Although the 1953 floods are what we most remember, flooding isn’t rare in this area. November 1887, January 1928 and February 1938 also saw Southwold’s residents experiencing misery and inconvenience. (Click on the 1938 photo immediately below.)


Bus caught by the high tide in Ferry Road - February 1938

12th February 1938 - The Wenhaston bus, en-route to Southwold Ferry, is caught by a high tide in Ferry Road and becomes bogged down in mud and gravel. P862

Click picture to enlarge


On 9th November 2007 Southwold feared it was about to happen again as an exceptional 'spring' tide was once more forecast to coincide with a freak storm surge. In the event, the coast received a spectacular enough battering but fortunately tide
and surge were separated by some hours and we escaped total disaster.

Click here to see a movie of the 2007 surge, and click here to read about North Sea 'seiches' - the natural phenomenon that makes our coastline so vulnerable to tidal flooding.

 
A RECORD OF THE 1953 FLOOD IN SOUTHWOLD
 

31st January 1953 was a particularly dark day in Southwold’s history. An unusually high tide coincided with a deep depression of below 970 millibars and gale-force northerly winds. All of which combined to send a tremendous surge of water funnelling round from Scotland into the North Sea. The result was one of the worst floods in living memory along England’s entire East Coast. It was a national disaster, and 358 people died in all. Southwold did not escape and lost five people to the flood. The surge swept inland to the north and south of the town, turning it into a virtual island for two days and nights.

 
       
    Southwold sea front with its beach huts and pier pavilion, is overwhelmed by the flood tide on January 31st 1953. Well known Southwold artist, Frank Forward, witnessed this scene himself and started this oil painting the same night. It hangs in the Museum.  
       
The Museum has a large collection of photographs taken the day after the surge. Here is a selection. Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions and captions
.


 
  The marsh behind Ferry RoadThe Town end of Ferry Road 1953The sea swept through the pier arcade carrying slot machines with itThe marsh behind Ferry Road showing furniture and effects swept out of homes  
 
  Southwold's Red Cross Ambulance was a victim of the floodThe Haven Marsh, looking towards Southwold, photographed on 1 February 1953Might's Bridge on 1 February 1953.The remains of the 'Blue Posts' bungalow in Ferry Road where a mother and her small son lost their lives  
  Looking down Gun Hill towards Ferry Road 11 am on 1st Feb. Only a few wrecked beach huts remain on the promenade. Shingle completely covered Ferry Road and built up against the Restaurant then known as the Dutch Barn - now Casa Mia.The Electricity Board Van was washed off Might's Bridge and across the marshes,  
 
 

Movie of the November 2007 Sea Surge

Seiches, Coriolis force and Amphidromic Circulation...
Prof. Michael Rowan-Robinson explains the dynamics of North Sea tides. Click here

 
 

LOOK ON THE
BRIGHT SIDE!

None of these modern-day floods compares with the iinundations at the end of the last Ice Age. About 10,000 years ago, the area now covered by the southern North Sea was a wide, marshy plain. Within 500 years, rising sea levels meant that about 50,000 square miles (13 million hectares) disappeared beneath the waves. The North Sea became linked with the English Channel about 8,500 years ago.

 
Click the green headphone icons to hear extracts from our Sound Archive
 
 



Harrold Fisk remembers how it began.


Irene Horwood watched the tea room float past.

John Winter saw the ambulance man washed away.


William Stannard recalls tragedy and rescue.


Southwold as an island... "I don't want to see that again." - John Winter

 

Use the links below to explore Southwold’s other sea stories.

Coastal erosion - The village that fell into the sea
Shipwrecks and lifeboats
The Lighthouse - Over a million bricks to save the ships

     
 

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Southwold Museum & Historical Society, 9 -11 Victoria Street, Southwold, Suffolk IP18 6HZ
Tel: 01502 726097 email

A Charitable Incorporated Organisation, Registered Charity No 1159790,