Tag Archives: Redbridge

June deluge that created Redbridge-on-Sea

It was the summer when the ‘sea’ came to Redbridge.  A record-breaking 59-hour deluge in the middle of June 1903 left vast swaths of the borough inundated. But this was no thundery downpour. All across London and the South East record rainfall rates and totals were set, many of which still stand well over a century later.

The writer of this postcard wrote the following: "Just sending you a few postcards to let you see what a plight we have been in Ilford. This view is the River Roding from the bridge. This was a large green field now it is like a large river but glad to say it has subsided a little of course. You will have read it in the papers I have sent you."
The author of this postcard wrote the following:
“Just sending you a few postcards to let you see what a plight we have been in Ilford. This view is the River Roding from the bridge. This was a large green field now it is like a large river but glad to say it has subsided a little of course. You will have read it in the papers I have sent you.”
This terrace of houses in Wanstead Park Road, which backs on to the River Roding, were also flooded out. The postcard was written on July 1st, 1903
Images of the flooding were captured by Watson Hornby, an amateur photographer and artist, who traded at 7 Cranbrook Road, Ilford. This terrace of houses in Wanstead Park Road, which backs on to the River Roding, were also flooded out. The postcard was written on July 1st, 1903

According to one local historian the fields between Wanstead Park and Ilford – as far as Uphall Road – were like an open sea and the railway track at Seven Kings resembled a shallow river.

After a dry start to the month June quickly went downhill with notable falls of rain during the second week. The main deluge arrived around noon on Saturday, June 13, and lasted until near midnight on the 15th.

The rain was caused by a depression that moved slowly across southern England, becoming stationary over the English Channel close to the Isle of Wight for 24 hours before moving north-east. It introduced a very cool NE’ly airflow – the temperature on the 14th and 15th failed to climb above 11C and on the 19th a high of just 9.2C was recorded as yet more rain fell. 

Across the London area there were five days within the period 10th to 19th June when over 25mm of rain was measured in many places. The deluge added to what became the wettest summer month on record. At the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, just over 154mm fell, three times the amount of what normally falls in June in this area. Further west, Kew Observatory recorded 184mm.

The June 1903 flood at Empress Avenue at the junction of Wanstead Park Road
The June 1903 flood at Empress Avenue at the junction of Wanstead Park Road

The 1903 rains produced an unprecedented summer flood on the Thames. At Teddington 7335 million gallons (33,374 million litres) of water flowed over the weir on June 21st. Elsewhere the Lea Valley was one vast lake, especially around Enfield, with the Royal Gunpowder Factory inundated.

The Friday, June 19th edition of the Essex County Chronicle abounds with other tales of woe from the floods…

Barking and District: In the large area of low-lying ground between Lea Bridge, Ilford, Barking, and East Ham, houses stood in a great inland sea, which was washing over the garden fences and lapping at the lower windows. Upstairs the occupants could be seen moving about or gazing hopelessly out at the dreary waste of black waters. Boats from Barking Creek were rowing about with supplies of milk and bread, and those who wished were taken away. All along the Barking Road from East Ham scenes almost identical were witnessed, but, happily with the end of the rain, the water did not retain its level long. Past Barking and on to Rainham the roads on Tuesday were quite impassable, much of the heavy traffic which goes through Rainham towards Barking having to turn back.

The floodwaters between Wanstead Park and Ilford were described as a vast inland sea

Woodford and Wanstead: The inhabitants of Claybury Asylum and Woodford Bridge were cut off by 3ft of water from Woodford. The whole of the Roding Valley was in a deplorable state; sheds, trees and stock that was once alive floating in all directions. Wanstead was divided from Ilford by a great lake, but happily the total of loss in property was here very small.

Lea Bridge: The Leyton marshes were covered by one great sheet of water, Lea Bridge Road itself being quite 2ft under. Boats were to be seen plying among the tramcars.

Epping: The valleys were well-nigh impassable, especially at Thornwood and parts of Theydon Bois.

Romford: The floods reached to Romford High Street, and made the thoroughfare impassable for pedestrians. The crisis caused a heated exchange among members at a meeting of the Urban Council on Monday evening where it was agreed to allow the free use of the town fire engine for pumping water from ratepayers’ premises, provided that those who required its services paid for the labour. Cllr J. Bassett thought the residents should make their own arrangements for getting rid of the water. Cllr J.R Holliday replied: “You don’t live near the river. I should like to stick you in the middle of it. I think it is the duty of the council to protect property.”

Laindon: Here the height of the deluge was experienced between seven and eight o’clock on Sunday evening. The rain descended in apparent ropes of water, causing consternation, flooding houses, choking drains and water-troughing, cutting deep channels in roads, washing up plants and new potatoes. On Monday the water was between 3 and 4ft feet deep at Noak Hill and other bridges.

Woodford: An exciting scene took place at Woodford Bridge, where a steam circus, with its owners, was in the most precarious position. Men and women were submerged up to their armpits while extricating the caravans.

rainfall tableAway from the South East the weather was much dryer. Felixstowe and Yarmouth newspapers reported that Sunday had seen “delightfully sunny weather, with cool north-easterly breezes”. Lincoln, meanwhile, recorded less than an inch of rain for the whole month!

Could these rains happen again? Meteorologically, given the same synoptic set-up, it is possible. In terms of the June monthly total of rain we came close in 1997 when 133mm fell – though this was much more evenly spread throughout the month. And thanks to massive investment in local river systems since the 1950s the flooding nightmares brought by the Lea and Roding rivers should stay firmly in the past.

 

*You can see the full stats from Greenwich for June 1903 by clicking this link.

 

500hPa evolution from June 9 - June 20
500hPa evolution from June 9 – June 20
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March 2014: Mild, dry and sunny

March 2014 will be most remembered for glorious sunny days that brought welcome relief after a run of seemingly endless wet months.

Pear blossom by Scott Whitehead
Many trees blossomed early this year, thanks to the mild winter

It also continued the mild theme of the winter; the mean temperature of 9.1C was 1.4C above average, making  it the 11th warmest March since 1797. Looking at my other series back to 1881 the March mean maximum was second only to March 1938!

Just 25.8mm of rain fell over the 31 days – that’s 63 per cent of average.

The month started on the chilly side but with plenty of sun around it felt pleasant. Though many days were warm clear skies led to frost and fog forming. Hail was observed on three days. 

The most notable weather occured on the 26th when the temperature fell from 10C at 1.30pm to 4C by 3pm. Heavy showers accompanied what was an utterly foul day. The cold pool persisted into the 27th with towering thunder clouds surrounding Wanstead, north, east and south – with reports of hail in Berkshire and snow in Folkestone.

The month ended with warm, sunny weather – the southerly flow bringing Saharan dust that deposited on cars. There were 4 air frosts  and 14 ground frosts.

Saharan dust fall on car, by Scott Whitehead
A southerly airstream brought dust that originated from the Sahara Desert

To view full stats follow this link: http://1drv.ms/1cBRoH3

 

Time to resurrect Valentines Park lido (and other outdoor public pools)

The boating lake is popular with families and hosts an array of wildfowl
The boating lake is popular with families and hosts an array of wildfowl

Remember the time when most local parks had a lido – or at least a kiddies paddling pool?

Growing up in the area I remember being spoilt for choice for an outdoor swim – Valentines park, Barking park, Leys, and Larkswood to name a few. Barking, thanks to a lottery grant, has recently reopened as a ‘splash park’. All very nice – but its not a proper lido.

When Valentines park pool closed in 1994 there was outrage that yet another of London’s once grand leisure facilities was going the same way as many other lidos which closed in the seventies and eighties. A petition to retain the pool signed by over 2,000 people fell on deaf ears – the powers that be unwilling to finance repairs that were estimated at £250k. The 150ft by 50ft H. Shaw-designed facility was demolished at a cost of £26k in 1995.

I’d never thought about the background behind Valentines pool until I chanced upon some info. The idea of a swimming pool in the park was first proposed in July 1923, at an estimated cost of £7,700. The council at that time, however, decided against this proposal and recommended that such an open air swimming pool be built as part of the scheme for the new High Road baths.  However, in October 1923 a revised estimate of £5,500 for a pool in the park was submitted and it was decided to that work could be provided for local unemployed during the winter of 1923/24 in conjunction with the Unemployed Grants Committee. In December 1923 sanction to apply for the  loan was received from the Ministry of Health and work commenced on the old gravel pit.  The swimming pool was officially opened to the public on Saturday, August 2, 1924.

clockPerhaps this could be the way forward for a new pool – utilise the unemployed to dig in for a cooler summer? In the event and with advances in earth moving machinery I would doubt this would be politically possible to implement. But with lottery funding, council leadership and public will – surely it is possible?

A design sympathetic with the Grade II landscape on the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest, that hosts the excellent Valentines Mansion, would surely be a vote winner for any local politician. Rather than a knee-jerk reaction to the heatwave which has seen temperatures widely exceed 30C the past four days this is a genuine appeal to Redbridge and other local authorities to at least consider bringing back these facilities that used to be widely enjoyed by the masses, many of them affordable or even free of charge.

They don’t have to be expensive white elephants – the few lidos that were spared the axe or have reopened, such as the London Fields lido which reopened in 2006, are well-run facilities that are used all year round. Anyone who’s tried to use a public swimming pool recently, indoors or out, would know that demand often seems to outstrip supply – just the other week I had to abandon plans to visit the brilliant new Dagenham indoor pool because the waiting time was too long, much to the disappointment of my 6-year-old daughter.

The wonderful work done so far on the restoration of Valentines is commendable. A pool would be the icing on the cake.

Scott Whitehead

@wanstead_meteo

www.wansteadweather.co.uk

Many thanks to the excellent Library Info & Heritage department at Redbridge Central Library