50 YEARS ON: 'Devastating' floods rip through North Somerset causing 'death and disaster'

PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 July 2018

Congresbury boys convey marooned householders through High Street in a dinghy.

Congresbury boys convey marooned householders through High Street in a dinghy.

Archant

Blustering winds, freak storms and 'catastrophic' flooding struck North Somerset during a 'night of horrors' 50 years ago.

The river Yeo, at Congresbury, tops the archway of the bridge carrying the A370.The river Yeo, at Congresbury, tops the archway of the bridge carrying the A370.

Four days of torrential rain resulted in thousands of people being forced from their homes in the biggest flooding disasters in Somerset’s recent history.

On July 12, 1968, the Weston Mercury and Somerset Herald reported more than 13ft of water in parts of Somerset as ‘great floods caused death and disaster’.

The paper reported: “It was a night of horror for innumerable people whose homes stood in the path of the floods.”

Congresbury was among the worst hit areas, with youngsters using dinghies to rescue marooned homeowners and cars being washed into the side of buildings.

A car swept to the side of the road at Broad Street, Congresbury.A car swept to the side of the road at Broad Street, Congresbury.

The River Yeo overflowed and the banks burst, causing gallons of water to cascade across the streets of Congresbury.

Villagers at the time said motorists in Brinsea Road and High Street were forced to abandon their cars and ‘run for their lives’.

People were forced to leave their homes and belongings to escape behind for fear of drowning.

They reported several feet of water outside their homes with the Weston Mercury photographer capturing the destruction left during and after the floods.

While the death toll was low, people lost their livelihoods with one Congresbury homeowner saying: “My husband and I have spent 16 years getting this house up together and now we have lost almost everything.

“What was our living room now looks like a mud hole.

“It will be months before we can get the place straight again.”

Nailsea was cut off with no electricity or phone service and one of Long Ashton’s railway footbridges collapsed which stopped trains to Bristol being able to safely get through.

Flooding damage in a lane off Church Road in Blackford, where Blackford Brook crosses the lane.Flooding damage in a lane off Church Road in Blackford, where Blackford Brook crosses the lane.

A fund was launched by Somerset County Council called the County Relief scheme in a bid to put money back into the communities which had been destroyed.

Villagers pitched in to help during and after the disaster, with youngsters tugging inflatable boats to get people around, and housing their neighbours as well as removing and clearing away the waste left behind.

Flooding at Congresbury. A Congresbury resident wades in on the great clean up.Flooding at Congresbury. A Congresbury resident wades in on the great clean up.

Mr G.H. Davis, landlord of the Ship and Castle, Congresbury, indicates the height to which the water rose in the lounge.Mr G.H. Davis, landlord of the Ship and Castle, Congresbury, indicates the height to which the water rose in the lounge.

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