Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Guildford Floods of 1968

As I am going through and uploading the material to the Walnut Tree Close (Guildford) website, I thought I would share the following story and picture.

In September 1968 the River Wey in Guildford burst its banks. My Mum says they heard a noise one Sunday evening and she went to the door to look out. She told her Dad there was water in the road, and the response was, as one might expect, "Don't be ridiculous!" My Grandfather then went to the back door and sure enough the water was just coming in the door.

The family then worked steadily trying to get what they could upstairs, but essentially it was really too late for some items. On the Monday morning, Mum and her Dad went into Guildford to get some wellington boots, by that point it was inpassible in some parts of town, but they did get the wellingtons and some bread and other essentials. By Lunchtime on Monday the water was well and truly inside the properties and the lower section of Guildford closed off, and the water continued to rise rapidly.

There was at the time an Army barracks in Guildford and they helped to evacuate those worse affected. My Grandparents elected to stay in their home. By Tuesday morning the water had all gone, but a dreadful smell and clean up now existed.

My Mum at the time worked at the department store in Guildford, Plummer Rodis, which was situated also along the banks of the River and the store was also flooded. Mum recalls the Managing Director, a Mr Brown, coming to talk to the staff, thanking them for all their hard work during, what would have been a challenging clean up operation and costly to the business, regardless, as a way of thanking the staff he paid them all an extra week's wages. A far cry from working for a large business today.

Mum always says that my Grandmother was totally oblivious. On the Monday evening, Gran said she felt like a cup of tea. Anyway, Gran toddled off downstairs and it was a few minutes before my Grandfather realised that she had gone downstairs. They heard a small bang then a bit of an expletive and then eventually Gran came back up the stairs with a teapot and a set of cups and saucers. She had turned the gas on and made the tea, completely oblivious that she could have completely blown the house and them to pieces.

When I asked how high the water had come into the house, the response was the water had started to climb the stairs and had made it past the first three. It might have been a dreadful experience, but not totally unexpected given how close the house was to the river. The reason for the flood, was not due to excessive rain. but there was a problems with the locks which controlled the volume of water.

This photo was taken by Allan Edwards, whose mother in law lived across the road from my Grandparents. I have looked at this photograph lots of times as it shows the house,the first on the right where my Grandparents lived, but it was only recently that I realised that the top window is open and has my Grandparents looking out and the bottom window has my Mum peeping outside.

Walnut Tree Close (Guildford) Community Archive

Back in 1984, I removed an article from the local newspaper about Walnut Tree Close. My family had been connected with the road since at least 1911. My Grandmother was born in the road in 1912.

She lived in the same property until about 1937, when her mother, who was a widow passed away. For a time, as the eldest daughter she had been looking after her brothers. At some point she returned home from town where she found her brothers had vacated the house, each going their separate ways within the Guildford area.

Between 1937 and 1939 she lived with her sister and brother in law in the Bellfields area and when she married my Grandfather in November 1939 she and my Grandfather initially made their home in Bright Hill, before relocating back to Walnut Tree Close in 1940, although in a different property. My family association with the road remained until 1996.

That first newspaper clipping was effectively the beginning of the end; as I have built up quite an archive of data.  I therefore felt it was about time, to get the material on-line.

I have therefore developed the website and a blog to accompany the website and over the course of the coming months plan to get the material on-line. 

The study is already registered with the Society for One-Place Studies