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24 September 2014

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The 1953 Floods

The east coast floods of 1953 devastated the Lincolnshire coastline and claimed 43 lives. Do you remember the floods? Were you or your family affected? Share your memories on the message board below and send in any photos you have of the floods.


Lincolnshire messageboard banner.This page exists as an archive. If you would like to discuss this or other local topics or issues with other visitors to the BBC Lincolnshire website, please visit our new message board.

See also| 1953 floods special section including eyewitness accounts of the floods


I was Elaine Thomas, I lived in sutton on sea in the high street my father was the local post master. I do not remenber the night really well - I was 5. What I do remember is the post men coming upstairs to be out of the floods and going out on an army lorry to Hannah and then from Alford to London to stay with my grandmother , so as I watched the north east news which I pick up on sky I was amazed at what I saw.

Everybody of whatever age seems to have such wonderful memories. What struck me was the suffering, I know that sounds stupid , I know that I was there but to see the courage and to realise the suffering made me realise that although I could lay claim to being there, my brother and I were some of the lucky ones to be taken out and have somewhere to go.

Whilst watching the old film clips on the television I saw my father, he was I think chairman of the foreshaw commitee and stayed behind - the strain of which brought on pnemonia. As a child I always remember the photograph of Mr Maxwell meeting the Duke of Edingburgh that was in his shop. Thanks for the memories from mrs E M Cousins
E M Cousins from Bourne End

I was 13 years old and a Girl Guide with the 7th Lincoln Company. Our Company was involved in the initial clearing up process.  A coach load went to Mablethorpe and parties of 6 or so were allocated a house to scrub out.   On opening the front door the floors looked like they were covered in grey shiny lino, but we soon realised this was mud that was about 4 inches thick.   It took such a long time to scrape out before you could begin to scrub.   I suppose the saving grace was that not so many people in those days had fitted carpets, so under the mud was lino that seemed to disintegrate when you got down to it.  The tide mark around the walls was terrible, and the paper under this mark was hanging off.   Must have taken such a long time to dry out.  It made you thankful that it was not your own home. The most memorable thing was the terrible smell which I suppose must have stayed around for months and months. It was quite an experience for us young children, and quite hard work at the time.      It was nice to feel that you had done something to help even if it didn't feel a lot at the time.
Angela Smith (Hopcroft at that time)

I was almost 12 years old at the time, living in Boston, and my Auntie Edie had a caravan,built by my Grandad, on a site at Ingoldmells Point.Perhaps a couple of weeks after the breaches,my Mum, Dad,sister and me went to the site to sort out the 'van,the site was a mess, all the 'vans had floated to the second bank behind the site,some were total wrecks but ours had stood up well except the hardboard interior panels had buckled and warped through being soaked.We worked hard for many weekends getting the 'van ready for letting that summer and my Aunt gave us two weeks free holiday for our efforts.
Geoff Parker from Gainsborough

In 1953 at the time of the floods I was in a pub at Wrangle Marsh called The Sailers Home. There were four of us and most of us were farmworkers having a pint. A chap came in and told us the land was all flooded. When we walked out we saw a beast track on the bank that the beast walked over and the water was pouring over there. Mr Danby was with us who knew the area well and he told us it would be ok as the tide was about to turn. We came home in his car and the all the fields were flooded. The next morning everything was under water. We were ok as we were over the other side of the bank. We heard some stories that farmer from here fetched beasts from further up the coast and brought them here to look after them.
Wilf from Freiston Ings

As a small child my main recollection of the floods was my father, as a TV/ radio mechanic, repairing a television which had ben recovered from the floods at Skegness. The wooden cabinet was full of mud and remained so for the rest of its working life. It did enable my family to watch the coronation later that year!
Chris from Frampton

I was 13 at the time and we lived in George St in Mablethorpe. My father had been out to get a paper about 7pm and as he came in the front door the sea water followed him, it was so quick. My sister was 3 weeks old and mother gave her and my 5 year old sister to me to take upstairs while she and father rescued what they could. We were evacuated to Louth on the Sunday morning and eventually moved to a house in Alford which we shared by the rest of the family.There were my grandparents who had sat on chairs on a table all night in their bungalow at Trusthorpe. Also my 74 year old grandmother who had walked stools along the passage and manged to get the ladder down to get into the loft, she was alone until she was rescued on the Sunday. We all had at least 3ft 6" of waterin the properties. My uncle and cousin were at Sutton cinema and they were taken to Alford, and as my aunt was visiting friends at Maltby she did not know where we all where for some time. We did eventually return to our homes but it was a very difficult and worrying time for everyone.The help and kindness shown by the local people will always be remembered.
Janett from Lincoln

Seeing the news/pictures in the media brings back many memories. Many people have been mentioned who assisted during the crisis. The regular Forces, the local heroes. But so far I have not heard/read anything regarding the local TA Regiment who manned the search lights to aid the filling of the sea defences at night. These now would be in their 70`s & 80`some still alive to remember clearly what happened during these floods in 1953. I was in the 529.L.A.A.Regt.Grimsby at the time.
Sgt (Chalky) White from Grimsby

Jack Bedford was the Telephone engineer on the night of the flood keeping comunications open untill the conditions were so bad he eventually abandoned his morris eight van and swam untill the police picked him up and brought him back to Alford in the morning

My father was a retired postman and special constable, who was recruited at 1 in the morning to help. He went to Hannah and walked with the people to guide them to Hannah Church. My mother helped making cups of tea and sandwiches for the people from Sutton who were billitted at the school in Alford. We also had four people from Sutton staying with us in the house until the waters subsided. Everyone helped in the crisis. I was about 30 and had to look after our family (13) while my mother and father helped the flood victims.
Murial from Alford

In 1953 I was living in Mablethorpe and though I was very young I have some memories of the floods. My mother and I had got separated out in the street and were trying to find one another again. I saw my mother on the High Street and she was hanging on to a pole to stay above the water. I went to get to her and something hit me in the back with which I went under and I got washed up further along the street. I grabbed hold of some petrol pumps at a garage which is now David's supermarket. We all managed to get back safely in the end by clinging on to things and pushing against the current which got under your feet. We lost our pet chickens and stayed in Blackpool for a long time where we stayed with my brother who was in the RAF until the sewage was sorted out and we could return home.
Stuart from Rigsby, Alford

I was 6 years old living in Marshchapel nearly 3 miles from the sea My Father woke me on the Sunday Morning pulling back the curtains to see water all round our bungalow.You have my photos on the web site I have come to have a great understanding of the sea as until 18 months ago I was the Coast Guard Station Officer at Mablethorpe.
Peter from Sutton-On-Sea

I was 9 at the time living in Selston in Notts, my mother had been taking me & my brother on holiday since i was 2 yrs old, to Chaple-St-Lenards.           This paticular year i can remember looking at the destruction the floods had caused and i saw bungalows had been moved or twisted round on there foundation slab of concrete. Such was the force of the storm.

The stories featured this week have been very sad but I remember vividly what happened in the aftermath of those terrible floods. I came from a loving family - was probably 'spoilt - and was a Girl Guide in Grimsby at the time. Coach loads of us volunteered to go to Mablethorpe and Sutton to help with the clearing up. When we arrived it was still cold and raining and we were detailed to help in the shops that had been under water and each was now filthy with the mud and filth brought in. Most of my friends were involved with just throwing away ruined stock but I have always felt I drew the short straw! I was taken to help in a 'pot shop' and spent hours 'washing' pots that had to rescued from large wicker baskets that had been totally under water................and there was no hot water!!!! As I was not known for willingly 'doing the pots' at home this caused great amusement to my family when I returned. (I don't think I have ever been so cold since those days!).

At the time of the flood I was 19 days old and was staying with my Grandmother in Metcalfe Ave in Kings Lynn with my parents and Aunty.   On the day of the flood my father had gone over by bus to St Germans to check on their cottage. In St Germans he noticed the river was that high that the water was not able to go under the bridge. He entered the local pub on the river bank and after making enquiries with the landlord they discovered that water was entering the windows level with the river bank. He caught the next available bus back into Lynn where he found he could only get as far as the railway bridge in west Lynn due to the flooding. He returned to my Grandmothers house by pulling himself along with the assistance of fences and bushes along the road side as the water was then waist high. He entered the house by the living room window with my grandmother pulling him in.   They were not evacuated with everybody else within the street due too my mother only just coming from the nursing home with myself. They watched the water rise up the stairs during the night. My Aunt was returned to her home, she had been in Kings Lynn all night unable to return until the water receded with the assistance of the Americans who were helping to provide food etc . She had to enter the house by a step ladder into the bedroom window.  Many times I was shown the water level marks left on the walls in my Grandmothers house, no matter how many times she decorated it always eventually came through as a reminder of that night.   My parents moved back to Heacham on my fathers retirement, but over the years when they have moved due to the nature of my fathers work a big consideration has always been made about the location of the property, and the possibility of flooding.
Anne from Scunthorpe

My Grandparents lived in Sutton with my 3 month old mother at the time of the '53 flood. My Mum still has the teddy she was given as a 'refugee' after the flood... My Grandad, Michael Clark, was a teacher at Sutton Primary school and was a member, with his wife, of Sutton Methodist chapel. His abiding memory of the flood is seeing knickers floating down Sutton High Street, escaping from the sewing factory in what is now the Meridale Hall in Sutton.
Matt from Boston

My husbands family had 2 caravans at Ingoldmells. They were in a field adjacent to the sea wall. Both were damaged by the floods, one actually landed in the boating lake at Butlins Holiday Camp.
Kathleen from Spalding

Marine Drive, Ingoldmells.My late husband and I with our baby son were living on a small bungalow estate in Ingoldmells just north of Butlin's Holiday Camp Skegness. When we left our bungalow the sea was inside and rising fast. We took nothing with us. Electricity was off and armed with a torch and carrying our son my husband set off. I tried to persuade two elderly couples to come with us but they refused saying they would be okay. Sadly all four were drowned - our immediate neighbours were our dearest friends. We lost everything. I have photos which my husband took a day or two later of the devastion caused to our home. On that estate there were a total of 10 adults and 3 small children who lost their lives that fateful night. Darkness, high winds and the sound of the sea is something I shall never forget, as well as the loss of so many lives.

Renee and Charlie.
Renee with Charlie Partrigde, Editor of BBC Radio Lincolnshire at the Flood Fair in Skegness.
Renee from Skegness

I have been reading about the floods of '53 and how dreadful they were - it was really interesting to read people's experiences first hand of what happened that night.
Jimmy from Boston

I feel I have to comment on the problem of flooding around the country. I am not old yet but I can remember fishing rivers around this county. Many of the rivers were used by boats and consequently needed a depth of water to operate. Over the years there has been quite a decline in boats on our rivers. My point being that the rivers needed dredging not just for the boats but to maintain the depth to carry the amount of water that we seem to think is falling more heavily these days. I don't think we are having any more rainwater than we did 30 years ago but we did not get this type of fierce flooding then only in extreme conditions. I would like this theory to be put to the environment people to find out there comments i.e.: Why are the rivers and streams around the country not kept to a depth that can carry the amounts of water without fear of flooding. Instead of spending money on defences Why not tackle the problem at sauce. If your rivers are not deep enough to carry the water then you will inevitably get flooding. Back to the fishing I can remember having to fish at 8ft bottom on the River Witham through Lincoln, now you only need 4ft bottom. As you can see the depth is only half so come on someone back me up in this. To stop flooding you must deepen our rivers.

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