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Stock shots from the archive: Floods of 1968

Phil Coomes | 11:10 UK time, Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Flooding in the West Country, 1968

Every so often I take a trip to the basement of Television Centre to rummage through the archive photographs on file in what was the old News Stills Library.

The collection comprises thousands of 35mm colour slides divided into three sections, personalities, locations and subjects.

Given the current flooding in the North of England and elsewhere I thought it would be interesting to see what was on file under the subject heading: Floods. The earliest pictures date from 1968 so I have concentrated on those for this post.

The first set of pictures show the village of Pensford in Somerset which along with the rest of the Chew valley suffered severe flooding on the 10 and 11 July 1968.

Pensford, 1968

These events were reported on the 11 July in The Evening Post which carried this:

"Pensford was a village without a heart this afternoon - a bitter, bewildered village ripped apart by a 12-foot tidal wave," and according to reports eight people died in the region that night.

On the 12 July the Somerset Guardian reported that:

"Chaos and desolation over a wide area of North Somerset followed Wednesday night's torrential storms, in which Pensford was the worst hit. Over seven-and-a-half- inches of rain fell in the Pensford area."

Four days later the Duke of Edinburgh made a visit to the area and that's when these pictures were taken. You can read more about the floods on the Publow with Pensford Parish Council website.

Duke of Edinburgh in Pensford

Duke of Edinburgh in Pensford

Duke of Edinburgh in Pensford

The next photograph on file shows a car attempting to navigate a flooded road in the south of England in September of that year..

Car in flood

Another picture shows two men attempting to paddle a small inflatable dingy along a flooded road as a Transit van creates a wave that threatens to push them into the wall, or perhaps give them a soaking. According to the card index this was taken in Molesey, Surrey, again in September 1968.

Two men in a boat

In the same year Dartford seems to have been under water too as these people attempt to manoeuvre a coach through the deep water...

Coach in Dartford

... the workers at Lloyd's Bank start to bail out...

Lloyd's Bank

...and three women get pulled through the flood in a boat.

Three women in a boat

The last two pictures show shoppers attempting to pick their way along a pavement piled high with debris removed from damaged properties and the Army moving in to help clean up. I'm not sure exactly where these were taken as it is listed as either Maidstone or Tonbridge.

Damaged shops

Army working in flooded area

Unfortunately none of the names of the photographers is recorded on the index cards for any of these pictures. The recording of that data seems to have started in the early 1970s.

You can see previous posts in this series here:

Update, 15:12: A reader has just e-mailed in to point out that the top image is reversed as the "chain gear is showing on the left of the bike". That's a good spot. I have found that many of the old slides in the archive are mounted back to front, but it seems I missed this one. I have now updated the top image.


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