North Sea Surge
The Great Flood of the night of 31st January 1953 began in the North Sea where the weather, tides and moon were in the right position to cause, what is known as a ‘surge’.
It swept southwards, causing horrendous flooding in coastal towns and villages, all the way down the east coast of England and across the sea to Holland. The worst hit town in England was Canvey Island which was completely under water and where many people lost their lives.
The surge roared up the estuary, into the Thames, causing flooding at Rainham and Creekmouth. It was in the early hours of the morning of 1st February that night-watchman, Harry Stone, realised that water was cascading over the riverbank, towards the village. He quickly ran to the cottages, shouting and banging on doors to raise the alarm. The local police constable was also on his way to the village to warn them. The villagers awakened to find freezing, filthy floodwater pouring into their homes and, especially those in the back row, soon found themselves wading through more than 3 feet of water and mud.
The villagers spent the night trying to salvage as many of their meagre belongings as they could; lifting chairs and smaller items up on to tables and shelves. Moving toys, food items and clothing up the narrow stairs to the bedrooms. One villager had bought some wool to knit her new baby a matinee jacket. She grabbed the bag of wool from where it was hanging, on the back of a chair, just as the filthy water reached it, soaking the paper bag & depositing the lovely new wool into the water.
By the middle of the afternoon of 1st February, the floodwater had begun to subside and the villagers began mopping up, in earnest. It was back-breaking and heartbreaking, in equal measure, trying to clear the stinking mud and water from their little homes. The Stubbs’ family, licensees of The Crooked Billet, quickly swung into action and, even though they had the job of pumping floodwater out of their own cellars, set about making sandwiches and hot food for their worst affected neighbours. Also, as the only home to own a telephone, they allowed the villagers to make and receive telephone calls to worried relatives. A Creekmouth baby was born on the night of the flooding.
You can read Avril Miller’s memories of that terrible night here.