When Brook Street lived up to its name

HEADLINES which say “Terrific Storm in Ipswich”, “Tropical Downpour of Rain” and “Roaring Rivers in the Street” sound like present warnings of global warming coming true, but this was from the Evening Star of July 1902.

David Kindred

HEADLINES which say “Terrific Storm in Ipswich”, “Tropical Downpour of Rain” and “Roaring Rivers in the Street” sound like present warnings of global warming coming true, but this was from the Evening Star of July 1902.

Mr L White, of Mendip Drive, Rushmere St Andrew, sent me cuttings containing a report about the day 3.25 inches (83mm) of rain fell on the town causing a great amount of damage. The wording of the report is typical of news reporting of over a century ago.

“The storm which had been threatening for some twenty four hours broke over Ipswich with almost unparalleled severity shortly before one o'clock on Tuesday afternoon. About twelve o'clock there was a tempest of brief duration, which cleared only partially away and left premonitions of a further downfall. The full force of what was to follow however came with astonishing rapidity. Long before people had time to shelter on a busy market day the rain was descending in torrents, while vivid flashes of forked lightning followed instantaneously by tremendous claps of thunder showed the centre of the disturbance to be right above the town.

“Within a very few minutes some of the main streets became raging torrents of water; extraordinary scenes were witnessed , more especially at White Horse Corner, the top of Upper Orwell Street and at other junctions of thoroughfares; vehicular traffic to a large extent was stopped; hand carts were swept before the torrent.

“But a few minutes after the storm broke the streets became impassable, the water running like a rapid to a depth of 3 or 4 feet. On St Margaret's Green a house was broken through at the rear and a huge volume of water went clean through carrying away light articles before it into the street.

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“At White Horse Corner the flood was more conspicuously manifest. The waves dashed against the shop occupied by Mr Sach, outfitter, with such force that the falling in of the window seemed momentarily imminent.

“Between the Old Neptune Inn and The Social Settlement (Fore Street) a huge lake was formed, from neither side could people cross to get to their dinners”.

The report also talked of a huge amount of damage to Christchurch Park with plants washed away, fish swept from the ponds and parts of the mansion flooded.

“The water came from the upper part of the park like a huge waterfall. The two ponds could not be traced except for the ironwork enclosing them. Houses were struck by lightning and chimney pots fell in Belstead Road, Corder Road and Alpe Street”.

Christchurch Park to the river is through this part of town. Upper Orwell Street is still referred to as “The Wash” with water from the higher areas making its way to the river and dock.

For many years after the Evening Star moved from Carr Street to Lower Brook Street in 1966 the photographic department on the ground floor would often flood during a cloudburst. I can remember my colleagues and I going out to photograph flood scenes only to find our own office worse than other premises in the town centre we had been sent to photograph!

The report of 1902 details how shopkeepers tried to keep the water out by covering gratings with carpet etc, with much success. “In Upper Brook Street tradesmen suffered considerably through the water in cellars, damaging large quantities of goods stored below”.

In Orford Street the report says: “The crown of the road was completely scoured - stones of great size as well as silt being washed from top to bottom. The water came pelting down the street like a river. The shop and private houses opposite in Norwich Road fared badly”.

- What memories of summer floods do you have? Write to Kindred Spirits at the Evening Star or e-mail info@kindred-spirit.co.uk