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The Great Floods Of 1968

September 26, 2014

By Paul Homewood 


Thanks to Rosemary and Richard Christophers who have confirmed to us that this is in fact Byfleet – the field with the mottled white top right is Byfleet churchyard.—surrey-flooding-pictures-6483386




16th September 1968 marked, what Philip Eden has described as, probably the most severe inland flood to hit the Home Counties in the last 100 years. He goes on to report:


Surrey suffered more than any other county. In Esher alone roughly eight thousand houses, roughly one-third of the urban district’s housing stock, had water damage, and a further four thousand properties were similarly affected in the adjacent towns of Walton and Weybridge, Chertsey and Addlestone, and Woking. In Guildford, town-centre shops were flooded to depth of 2.5 metres.

Several road and rail bridges were badly damaged; six of these suffered major collapse and subsequently had to be completely rebuilt. Most of the main roads taking traffic south and west from London were blocked for at least 24 hours (some of them for three days). Farmers suffered considerable losses too, especially those with root crops, although the cereal harvest had been completed by the end of August.

The floods were the result of a prolonged downpour which lasted for the best part of two days. This in turn was caused by a vigorous depression which had become stationary over France; two contrasting air-masses – a very warm and very moist one which had originated over the western Mediterranean, and a cool moist one from the Baltic Sea – converged over southeast England, and the line of convergence moved very little during that astonishingly wet weekend.

A broad belt extending from the New Forest to the Thames Estuary received over 75mm of rain. That is the equivalent of six weeks’ worth of rain in less than 48 hours. Some 75mm also fell in a much narrower belt along the line of the Chiltern Hills from south Buckinghamshire across Hertfordshire to west Suffolk. A sizeable are covering much of Surrey, west Kent, southeast London and south Essex was deluged with more than 150mm of rain, and two rainfall-recording sites in Essex – Tilbury and Stifford – received slightly more than 200mm, which is more than they had had during the whole of the summer quarter.


While Surrey may have been at the centre, the flooding affected a much wider area spreading north up into Suffolk, as at St Edmundsbury and Great Bradley below, east to Essex and west to Hampshire.

 Sipsey Bridge flood


The Met Office list this as a significant event. 





Philip Eden wrote this in 2008, but it still remains the heaviest short rainfall event in the South East in the last century. No rainfall event has surpassed it since in this part of the world.

Even during the height of last winters floods, the Met Office give the highest daily rainfall Charlwood in Surrey as less than 60mm, far less than recorded in 1968.

The more things change, the more they stay the same!

  1. September 26, 2014 10:38 pm

    In the US, in 1993 there was a massive flooding over much of the Midwest. Coffins floated out of cemeteries, according to a person we know who lived there. It lasted most of 4 months. Funny how we never hear comparisons to that flood.

  2. September 26, 2014 11:30 pm

    Reblogged this on the WeatherAction News Blog.

  3. A C Osborn permalink
    September 27, 2014 11:35 am

    The 1953 North Sea Flood was also pretty extreme.
    My Wife & her family were involved in it and where rescued by the Army.

  4. September 27, 2014 12:48 pm

    Comparing Apples with Oranges … why compare Charlwood rain rates of 1968 with 2014, when the significant input of 2014 was tidal surges not just rain ?
    …quoting the Met Office page Paul linked to ” Strong winds, high tides and tidal surges acting in combination led to huge waves battering the coastline.”

    • September 27, 2014 6:31 pm

      This part of the South East was not affected by tidal surges etc, that was mainly the South West.

      I’m simply making the point that the South East has not seen anything like the 1968 event since.

      • October 21, 2014 10:20 am

        up here on Humber & Lincs coast it was the tidal surge

  5. September 29, 2014 11:50 am

    It is worth noting that the very wet late Summer and Autumn of 1968 was followed by a very dry Autumn in 1969. Is it going to happen again?

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