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The Great Flood of 1912

November 16, 2014

By Paul Homewood 



 The road bridge which crossed the River Yare at Lakenham was also destroyed during the floods.


I mentioned yesterday that August 1912 was the wettest summer month on record in the UK. The Met Office report for the month shows just how extreme the weather was.










As mentioned, the rain was particularly heavy in East Anglia, bringing what was known as the Great Flood of 1912, not just to Norwich but also the rest of East Anglia.       


The Norwich Floods 1912


The History of Norwich website summarises the floods:


Thousands of her poor were washed out of their homes in the lower suburbs along the riverside  homeless and helpless but for swift aid which came to them from more fortunate citizens. At one time the Cathedral was actually in danger.

Broadland was devastated. At the height of the season, when the winding tidal waters of Eastern England are bright with happy yachtsmen and grey with the huge sails of wherries and yachts, the tornado burst with demon fury, and Broadland became as much of a swamp(and more) than it was before the land was reclaimed ages ago.

Here and there loss of life had to be recorded, though happily, in rare circumstances. The distress that followed such a calamity can only be very inadequately described, the full story of which will probably never be known. One can only judge it by the vast acreage over which the waters spread with remarkable rapidity. With bridges down in all directions, roads many feet deep in places, the rail services disorganised in every direction, districts became isolated from one another and from the rest of the world.

For a considerable while Norwich was absolutely cut off from outside communications; one or two visiting pressmen spoke of it as “an island” and the description was fairly correct. Water hemmed the city in on all hands. For over twelve hours on Monday, August 26th. East Anglia and Norfolk in particular, was deluged by an almost tropical downpour, railway, telephone and road communications with the outside world being almost entirely cut off, and immense damage to property ensuing, both in Norwich and the country districts.

In the twelve hours close upon six inches of rain had fallen, and what this means may be gathered from the fact that one inch of rainfall brings down with just over 100 tons to the acre. These figures eclipse all previous records not only for the Eastern district, but for the British Isles, The deluge, which was general within a forty – mile radius of Norwich, was rendered far worse by the heavy north westerly gale which accompanied it. By the end of the day of August 26th 1912 the city was almost isolated from the rest of the country. No mails could arrive, no main line trains could get out of the stations and the midday mails could not depart.


To put the numbers into perspective, the monthly rainfall in Norwich was said to be over 10 inches. By contrast, during the infamous wet summer of 2012, rainfall just a few miles down the coast at  Lowestoft totalled 227mm for the whole summer, less than 9 inches. Rainfall there for the whole of last winter was even less, at 182mm.


Indeed, the highest monthly rainfall at Lowestoft, since records began in 1914, was 163mm in October 1939. In the following year, July recorded 157mm, the second highest on record.


Reading through the Met report, it is clear that, even though they did not know it at the time, they were seeing the jet stream behaving as it did last winter, and indeed during the summer of 2012. The jet stream was stuck in a more southerly position than normal, thus bringing a succession of depressions across the country.

Whatever the cause, East Anglians will be grateful they have seen nothing like that month since.

  1. Bloke down the pub permalink
    November 16, 2014 6:31 pm

    Sorry if a bit off topic but, have you seen today’s Philip Eden column in the Sunday Telegraph about typhoon Haiyan? He repeats the worst typhoon ever meme which I know you’ve expressed views on before.

  2. Brian H permalink
    November 17, 2014 9:06 am

    An AGW theorist could undoubtedly explain how its absence caused the flooding rains.

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