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Somerset Floods

Somerset Floods Taunton Somerset

I was talking to my postman last week who lives at Athelney. As a consequence, I thought I would talk about this image. It shows William Upham repairing the breach in the River Tone embankment in 1929 at Athelney ( Curload ).

During December 1929 much of the Taunton area was hit by heavy rain. Vivary Park and part of the town were flooded. Efforts to contain the River Tone finally failed and the river burst through in the early hours of the morning. Much of the area had to be evacuated and the local inhabitants made good use of the flat bottomed punts kept by for such emergencies. Sixty families were made homeless at Burrowbridge in the worst affected area. There were one hundred and twenty homeless families in the parish of Stoke St. Gregory.

A county relief fund was set up. Nobody died during the flooding but a railway worker fell into a ditch and drowned shortly after. The 1929 floods are remembered by an odd series of postcards whose images were taken from a punt travelling through the area. One shows Kathleen Boobyer in wellington boots standing by the breach with a torrent pouring through. This part was known locally as ‘The Sheilings’.

We also see Athelney crossing, The Railway Hotel 
(later The Pigeons), Withygrove House and Ivy House. I have never seen a posted postcard so it seems that they were kept as a reminder of the flood.

Taunton suffered severe flooding in 1960. In the last week of September heavy rain caused flooding in parts of Devon.

The rain later eased but returned in torrents during October. Two inches of rain fell on Exeter on October 26th.

The rivers Exe and Tone took a huge amount of water and Taunton’s worst fears came to pass at breakfast time on October 27th. The flooding arrived at fast pace stranding vehicles and breaking shop windows in Bridge Street and Station Road.

Much of the town below North Street including the market was underwater. Timber washed out of the yard upstream of the bridge and jammed under the supports. It was feared that the bridge would collapse. Luckily the Victorian engineering held fast.

Floods came again in July 1968. I had a very lucky escape. That is another story.

By Nick Chipchase

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