Water, water everywhere, especially past Trent Bridge

In a recent blogpost, I mused about the cold past of our city, and how the River Trent had frozen over on a number of occasions in the nineteenth century, the last being in 1892. Previous years when similar brass monkey weather conditions had occurred were 1682, 1814, 1838 and 1855. In all of these winters, the River Trent at Nottingham had literally frozen over from one bank to the other. I found these extremes of weather really quite interesting, so I continued to do further research of my own. I duly found some extra details, such as, for example, the sad fact that:

“on 10 January 1814, seven boys drowned in the River Trent in England by the breaking of the ice.”

One or two more examples of extreme cold have since come to light, in years of which I had previously been completely ignorant. During the winter of 1092-1093, for example, when William Rufus was king:

“the River Thames and all the English rivers (were) heavily locked in with ice”. There was severe frost in this winter. English rivers (were) frozen so hard that horsemen and wagons could travel on them.”

When warmer weather finally came, however:

“drifting ice on the rivers destroyed bridges, and mills were carried away”.

Here is William Rufus, who was to be killed by an arrow in the New Forest:

4559818813_e810e0ca1c_z

Four hundred years later, the River Trent was frozen near Nottingham in the winter of 1485-1486. When the thaw finally came, “the bridge at Newark-on-Trent was swept away.” In 1766, on February 15th, a great snowstorm hit Nottinghamshire, which lasted fifty hours. That is a lot of snow!

Our old friend “Wikipedia” provided a great deal of historical detail about this kind of event, not all of it totally fascinating, although the word “palaeochannel” was new to me and it does contain three unusual vowels in a row. Here’s one I photographed earlier:

paleo chanaell zzzzzzz

I knew that Giant Floods generally follow any Big Freeze but it was interesting to see that, in the modern era, the worst flooding experienced in Nottingham came very soon after the vast snows of the winter of 1946-1947 had melted. This melt was extremely sudden because of continuous heavy rain throughout March. The result was extensive and severe flooding all along the valley of the Trent. During this flood the peak flow of the Trent was 39,100 cubic feet per second, thirteen times the norm. As many as 9,000 houses were flooded and almost one hundred industrial premises were awash, with floodwater up to the height of the first floor. Here are one or two photographs of the flooding. These are of West Bridgford:

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Here is Arkwright Street next to the railway station:

arkwright st

This is the aptly named Canal Street:

NTGM006755.tif

Here is a picture of the River Trent near the present day Harry Ramsden’s and Toys-r-us. On the left is Wilford Power Station, demolished in the 1980s, and on the right, Clifton Colliery which disappeared even before this (possibly through flooding?):clif colli wilf power station

Here is Beeston, looking remarkably like Venice:

NTGM016349.tif

This photograph is just about recognisable as Melton Road in West Bridgford:

220px-Melton_Road_in_the_floods_of_March_1947_-_geograph_org_uk_-_1537395

This natural disaster in 1947 was the beginning of our modern attempts to tame the river, by building concrete embankments and sluices in an effort to avoid the surging floods which had devastated Long Eaton, Beeston, the Meadows area, Colwick and West Bridgford on more than one occasion during this period. Here is the Trent, with early concrete steps visible only on the far side of the river, and just a grassy slope on this, southern, side:

before concrete

This photograph was probably taken in the 1950s, with concrete embankments on both sides. Trent Bridge is in the background, so we must be looking north:

nottinghamtrentbridge-620x413

Nowadays, the concrete steps near Wilford Suspension Bridge would stop a Soviet tank. Well, perhaps make them feel a little motion sick:

nearcounty hsall

Here’s the other side, looking north towards Trent Bridge and the green roof of County Hall:

concrete zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

These are the sluices on the river between Holme Pierrepont and Colwick, designed to hold back excessive flood water so that it can be released gradually at sensible intervals. By the way, firm promises have now been given that the next time they release fifty billion gallons of floodwater, not only will they look first to see if any anglers are fishing at the riverside, but they will also sound a warning klaxon:

colwick sluives zzzzzzzzzzz

This huge construction work of the modern era seems to have been completely successful. During the Millenium Flood of November 2000, the peak flow of the Trent was 36,000 cubic feet per second, around twelve times the norm, and certainly comparable to the conditions experienced in 1946-1947. But this time, the 15,000 homes at risk were completely unaffected and there was none of the widespread flooding seen in 1947 within the city:

flood 2000

In this photo the flooded Trent is, for the most part, still contained within its banks, although Nottingham Forest’s pitch does look as if it may be somewhat waterlogged.  All of the floodwater in the background, by the way, is, for the most part, lying harmlessly on playing fields.

 

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11 Comments

Filed under History, Nottingham, Science, Wildlife and Nature

11 responses to “Water, water everywhere, especially past Trent Bridge

  1. Taking flood risk into consideration that is exactly why I moved to Ilkeston!

    • Ah, Ilkeston, the Pearl of the Midlands! Mind you, most of it is well above the level of the river, except, strangely enough, the football ground.

      • Well. they built it at the lowest point available in the town for development. I think Tesco had something to do with that when they negotiated to buy the site of the old ground. It is a Dunhelm now.

  2. Very interesting and some great photos you found. I heard on the news today that in Hull, flood premiums had skyrocketed! Let’s hope it doesn’t happen to the residents of Nottingham!

    • I hope not! The concrete river banks and sluices do seem to be very effective, though. In addition, they have now started a system whereby, if possible, any excess water can be pumped out onto particular pastures, so that the overall drainage becomes that much slower.
      And, of course, thanks a lot for your interest.

      • Flooding has become a very big issue over the last few years and an expensive one. It’s good to know that defences do work although continued building on flood plains is contentious.

  3. Thanks for some interesting history. Folks need to remember that if it happened before it will happen again, no matter how long since the last time.

    • You are absolutely correct! That is why our current policy here in England of building extra houses on the flood plain is so ludicrous. It isn’t called a flood plain without any reason! And by the way, thanks a lot for your interest.

  4. I remember as a small child, the creek where we lived close by, flooded. It was so bad that army canoes were going down our street delivering supplies to people who needed them. It was quite the adventure for a little girl!!! Great post, John!!! ❤

    • Thank you so much, Amy. You are very kind. It’s surprising what weather memories we all have. For me, it was fog so thick that my mother had to fetch me from school early. Then, we had to feel our way along the walls and buildings to get home. No problems! There is nothing a determined mother cannot do.

      • John, you are so right regarding mothers. That mother streak in me is so strong that there are times I even surprise myself. Just picturing you with your mother trying to get out of the fog brings such tenderness to my heart.

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