Tag Archives: Wilford Road

The Great Flood of 1875 and the Fossilised Streets of Nottingham (2)

Recently, I wrote about the Great Flood of 1875, described by a person standing on the terrace at Nottingham Castle, looking across the valley of the River Trent. Here is an old oil painting of old Nottingham. It shows beautifully the castle on its cliff and, just in front of it, a brightly shining St Mary’s Church. You can also see the River Trent and the old Trent Bridge, just to the right of the tree trunk.

In 1499 Richard Mellers, the husband of Dame Agnes Mellers, founder of the High School, is known to have given twenty shillings to help repair this particular bridge which I believe was known back then as “The Bridge of Hethbeth”, although I’m not 100% certain of that.

In the centre of the picture, fairly distant,  is the church at Wilford:

Last time I couldn’t stop myself looking at the streets of old Nottingham and how,  in modern times, they have either disappeared, or have been made to disappear. I suppose really I was asking myself the question: “Would our journeys today be better if we could follow the same routes as Victorian roads did?

Here is one of the maps from last time. The orange arrow points to a thoroughfare no longer within our use. By a carefully planned coincidence, it is the road barely seen on the old oil painting of old Nottingham above, leading to distant Wilford Church (centre). The diagonal, all white, thoroughfare on the map, if continued to the north eastern, top right corner, would arrive at St Mary’s Church. In the other direction, that same straight road stretches southwards, straight as a die, to the River Trent and the Toll Bridge at Wilford on the left hand side. On the Ordnance Survey map, that very same route is highlighted by our trusty friend, the orange arrow. Nowadays, it would make a marvellous road into the city, especially for bicycles and even electric cars.

Personally, I do wonder if 130% of our traffic problems are down to planners who have completely disregarded those old streets which used to run, straight and wide, from one side of the city to the other.  The worst obstruction to traffic flow in this area is the Broadmarsh Centre, a huge shopping mall which blocks so many of the old medieval and Victorian thoroughfares:

I do apologise for his absence, incidentally, but the orange arrow is currently on strike for better pay and more beautiful places to point to. Here is the 1970s car park for what was then the new shopping centre. It takes seven years or so to get a degree in architecture:

I had almost forgotten that I was writing about the Great Flood of 1875 as well as traffic flow. Well, nothing, including the Broadmarsh Centre if it had been there,  could have stopped the vast floods of water from cascading through the city of Nottingham:

Wilford-road was the scene of a sad disaster, involving the loss of several lives. The flood was so deep that the only means of communication with Briar-street and the houses near it was by boats or vehicles; in the evening a man with a cart got about a dozen people into it in order to take them to places of less danger. They got out of Briar-street on to Wilford-road safely; but the posts on the road side being covered and only the street lamps to guide the driver, he got too near the edge of the road, which had been raised considerably, the cart was upset into the field on the east side, and six of the passengers were drowned. Next morning a man named Asher rode into the flood in the same neighbourhood in order to bring off a horse which was in an outlying shed, but was himself carried away and drowned. At Wilford the river overflowed the banks, washing down some of the cottages, and standing eight feet deep in many of the houses The traffic on the railway was much hindered, the trains from Trent having to be sent by the Derby, Codnor Park, and Mansfield lines.

Briar-street does not seem to exist any more. Wilford Road is the eventual continuation of Wilford Street towards the top left/centre of the map. It used to run southwards straight as an orange arrow to Wilford Ferry Bridge, at the bottom of the map. Most of that direct route is no longer there or is no longer usable. It has been interrupted, mostly by housing and parts of Robin Hood Way and Sheriff’s Way:

We already know Wilford and its famous ferry, replaced eventually by a bridge:

The Kannibal Killer Kaptain John Deane used to live just the other side of the bridge from Nottingham:


This was definitely THE flood in Nottingham. As the book says:

“This flood of 1875 was 5½ inches higher than that of 1852, 23½ inches higher than the floods of 1869 and July, 1875, 28 inches higher than the flood of January, 1877, 36 inches higher than the Floods of 1857 and 1872, and 39 inches higher than that of 1864”

The heights of those floods are recorded underneath present day Trent Bridge:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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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