THE FLOODS OF APPLEBY - 19th Century

  ADDITIONS MADE:

  25.03.17. - The creation of separate pages for each century after the page had simply become too big - to read about the floods in the 19th, 20th and 21st century's follow the links below.

  29.01.17. - I have now finalised a 'Summary and Analysis' regarding the floods of Appleby (see link above - also available in pdf format: Summary and Analysis) - this was covered by the Cumberland and                     Westmorland Herald 31.12.16.

  06.05.16. - accounts of  'hurricanes' in: 1839, 1860, 1862 + and of  thunderstorms in: 1843, 1855, 1856 (stupefied to death), 1858 and 1871

  05.05.16. - accounts for 1899.

  18.04.16. - accounts for 1820 + 1831 + 1841 (Ts) + 1845 + 1849 (Ts) + 1855 + 1861 + 1868 + 1869 + 1890 + 1898

  09.04.16. - accounts for 1817

  21.02.16. - Commencement of new and dedicated page on 'The Floods of Appleby' - the section had become too large to be just contained within the 'Appleby' section.

 

 Whilst the floods of the 19th century are equal in number to that of the 20th century, they occurred in a greater number of years and that is assuming that research does not reveal any more; it would certainly seem the most likely century for which floods are waiting to be discovered (eg: 1800-1814).

  There were some notable 'flood rich' periods during the century, in particular the early to mid 1850's and then especially the 1890's, the decade that has been the most flood rich period in Appleby's history.

  The newspapers of the day are the main source of information and the reports are often rich in detail as to the impacts of the floods and are quite literally a fascinating read; the style, terminology and prose of the day really do transport you back in time.

  It wasn't until 1856 that the town had a 'weather observer' and whilst we have the monthly rainfall totals, we do not have the daily totals with which to give some indication of the rainfall totals at the time of flood.

  From my research, below are the years during which flooding is known to have occurred:

C18th C19th C20th C21st 1733 ? 1815 + 1903 2004 1771 1817 1912 2005 (x3) 1775 1819 1916 + 2007 1790 1820 1924 (x2?) 2009 1792 1822 1925 2011 1794 1829 1928 (x3?) 2015 (x2) 1831 1929 1845 1930 (x2?) 1851 1931 1852 (x2) 1936 1855 (x2) 1947 (x2?) 1856 1954 (x4?) 1861 1960 1868 1964 1869 1965 + 1874 + 1968 1883 1974 ~ 1888 1979 + 1890 1982 + 1891 +(x3) 1987 + 1892 1990 1894 + 1995 (x2) 1895 + 1896 + 1898 (x2) 1899
(+) Smith and Tobin 1979 - 'Topics in applied geography, human adjustment to the flood hazard'. (~) Environment Agency - 'Eden Catchment Flood Management Scoping Report (Oct' 2005) Years annotated (+)(~) - I have yet to find a formal record/account for these years and hence no details appear below. Years annotated (?) - 1733 could be an earlier year - the rest appear in duplicate/triplicate in Smith+Tobin's analysis and need to be confirmed as a year with multiple floods.

  The list above represents 77 different flooding events in 60 years.

    Enjoy the accounts, but take some with a slight pinch of salt.

 

    1817 - January    'Raging Torrents Through the Streets, but a Gothic Strength.'

  The floods of January 1817 were very well reported in the newspapers and it all sounds quite dramatic. Raging torrents through the streets, water above the arches of the bridge, horses, etc being swept away and immense damage caused. The following articles are taken from:       TOP: Carlisle Patriot 4th January        LEFT: Evening Mail 8th Jan'        RIGHT: Oxford University and City Herald 11th Jan'.

       

  But I quite like this newspaper report from the Carlisle Patriot (11th), which gives both an amusing story and then a more serious account of the consequences of the flooding.

 

    1819 - July    Violent Thunderstorms

  From the Westmorland Gazette of the 31st July there were reports of violent thunderstorms in Westmorland at the end of the month - the extent of any flooding remains unclear at present.

 

    1820 - February    'Bridge Behind The Hotel Falls - people swept away, but rescued'

  The following account from the Westmorland Gazette (12th Feb') is virtually hidden in amongst other stories - I can not be certain when the 'late floods' were, but must surely have been after those mentioned above in 1819. Additionally, this report casts doubts on the accuracy of the account stating that this bridge collapsed in 1822, see below.

 

    1822 - 'Candlemas Floods' (February)     Deaths Avoided, somehow.

  Taken from the pages of the Appleby Society's website and $$(page 215):

  The old “Stanebrigg” had stood up to the pounding of many floods. In 1822 there was a bad flood; water had poured down Bridge Street and onward down Low Wiend, standing three feet deep in the grammar school and St. Lawrence's church and causing the abandonment of services.

  In this same flood a wooden bridge behind the King's Head Hotel, which linked the hotel with its stables across the river, was carried away - albeit see it 1820 above, which would suggest that unless the bridge fell in twice, they have mistaken the years.

  But there are two excellent accounts of this flood in the local papers, the one of the left is from the Westmorland Gazette on the 9th February and the one on the right from the Cumberland Pacquet on the 11th.

            

 

  But there is one delightful account from the Westmorland Gazette on the 2nd March about a strange event during the floods, but such a shame that they don't say what became of it:

 'During the late flood at Appleby a fish was caught swimming in the house of Mr Hodgson, ironmonger.'

 

    1829 - October

  Taken from the Westmorland Gazette, dated 17th October.

 'It would appear that the rain has been very heavy during the early part of this week throughout Westmorland as the river Eden at Appleby was tremendously swollen equalling in height the flood of February 1822, which committed such dreadful ravages in that part of the county.'

 

    1831 - February

  There may not be a direct mention of Appleby for this event, but the flooding was so widespread and significant that quite undoubtedly Appleby would also have suffered, especially when 'Penrith and neighbourhood, there was one of the greatest floods ever remembered' and Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite had become one.

  It all started with a violent snow storm that left roads impassable with deep drifts and indeed such was the fury of that storm it 'accounted for a guard and coachmen on the Dumfries to Edinburgh mail near Moffat'. Then after further snow there was a rapid thaw and the flooding ensued.

  At Carlisle the River Eden was described to have 'come down with a fury' and the depth of the floods was stated to be 'within a few inches of that of 1822'  -  however, the following account is taken from the Cumberland Pacquet, dated 8th Feb':

  'Fall of snow has been so great as ever known on Saturday (29th). In eastern parts of the county the storm appears to have been no less violent. Snow drifting into enormous masses'

  The following then came in the paper on the 15th under the headline 'Effects of the Storm - snow worst in 60 years':

  'Thaw took place suddenly on the Tuesday night (8th) small village of High Hill near Keswick was in danger of being swept away. Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite Lake had joined and resembled an inland sea. In Penrith and neighbourhood there was one of the greatest floods ever remembered.'

 

 

    1839 - 7th January    'The Great Storm - and another damaged bridge'

  The storm of 1839 was a significant event across the UK and which caused much loss of life, especially at sea with several ships lost. At St. James's Church in Liverpool trees were uprooted in the graveyard so as 'to expose the coffins' and hence it was one that lasted long in the memory. Subsequently it was reported in many local and national newspapers and yet apart from some minor(ish) damage (the only damage caused by the weather to a bridge in Appleby other than from flooding that I know off!) Appleby seems to have escaped the worst.

 

    1841 - 24th June    'Thunder - anxiety of mind'

  A quite dramatic thunderstorm, dramatically described and worthy of inclusion even though there probably wasn't any flooding - the account is from the Westmorland Gazette (3rd July):

 

 

    1843 - July     Thunderstorm

  All thunderstorms were quite vividly described, this one is taken from the Kendal Mercury of 8th July, so could possibly have been at the very end of June:

 

    1845 - October    'Frightful Devastations - bridge takes another hammering'

  Just the one flooding event in the 1840's that I am aware of, but this one sounds like it was fairly bad; the account is from the Westmorland Gazette (11th Oct'):

 

    1849 - August    'Thunder - the liquid fluid'

  These thunderstorms are quite an event and always dramatically described - the account is from the Westmorland Gazette (11th Aug'):

 

 

  We then reach the 1850's and this decade suffered badly with many of the years seeing some flooding. Whilst the worst floods may not have fallen in this decade, only the 1890's has had more.

 

    1851 - New Year's Day    worst since 1822.

            

 

 

    1852 - floods twice in a year, February and December    frequent flooding and a stormy end to the year.

  Taken from the Westmorland Gazette 7th February:

  Since the commencement of the present year a greater quantity of rain has fallen than at any other time within the same space in the recollection of “the oldest inhabitant”. The river Eden has been swollen, almost daily, to a considerable height, frequently overflowing its banks and inundating the lower lands. Throughout the whole of Monday (Candlemas Day [2nd February]) the rain poured down in torrents, accompanied by a strong boisterous wind and continued without one moments cessation until late at night.

  Such a violent storm has not taken place for some time back. Early in the afternoon the river began to rise with great rapidity and a repetition of the flood of the 2nd February 1822 was fully expected, by which so much damage was done to property in the north, was fully expected, the ground having previously being so completely saturated with water.

  The inhabitants of the lower part of town who suffered so severely a year ago, were all on the qui viv and many removed their property out of harm's reach. Fortunately however, the river did not attain a height to do much damage. The road on the Battleboro’ side of the bridge was impassable for some hours and some other parts of the town were flooded from the oozing out of the water from the sewers. Some cellars and houses in low situations were visited but on the whole not much reason exists for complaint. Since Monday the weather has continued very wet and boisterous.

    And then at the end of the year, the weather turned bad again. The following is taken from the 'Kendal Mercury', issue 18th December and on the right, from the Westmorland Gazette on 1st January 1853:

      

  The report continues thus:

 'The storm of Christmas 1852 will long be remembered here, two such hurricanes as those on Saturday and Monday morning the oldest inhabitant declares he never before witnessed. The former commenced about three o’clock in the morning and continued to blow a most tremendous gale for several hours. The houses rocked to and fro like a cradle, and many persons left their beds in a state of alarm.

  The storm of Monday was still more boisterous, the wind blowing south west. On both occasions the river Eden rose to a considerable height, and overflowed its banks in many places. The road near to Appleby Bridge was impassable for some hours; and many persons prepared their homes for an inundation which it was fully expected awaited them, but to their great relief the river subsided before it had risen to a height to do much harm.

  The damage done to property in the town is much lighter than could have been expected, considering the violence of the storms. The roofs of many houses have been eased of slates, and a chimney here and there has given way. A new barn behind the Black Bull Inn was stripped of its lead rigging and the same fate attended the belfry of Bongate church. But the greatest amount of damage has been done to trees in the neighbourhood, which have been uprooted in every direction. Several of the large Dutch elm trees which graced the avenue of Appleby Castle measured their lengths across the road, and in other parts of the park the destruction has been great. Some very large trees near the Friary were also uprooted; indeed scarcely a field or road in the neighbourhood but exhibits striking proof of the strength and fury of the storms.'

 

 

    1855 - August and November    Summer thunderstorms and then the worst flood since 1851.

  Two flooding events this year, the first a summer storm with thunder and whilst the river 'rose to an unusual size' it apparently did no damage. Then the second event in November was described as the 'worst since 1851'. The August event (left) is from the Westmorland Gazette (11th Aug') and the November floods (right) is from the Carlisle Journal (2nd Nov').

  But first is an account of a thunderstorm during June taken from the Carlisle Journal of 8th June.

 

     

 

 

    1856 - September     Thunderstorm - Stupefied to death!

  This is such a curious case that it merits inclusion, fascinating to read - taken from the Carlisle Patriot of 13th September:

 

 

    1856 - December    extensive damage and worst since 1822   ( **  and Newspapers)

  Apart from the curious case mentioned above, in February of this year there was a 'Hurricane' in Cumbria and south-west Scotland that shook the inhabitants to a state of alarm, blew trees over but is reported to have done little damage. However, the flood this year came in December and is reported to have caused 'Walls by the prison and courthouse were swept away and extensive damage caused to road'.

  I make the assumption that this flood, as it appears in the EA briefing note, is the one that was well reported in the local newspapers at the time, albeit the same report in two different papers.

  A report was first carried in the Cumberland and Westmorland Advertiser on 9th December, but which incorrectly stated that these were the worst floods since the Candlemas floods of 1826. However, when a few days later, 13th December, the exact same report appeared in the Westmorland Gazette, the error had been rectified and it was the worst since 1822 - the article below is the one that appeared in the Westmorland Gazette:

  The report continues thus:

  but since that time the sacred edifice has escaped further flooding. Every possible exertion was made too on this occasion to prevent the water getting an entrance but the efforts proved unavailing. About one o’clock the unruly element rushed in with impetuous fury, and in a very short time afterwards when the river had attained its height, the water in the church was about one foot and a half, a few inches below the marks of the previous flooding. The bridge over the Eden, at the entrance to the town, happens to be of solid strength, having undergone considerable repairs a few years ago, else it is pretty certain it would have been swept away; indeed at one time great fears were entertained for its safety; both arches were full and the weight of water coming against it was immense but fortunately for its existence the large stone wall in front of the prison and Court Houses (dividing the King’s head garden and the adjoining field from the road) was swept away and gave the water a better outlet in that direction. When day broke and the water receded the scenes which met the eye were truly pitiful.

  Passing along Bridge Street the houses and shops presented a deplorable appearance. Looking from the bridge the destruction and ravages of the water presented themselves on every side; trees uprooted, hedges laid waste, gardens deprived of their fruitful soil and covered with trees, sand and filthy dirt of every description; and on the opposite side you found a great portion of the road still under water, other parts broken up and almost impassable and butts and tops of uprooted trees strewed about. Opposite the tap room an immense quantity of stones, soil etc thrown together in one great heap; to the right the strong stone wall of the day before levelled with the ground and most of the materials if which it had been composed washed away. In Chapel Street the houses suffered much, being low and exposed to the water rushing across the vicarage croft and everyone of them would have three to five feet of water in them. In the Low Wiend to the water attained a great height and the dwelling part of the school house and other houses were heavily inundated. The damage done cannot be easily estimated; many persons will be heavy sufferers, but the damage done to the roads and streets which the Corporation will have to sustain will perhaps be the most serious.

  We have witnessed many a flood at Appleby but we trust it will never fall to our lot to witness another such as this. It is not the immediate damage alone which makes such floods disastrous; the health of the inhabitants, so much affected by their having to live in damp houses for several months, is not the least serious consequence resulting from such visitations. We are glad to add that a subscription is being entered into for the relief of the poor who have suffered. Since Monday the weather has been very mild and generally dry.

  After these floods and reported in the Westmorland Gazette on 17th January 1857 were the following exchanges from the Epiphany Quarter Sessions:

 Mr E Wilson begged to call attention to the inroads made by the recent floods of Appleby into the new military store house and the governor’s house at the gaol. He understood that the water was 2 ¾ ft in the store room and 16 and 20 inches in the gaol. He begged to observe that he had particularly urged on the bridge master to see that the militia store house was made water-tight. There they had been expending 219 guineas on a building, with the ground, utterly unfit for the purpose and where everything that was put into it would be ruined. It was a very foolish business and he had no doubt they would hear from the Secretary of State on the subject. He wished to know the names of the Magistrates who had the superintendence of the affair. The Bridge Master replied they were Mr Hopes, Mr Crackanthorpe and Mr Markham.

  Mr Wilson said he thought it his duty to bring the matter before the sessions. They had been paying at the rate of £720 per acre for their land, and at the recommendation of Mr Robinson. Mr Robinson said that it was not so and the water was higher on that occasion than he had ever before known.

  Mr Wilson - "But don’t you know the bed of the river is always altering? When the judge has to go to court to hold the assizes in a boat, then perhaps we may hope to have the assizes removed to Kendal."

 

    1858 - June    'Thunderstorm - lasted several days'

  As with the thunderstorm of 1871 I'm quite surprised that from the description given flooding didn't follow this storm - the account is from the Carlisle Journal (18th June):

 

 

    1860 - Whitsuntide    'Hurricane - Very Unseasonal'

  Not a flood, but a 'hurricane' with snow falling at the end of May - taken from the Kendal Mercury of 2nd June:

 

    1861 - November

  I can not be certain if Appleby was flooded this month as I have not found any direct accounts concerning the town, but the following account in the Kendal Mercury (30th Nov') of flooding at Orton makes reference to three flooding events during the month.

 

 

    1862 - October

  Another 'hurricane' that was reasonably well reported and if it was blowing over trees you may have expected more damage, but if so, that wasn't mentioned - taken from the Newcastle Chronicle of 25th October:

 

    1868 - January

  I have no detail about this flood and only know about it due to a reference in the report regarding the floods in 1869 - but that 1869 report makes this one sound worse. However, I have found this report in the Cumberland and Westmorland Advertiser (11th Feb') from their correspondent at Orton:

 

    1869 - 1st February    two inundations in a day

  Overall, despite the 'two inundations' this does not sound such a bad flood (not that there is ever a good flood) - this account is from the Cumberland and Westmorland Advertiser, dated 9th Feb'.

 

    1871 - July    'Thunderstorm - one of the severest'

  This thunderstorm is very well described. I wonder if the 'observer' was Dr. Armstrong, shame that he did not send an account into the British Rainfall Guides - the account is from the Carlisle Patriot (7th July):

 

 

    1883 - 28-29th January    Widespread flooding in the north of England

  These floods quite obviously caused some significant disruption locally across Cumbria, but this report comes from the 'Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal' on 2nd February 1883:

  The observer at Copy Hill in Shap made the following comments on the events 'Rain, hail and snow, 2.21", causing great floods on the following day'.

 

 

Appleby old bridge by Thomas Girtin in 1793   -   Appleby new bridge was built in 1888.

  With all these floods, by the 1880’s the bridge was showing signs of wear and there were complaints that it was unfit for increasingly heavy traffic The County Surveyor, Joseph Bintley, when he surveyed the bridge in September 1887 stated that “the construction is of a substantial character, and had it not been for the natural decay of the stone and the heavy pressure of the water, to which the bridge has for so long subjected, he was of opinion that it would have lasted for many generations to come.’ There was evidence of attempts to strengthen the bridge; further repairs would cost over £800 and he thought they should take the bull by the horns and build “an entirely new and more commodious structure.”

 

 

    1888 - 28th October    New bridge being built was swept away   ( ^^ 1888-1889 p.4+21)

  Almost like the floods in 1995 which happened just as work on the new defences had started, this particular event also didn't have any sense of timing:

  FLOODS IN WESTMORELAND - A bridge in course of erection at Appleby was washed down on Sunday afternoon. The Eden was at high flood and the newly erected arches with the wooden centres fell with a crash into the flood. One of the workmen who was attempting to fasten a chain to the main arch fell with the masonry and was carried down the river for a considerable distance. He escaped uninjured. Cattle have been washed away by the flood and other damage has been inflicted.

  Also reported in the Heelis Scrapbooks was the following from the Westmorland Quarter Sessions:

  WESTMORLAND QUARTER SESSIONS - The Bridge master, Mr Bintley, reported “I beg to report that the progress of the works at Appleby Bridge was on the 28th of October very much interfered with by a heavy flood. It washed out the centres and sagging placed for turning the western arch, about 17 courses of the arch stones which were set were let into the river and the centres practically smashed to matchwood. Since that time, on account of the state of the weather, I have not considered it desirable to resume the setting of the ashlar, but the dressing of the stone has been proceeded with and is now almost completed. This will enable the contractor, should the weather become settled, to fix his centres and turn the arches in 8 or 9 days. The loss to the contractor has been serious and I will, at a future date, bring the matter before the court in detail".

  Chairman: "If, however, the contractor desired to go on with the work, would the Bridge-Master interfere with him?"

  The Bridge-Master said he would certainly not have allowed the contractor to proceed on account of the weather. The work could not have been done properly. In answer to questions Mr Birtley said he had every hope that that temporary bridge would continue to be satisfactory. It seemed all right when he was there on Monday. He had had a notice posted that vehicles had only to proceed at a walking pace, thus reducing the wear and tear of the bridge to a minimum.

  In the British Rainfall Guide for 1888, whilst there were no comments submitted from Appleby regarding these floods, other local observers did and include:

  Shap - "26-28th Strong gale with 7.01 in. of rain in the three days"                Keswick (Barrow House) - "Rain of 4.00 in. the largest recorded in one day since the gauge was fixed in 1867"

 Keswick (Derwent Island) - "An exceptional flood, Derwent Water standing at noon 8ft. 1 in. above its level at 9 a.m. on the 25th"

  But the irony of these rains and floods is best described by the observer at Shap on his comments on October as a whole

 "From the 5th to 23rd quite summer-like and at times very hot; water scarce in some places."

 

  We then reach the 1890's. With only 1893 and 1897 not having any flooding it is this decade that has seen the most.

 

      1890 - 23-25th January    serious storm

  Stormy weather was the order of the day towards the end of January and in the Penrith Observer on the 28th January under the headline 'Stormy Weather' was the following report:

  'A heavy fall of snow last Thursday (23rd) morning ... heavy winds and snow drifted. Violent gales of wind accompanied by storms of hail, rain and snow were the order of both day and night nearly all last week in the Appleby district and a considerable amount of damage was done.

  On Saturday (25th) the River Eden was in heavy flood, The Sands were submerged and a number of houses and businesses in the low lying localities were inundated.'

  Whilst not mentioning Appleby directly, the following report is from the Westmorland Gazette on the 1st February.

 

 

    1892 - September    Serious Flood and easy fishing   ( ^^ 1888-1900 p.34)

  Again from the Heelis Scrapbooks, an interesting account of one of the few known accounts of flooding having been caused by a thunderstorm.

 During the early part of the week heavy rainfall in the Eden Valley and the river was in consequence greatly swollen. On Tuesday evening and in the night terrific showers accompanied by thunder and lightening, prevailed and early on Friday morning the river was found to be rapidly rising.

  By nine o’clock it had flooded the roadway from Battlebarrow to the smithy at Bongate to a depth of two feet. On the other side of the river the churchyard and cricket field as well as the garden fields adjoining were under water, while the Holme field, where the agricultural show was held on the previous day was converted into a large lake. Further up the river the fields were flooded on each side and as the stream rose Castle Bank boathouse was swept away and carried down the river, together with the boat that was inside the building at the time.

  Several hurdles, some trimmed with furze, which were intended for use at Warcop were washed down the river and swept with great force under the bridge at Appleby. The water had then risen to a height of three feet on the road, while the houses in Chapel Street had 2½ feet of water in them. The water went in at the back doors and swept through he houses carrying all before it. The cellars in Bridge Street were filled and the water got up as far as Doomgate.

  All communication with Bongate and the railway station was cut off so far as foot passengers were concerned and the school children had to be conveyed to their homes in carts. In the British School the water was 18 inches deep. During the afternoon the water went down very quickly, leaving large pools of water by the sides of the pathways. In these pools some novel fishing was indulged in by several lads; the fish were stirred up with sticks and then knocked on the head. In this way one boy captured six large trout. During Friday afternoon the steam fire engine was brought into requisition to pump the water out of cellars. This was the highest flood known for many years, reaching to the top of the Jubilee Bridge, which, it is asserted was built 18 inches higher than the height of any previous flood. The damage done was very considerable.

 

 

    1898 - August    The Wrong Floods

  Now this has thrown me! The November floods of 1898 remain one of the worst in the history of the Lake District and Kendal in particular - yet a trawl of The Cumberland and Westmorland Herald and other papers found plenty of references to the flooding, but Appleby did not get mentioned. I'm still fairly certain that the Eden must have burst its banks though.

  But what has thrown me is the unearthing of flooding during August that year and which came as a total surprise. What is more, this is not as a result of a thunderstorm, but 'heavy and continuous rain.' - the account comes from the Westmorland Gazette of 13th August.

 

    1899 - January    Minor Flooding

  The following account from the Northern Echo of 23rd January suggests a very minor flood, but one which still caused a fair amount of damage:

 

 

   © Darren Rogers 2016

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