12.05.17. - have added additional photos of the floods for each year and links to news footage and youtube clips.

  11.03.17. - Now added the bill of expenses from Robert Fallowfield for repairing (some of) the damage done by the flood of 1771.

  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.

  29.06.16. - further details and account about the flood of 1771

  12.06.16. - photograph of floods in 1960 and details of the 2007 flood, with a few further comments about the floods of 2004 and 2005

  12.05.16. - further information regarding frequency of flooding and the years in which flooding occurred (see + in the list below showing the years in which flooding occurred).

  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 + 1936 and then of flooding and a death by lightning in 1912 + the 1970's 'Flood Siren'.

  18.04.16. - accounts for 1820 + 1831 + 1841 (Ts) + 1845 + 1849 (Ts) + 1855 + 1861 + 1868 + 1869 + 1890 + 1898 + 1929 + 1947 + 1964.

  09.04.16. - accounts for 1775 + 1790 + 1792 + 1794 + 1817 + 1930 + 1924 Christmas floods inc' the tragic death of Harry Whitehead + more detail about 1925 inc' a 'Daring Rescue'.

  16.03.16. - Partial re-write but now including several additional years when floods occurred and additional photographs of 1964, but in particular 1968 - many thanks to Maggie Clowes.

  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.


  The historic town of Appleby lies in a loop of the river Eden in the Eden valley and in the relatively dry east of the county of Cumbria - it is a delightful town, set within beautiful countryside and is well worth a visit and/or used as a base to explore. You can now visit the castle (by guided tour at fixed times/appointment, speak with Tourist Information) and in equal time be within the national parks of the Lake District or Yorkshire Dales or the 'area of outstanding beauty' that is the northern Pennines.

    Firstly, an apology, as this will fail to be an exhaustive section on the floods that have affected the town as I am not personally aware of all the historic flood events in Appleby, but following on from the events of December 2015, I thought it appropriate to at least mention those events.  -  The 'Appleby in Westmorland Society' website is also a useful source of information   Appleby Society    and from where I sourced the details of the 1968 event and many thanks goes to Maggie Clowes from the society for her invaluable help and who provided a significant amount of extra information and photographs. From this we have been able to put together the following accounts of the history of flooding in the town. Thanks also to Anne at Scotby for some research and provision of material. However, I'm sure that more will follow with time.

  Within Appleby, the church, vicarage, the main centre of town including The Sands and several acres of land all lie on the lowest land and within the loop of the of the River Eden and therefore are most liable to flooding - the picture below showing the extent of the 2005 floods shows the 'loop' of the river Eden and the general upper extent of a bad flood.

  Appleby has suffered from recurrent floods throughout the ages, it always has been a problem and will continue to be so. The first account and evidence that I have found for the town is from 1733, whilst according to an article in the Cumbria Magazine (May 1979) by Graham Tobin the first evidence of flooding in Cumbria is from 1571. Tobin also comments that in Cumbria "between 1800 and 1976 over 75 floods were recorded in 51 different years. During each of these years at least one settlement was inundated on more than one occasion, although it was the specific years of 1822, 1856, 1925 and 1968 when the most extensive and serious events took place."

  Apart from various flood defences having been built and the Environment Agency having run a pilot scheme in the town for flood alleviation, the 'Desmond' event perfectly demonstrates the susceptibility of the town to flooding in times of heavy and prolonged rainfall and indeed from thunderstorms.

  This susceptibility to flooding is despite the fact that Appleby is a relatively dry town with an average annual rainfall of 892.9 mm (35.1 in.). However, the River Eden rises in the Mallerstang valley on the Cumbria/Yorkshire border, flows through Kirkby Stephen and receives the water of many becks flowing off the Pennines to the east before it reaches Appleby. A relatively shallow river yet with the fact that the town lies relatively close to the source of the Eden and with that 'loop' in Appleby, the Eden can rise and fall with equal speed. It regularly demonstrates this and occasionally with devastating consequences, although I have not yet heard or discovered of any deaths(<>) being directly attributed to any floods in the town and the deepest that the flood water has been reported to have attained is 6ft (1.83 meters).

  From an Environment Agency 'Eden Catchment Flood Management Plan', summary report of December 2009, Appleby is described as having '...approximately 220 properties at the 1% APE [annual risk] risk of flooding ... we maintain raised defences and a pumping station in Appleby. Parts of Appleby town centre are not protected by the existing defence and are at risk of frequent flooding. Surface water also contributes to flood risk in the town.'

  There is also a 'Flood Siren', sounded when floods are expected which acts as an early warning for residents to prepare their properties and which was preceded by a more traditional method of ringing the church bells.

  One example of the numerous floods in the town down the ages is a contemporary account (=) that recorded the opening of the vault at St. Lawrence church in 1884 in which the body of Appleby's most famous resident, Lady Anne Clifford, lies. This vault is under the north-east chapel of the church and the account records what was found ' ... below which is a brass plate engraved in the highest class of workmanship though like the handles a little corroded through the effects of the numerous invasions of the river Eden when in flood'.

  <> Deaths - included in the following are several tragic deaths, one by lightning (1912), one by drowning, (Harry Whitehead in 1924) and a second one from drowning but only after being 'stupefied by lightning' (1856).

  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.


  The majority of the floods that are listed below occurred during the months of November-February, basically over the winter, with few outside of these months, 1819, 1855, 1898, 1912 and 1928 being the only floods in summer.

  Below are some accounts of the various floods that I have found to date, those without an annotation are from my own research, the other sources of information are:

  ** are from an Environment Agency briefing note dated June 2010, although they don't quote their source

  $$ are from 'The Story of Appleby in Westmorland', by Martin Holdgate (first published 1956, but with several revisions, notably 2006)

  = taken from 'The History of Appleby' (second Ed' 1950) Matthews, Canon W A, and Whitehead, J F. (repeated in 'The Story of Appleby of Westmorland' as above).

  But it is the newspapers that are the most invaluable source as most of the events were reported locally and some even further afield. The Westmorland Gazette, Cumberland and Westmorland Herald and assorted others give such rich accounts and the style is fascinating to read. Those accounts that come from newspapers are accredited accordingly and I have made the conscious decision that, when and where able, to re-produce the actual newspaper cutting for you to read.

  ^^ Further accounts have been provided by the Heelis family to the Appleby Society, taken from the family's scrapbooks.


Left:   is after 'Desmond' (5th Dec' 2015)                     Scenes of flooding in the town                                          Right:   is undated (See 190?)



  Remarkably there are some excellent accounts of flooding in the town back to the late 1700's which apart from the account for 1771 are mainly provided by the newspapers of the day and from far and wide.


    1733 - (1726?)    'extraordinary floods'   

  At some recent point there had been a 'Great flood' that affected vast swathes of Cumbria and whilst I have yet to find anything directly relating to Appleby, it was such a widespread event that Appleby would also have seen some flooding.

  One of the local accounts that I have is from the 'Appleby: Michaelmas, Petition Roll' (::) dated 1733 (but could posssibly be 1726), concerning the road to Maulds Meaburn. 'The highways surveyors, William Burra and William Shipherd for Maules Meaburn, desiring county to repair road leading to bridge in Maules Meaburn recently rendered impassable by "the late extraordinary floods" along river Lyvennet.'

  Indeed in a report on the counties bridges by the surveyor Thomas Pattinson, dated 5th April 1733, he describes: "Cockermouth Bridge Over [the] Darwent" is much damaged by recent floods; Caldew Wood Bridge is dangerous and "greatly complained of"; Cock Bridge needs repair to its north side; Workington Bridge is "much to be fear'd", as is Warwick Bridge; "Longwathby Bridge ought to be immediately Built; Eden Bridge and Priestbeck Bridge, though lately repaired, need repointing to avert decay, and their paving is "frequently Complain'd on".

  (::) Held in the county archives at Kendal, Ref: WQ/SR/41/1.


    1771 - 16th December    'Many Lost Great Store of Liquors'   ($$)

  This was a significant event, comparable to the worst floods in the town and very destructive. Elsewhere in the north of England many bridges were destroyed, most notably the Tyne Bridge and even following the floods of 1815, it was still much referred to and became the subject of a book - see below. This event is also best known for the infamous 'Solway Bog Burst' when there was 'the heaviest deluge in 200 years and flood water stood 15ft deep', which occurred at the same time.

  In Holdgate's book, which in reality he will have taken from the book of 1818, 'An Account of the Great Floods in the Rivers Tyne, Wear and Eden 1771 and 1815' he made the following reference, (the article from the actual book is re-produced in full below): 'The bridge gate had been damaged in 1771 by a great flood which poured along Bridge Street and through the churchyard, tore up flags in the cloisters and the pavement in the streets, caused two arches in St. Lawrence's church to subside, and made the furniture float about and collide in the houses so that 'many lost great store of liquor'.

  There is also a reference to these floods in the 'Appleby: Christmas: sessions roll: House of Correction (Appleby)' (county archives at Kendal Ref: WQ/SR/369/14) the following is included:

  'Robert Fallowfield's bill of expenses for repairing the damage done to the stable belonging to the House of Correction by the great flood on the 16th day of November last past.'   date November 1772.

  Note that he states November 1771, however, it will undoubtedly be December 1771 and the actual invoice is shown below.


And then onto the book itself:



    1775 - December    'Great Storm and deaths at Shap'

  The following account is taken from the Northampton Mercury dated 4th December, seems like Shap was a place to avoid that night:


  The beginning of the 1790's saw flooding in alternate years.


    1790 - December    'Prodigious Great Flood'

  The following account is taken from the Cumberland Pacquet and Wares Whitehaven Advertiser dated 22nd December:


    1792 - September    'Bridge Damaged with Horses and Cattle Swept Away'

  The following account sounds quite serious and is taken from the Stamford Mercury dated 7th September:


    1794 - February    'Dreadful Tempest'

  The following account is slightly difficult to read, it is an old paper after all. These floods were the result of both rainfall and the effects of snow-melt - taken from the Newcastle Courant dated 8th February:



    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:



    1903 - 28th January    3 days of heavy rain.

  These floods were widespread and affected not just Appleby, but also Carlisle and others. At Ravenstondale on the 28th 4.11 inch (104.4 mm) of rain was recorded, it was a very wet day. The following is taken from the 'Manchester Courier and Lancashire Advertiser' of 28th January:


    190?    the undated postcard

  The postcard below (which also appears above) is possibly one of the floods that I have yet to find. The postcard appears to have been quite popular back in the day - but unfortunately there is nothing on the actual postcard to date it or the flood it depicts.

  I had reason to believe that it could have been from 1906, but this was a dry year in Cumbria and all that I do know is that the postcard that I have seen was sent during the year of 1921, so the flood will obviously pre-date that.


    1912 - 9-10th June    flooding and a death by lightning

  Violent thunderstorms wreaked havoc with people 'imprisoned' in their homes from the subsequent flooding with the horse fair washed out, but also the sad death of a gunner in the army camp at Brackenber - this account is from the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, dated 12th June.



    1924 - Christmas Floods    Severe Local Floods and Remarkable Scenes - and a tragic death.

  Despite the Penrith Observer on 30th December describing these floods as 'Severe' and that there were 'Remarkable Scenes' there is no direct mention of flooding in Appleby. However, the flooding was so widespread in the Eden valley and nearby to Appleby that I feel confident enough to include this as a flooding event.

  Heavy rain had fallen on Christmas Day (Thursday) and then there was more on Boxing Day which then resulted in widespread flooding - but one curiosity is that on Christmas Eve the River Eden was frozen over in Appleby - and there lies a tragic story.

  In that same issue of the Penrith Observer the following death of a Harry Cockfield Whitehead was reported, it states:

  Harry Cockfield Whitehead, 18 years, drowned whilst trying to save his brother, Arthur Whitehead, 9 years.  -  the River Eden was described as being frozen over and a number of boys, including Arthur, were skating on the ice just below the bridge. The ice gave way and Arthur went into the water. Harry, who had not been present, heard of what was happening, went to the scene and jumped in to try and save Arthur. Whilst Arthur was rescued, Harry was drawn under the ice into 9ft of water and disappeared from view - his body was recovered 90 minutes later.



    1925 - 1st January    Worst in 70 years  ( **  and Newspapers)

  And following straight on from the floods at the end of 1924, flooding returned on New Year's Day. It was reported thus: 'In January floodwater reached a depth of 1.5m, flooding many properties and destroying the road surface at Chapel Street' -  EA, please do not re-write history, in 1925 they dealt in feet, not meters!

  However, this flood was reported in the newspapers and the following is taken from 'The Lancaster Evening Post' from the 5th January:

  'It is said to be 70 years since Appleby was flooded to the extent that it was on Friday. The River Eden passes round and through the town in an "S" bend and all the houses on both sides of the river were flooded.

  In those situated in the lowest position - on the Sands - the water reached to the window sills and much damage was done. A remarkable feature of the flood in the Butts was that it lifted over 50 yards of 4 in. thick clinker asphalt and deposited it in the cricket field many yards away. Roads in the vicinity were still blocked on Saturday night and council employees were busy putting up red lamps at the worst places so as to warn road users of the danger.'

  A report in the C+W Herald on the 3rd January 1925 stated that 'The Sands became part of the River Eden.' and that houses were also flooded on Chapel Street and Home Street.

  And these flood waters did not recede quickly as from the Penrith Observer a few days later we read about a daring rescue on the 5th in which it is stated that the Eden was still in flood. That rescue is worth repeating:



    1928 - 20th August    An Appleby Inundation

  In the report below on the floods of 1968 we read: 'The River Eden rose to its highest level since 1928.'   A fairly typical comment made in a weather report that has to make a comparison to some other previous similar event - they are quite invaluable observations, but cause more research - which is part of the enjoyment!

  That research takes us first to the 'British Rainfall Guides', but looking at 1928, these floods could have been at anytime during the year, let's not forget that 1928 remains the wettest ever year in the complete Appleby data set, but the most likely date for these floods was the 20th August -  and August was the wettest month of the wettest year and then finally a search of the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald confirms that belief.

  In the British Rainfall Guide for that year we read: 'The total recorded at Appleby was 8.89 inches or 269% of the average and as much as 2.87 inches fell on the 20th at this station. The percentage map was in many respects similar to that of August 1927 when the fall at Appleby was 7.75 inches or 235% of the average.'

  Unfortunately it does not mention that there was flooding in the town, but does say 'Flooding occurred at times, especially in the Border districts...' However, it was well reported in the C+W Herald, the account of which is:

  'An Appleby Inundation - Houses and shops flooded.'  Appleby and district suffered heavy damage by the flood on Monday night. About ten o'clock the River Eden began to rise and by midnight it had grown into a raging torrent. In Chapel Street, where the flood seemed to be worst, the tar macadam was ripped off the road by the force of the running water, and houses were flooded to the depth of four and five feet. The road on The Sands was flooded to an extent of six feet and when the wall which divides the bowling green and tennis courts from the road gave way it released an extra torrent of water which swept away the doors of Atkinson's garage opposite and carried away tins of petrol and oil. The damage to the garage is estimated at about £70. Considerable damage was of course done to the bowling green and tennis courts.

  The Co-operative stores and Police Station were surrounded and the manager of the stores was marooned in the shop until morning. A young man just reached the Police Station in time, and found himself a prisoner until the dark swirling waters subsided. P.C. Macdonald who was to have reported at the Police Station at 10 p.m. found that he could not reach his goal and therefore was exempt from his night's duty.

  Telephone communication was cut off and the flooded river extinguished the furnaces at the gasworks, thus cutting off the gas supply and making the rescuers' task more difficult. The garage of the King's Head hotel, like other premises, was flooded and one rescuer, clad in waders, failed to notice a submerged motor repair pit and to the horror of his fellows, he suddenly disappeared in the muddy depths. Luckily he was able to scramble out.

  Also reported on the same page of the C+W Herald was:-   'COUNCIL AND RELIEF FOR THE SUFFERERS' -  At the meeting of the Appleby Town Council on Wednesday night (22nd), Councillor Williamson said that, owing to the disastrous flood, there had been a great deal of suffering in the poorer parts of Appleby. He wondered if they, as a council, could do anything or set any machinery in motion that would relieve these distressed people. He thought some of those that had been lucky in the flood should help. Some people had suffered very badly and even if insured, he found that the insurance companies did not pay for damage to oil-cloth and wallpaper.

  Alderman Chatfield said it was usual for the Mayor to deal with these sort of things and he thought the matter should be left until the return of the Mayor. Those matters needed time and consideration.

  Councillor Parkin said the matter should be dealt with immediately. It was quite possible to deal with it in the absence of the Mayor.

  Alderman Chatfield - "I propose we leave it until the Mayor returns."

  Councillor Parkin - "It is a matter of urgency and I do not think there is any need for us to wait until the Mayor returns."

  Councillor Williamson said it was a matter of urgency and he thought it could be dealt with by the Deputy Mayor. Alderman Rigg proposed that the Council discuss the question in committee and this was agreed to.

  And it does not stop there as the C+W Herald also published a letter from a reader on the subject of the floods  -  what I find quite delightful about this letter is that it is from 'A. RATEPAYER'  It reads:

 'APPLEBY FLOOD VICTIMS'   - Sir, Will you kindly allow me space in your valuable paper to ask who is the acting sanitary inspector for the county town of Appleby, also the medical officer for the county, seeing that neither of these officials have taken any action up to the time of writing to alleviate the disgusting conditions under which the victims of Monday night's unprecedented floods are having to live? Most, if not all the houses have no other sanitary convenience than earth closets and as these were flooded out and into the houses, the consequences to any right thinking person are very obvious. Where are our Councillors? Are they more concerned with the flooded bowling green than the inhabitants of the borough they represent? - Yours, etc.'

  Clearly difficult times   - but on a lighter note, that week at Appleby cinema you had the following choice of viewing: Ken Maynard with his wonder horse, 'Tarzan' - in 'The Overland stage' and on the 31st August and 1st September twice a night, Milton Sills in 'The Silent Lover'.

  Finally, it should be made clear that this rainfall was not the result of a thunderstorm and was a 'normal' Atlantic depression', albeit for August, quite rare.


         1929 - 29th December    'and the game went on ... at least until they ran out of balls - should have used the boat!'

  The end of 1929 saw a period of very wet and stormy weather that 'Proved disastrous for Cumberland and Westmorland' but within the drama and anguish of the floods there was a touch of theatre.

  The following account is taken from the Penrith Observer dated 31st December under the headline 'The Local Floods, Appleby Houses Invaded':

  'The past weekend proved a disastrous one for Cumberland and Westmorland ... for gales and floods. At Appleby vigilant watchers were astir in the small hours of Sunday morning (29th) and about 5 a.m. the police with several assistants roused the residents in low lying parts of town.'

  The River Eden covered the main road and continued to rise very rapidly and houses, shops and garages were been entered. But with the timely warning given, furniture, goods and cars were moved to safety.

  At the Wesleyan church the boiler house was flooded and a boat was sailing along the front when the morning service should have been held. The flood reached its height at 11 a.m. and quickly subsided'

  The boat must have given the scene some sense of theatre, but to add a little more, I quite like this report from the Lancashire Evening Post (28th Dec') regarding the local football league and a match played at Appleby the previous Thursday (26th) and which shows that the Eden running high even before the rains and floods that were to follow:



    1930 - 14th January

  Refer to 'Time to Take Action' below - and this flood was reported in the Penrith Observer on the 21st January as:

 'As a result of the storm which raged along the Eden valley at the beginning of the week, serious floods were experienced in Appleby on Tuesday when the River Eden overflowed its bank for many miles. Considerable damage was done at Appleby ... houses were flooded. Most of the householders profiting from previous experience of floods, the last one so recent as a fortnight ago.'

  In the report the floods were described as an 'inconvenience' and that apart from The Sands, houses on Chapel Street were also flooded.



    Time to take Action  ( ^^ 1924-30 p.99)

  Like many other locations, the 1920's is the wettest decade in the Appleby rainfall records and with that in mind, flooding is likely to occur and it did. It prompted this response from the council:

  In accordance with notice of motion Mr. Chatterley proposed that the Health and Highways Committee be instructed to take immediate steps to obviate the possibility of further flooding in certain parts of the borough, and that their attention be drawn to the desirability of widening the river bed below the swings in the Butts. In September 1928, said Mr Chatterley he moved the same resolution, but the Highways committee had done nothing since then he knew of to minimise the flooding of the river bed in that part of the town, and he thought that now, when they had had another two floods, something should be done.

  He lived in the midst of the flooded area, but fortunately out of reach of the water and he had seen the results of the water getting into the houses. It was terrible. No sooner had they got the house dry from one flood when there was another.

  The floods seemed to be becoming more frequent, and one householder who had been there for 16 years up to 1925 told him that during that time there were no floods. In 1925 there was abnormal flooding, and then in 1929 and 1930 they again had floods. It should be made certain, while it was possible that these did not occur again.

  If they did not get floods for 16 years prior to 1925, why should they have them now?

  The Mayor (Mr. Langley) - "I can’t answer that." Laughter.

  Continuing, Mr. Chatfield said the rainfall was no greater now than it was then. They should turn to certain parts of the river and find the cause. The first cause was immediately above the bridge and the sooner the authorities and the landed proprietors there came to some agreement - and that would not be very difficult - the sooner and better the property would be protected. Behind the houses, immediately above the bridge were steps down to the river. He was told that there was six feet of soil over them. Also 60 tons of cement had been dumped in the river by the the County Council, and that must also be an obstruction.

  Mr. Chatterley went on to describe the floods of 29th December and 14th January and the points at which the water encroached, and said that if the councillors had been round the Butts and examined the embankment they would see where the surveyor had bared the old water weir immediately below the swings. At that point the weir was the waterline of the river 20 years ago, but the water was now six or seven feet higher than it was then. In the second flood the obstruction backed the water, which on the Sands at the Wesleyan Chapel was 1 ½ inches higher than on 29th December. In Chapel Street it was eight inches higher. If this flooding was dealt with by the General Purposes committee, which was a committee of the whole Council, it would be ventilated and they would get everyone’s opinion on it. Like the electricity scheme, it was not a matter which should be confined to one committee. He thought the matter should be before the General Purposes committee and not he Highways committee.

  Mr. Slack seconded and said he thought it was time something was done.

  Mr. Ewbank as vice-chairman of the Health and Highways Committee, said that every councillor shared Mr. Chatterley’s opinion as to the desirability of obviating the flooding, but they must realise that it was not confined to Appleby, but was general. The farmers in the lower reaches of the Eden Valley had suffered more with every flood than the borough had done. He objected strongly to the form of Mr. Chatterley’s resolution on the grounds that the word instructed was used. He suggested this should be “recommended”.

  After a long discussion it was decided on the motion of Mr. Parkin to pass the resolution in a modified form.


    1936 - 14th December    Floods fit for a King - No!

  "I proclaim that these floods are really quite regular and have a terrible sense of timing" - but quite typical of the folk of Appleby, they just got on with it, especially if it was for the king. However, it would have been nice to know what became of those folk that were left marooned - the account is from the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intellingencer (15th Dec') and in which it also makes reference to a train derailment north of Kendal which was also attributable to the floods:



    1947 - January    floods follow the snow.

  The winter of 1947 is one of the most infamous ones as heavy snowfall caused major disruption and then with a quick thaw there was much flooding and Appleby and the Eden valley suffered quite badly.

  The following accounts are following the initial snow fall that was followed by days of 'incessant rain' at the beginning of January. The headline and article on the left are from the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, the one on the right from the Lancashire Evening Post (16th) - but the worst of the winter then followed after this!

  A severe cold spell commenced around the 21st January, lasted through February and the start of March and then dramatically broke with the on-set of a rapid thaw that caused severe flooding - I have yet to establish if Appleby flooded for a second time in March, but an article from 2008 written by the C+W Herald that compares the winters of 1947 and 1963, does not mention further flooding.





    1954  Four Floods in the Year    Eden Reaches Highest Level For Many Years.

  1954 is a really interesting year and the one and only time when there may have been four separate floods during the year. However, I was only aware of the one flood, in October, but 'Smith+Tobin 1979' make reference to there being four floods in the year.

  I have yet to confirm the dates of those other three events, but mid January looks a strong possibility as I know that there was flooding in the northwest of the UK. However, the autumn is the most likely period, especially when we consider that it is the 2nd wettest in the Appleby data set and one of just two to have recorded in excess of 500 mm. Also the one flood that I do know about (23rd Oct') barely registered at Kendal, which would suffer its worst flood since 1898 on 2nd December.

  Using the rainfall data from Shap demonstrates just how wet the year was, especially the autumn, but more pertinently on individual days and/or short periods, for comparison Appleby's rainfall totals for the same days are ib brackest:

  18th Jan - 3.40 inch   (0.24 in)          12th June - 3.21 inch   (0.0 in)          9th Sept - 3.15"   (0.53 in)          17-18th Oct had a '48 hour total of 6.00 inch'   (1.44 in)          23rd Oct - 3.00 inch   (1.24 in)             27th Nov - 2.53 inch   (1.24 in)          30th Nov - 2.75 inch  (1.19 in)

  And we read that 'During early December the unsettled weather continued and at Shap there was a fall of 6.32 inch for 1st-2nd, bringing the three day total (30th Nov - 2nd Dec) to 9.07 inch. (Appleby 2.22 in).

  All this meant that 30.36 inches (6.89 in)of rain fell on these 10 days, which is quite a remarkable 24.08% (15.5%)of the annual total for that year (126.04 inch). 1954 was one of the wettest years last century and with rain falling on 268 days in Shap (236 at Appleby), but to effectively have one quarter of the annual total fall on just 10 days is quite remarkable.


    23rd October 1954  

  The following report is from the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald on the 30th October:

 'Torrential rain on Saturday night caused the flooding of Knowles garage, Appleby and about 6.30 p.m. the fire brigade had to turn out to pump away the water. Houses in other parts of the town were flooded while at Coupland Hall and the adjoining cottage were flooded to a depth of 3Ft.

  Anxious householders and shopkeepers watched the Eden rise, overflowing the Sands and main road. The water reached the highest level it has been for some years. The bowling green and tennis courts were completely under water and not until 3 a.m. was there any sign of the water receding.'

  Quite clearly this was a bad year for flooding, I now feel certain that the first flood would have been in January, with one in each month of October, November and December.


    1960 - 2nd December    he's a very nice man, he's from the AA

  From the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, on Wednesday 2nd November there was a gale overnight into the 2nd and during the morning a Mr. Wright from Scattergate left for work and as he was driving past the Grammar School a tree fell down onto the bonnet of his car - he survived unhurt, the car did not!

  Winds on Great Dunn Fell were reported to have reached 90 Mph and as for the rain, this was heavy all day, finally easing in the late afternnon. The Eden was reported to have 'rose swiftly' to within a couple feet of the main road - but as the photograph shows, it continued to rise.


      1964 - December     Stormy Weather Wreaks Havoc - Mayor gives out free coal.

  This event was indeed a stormy occasion with winds gusting to 112 Mph on Great Dunn Fell and yet more flooding, The telephone exchanged flooded causing Appleby to be 'Cut Off', the new cricket pavilion that was under construction saw 'window frames, door frames and other timbers washed across the pitch' with water upto 3ft deep in 'dozens of properties' and the weight of traffic on Garths Head caused subsidence and a large rut appeared

  And more drama unfolded at nearby Brampton Towers where the roof of a poultry house belonging to Messrs. J.W. Bellas was blown off and wrecking the structure and caused the death of 400 point-of-lay pullets.

  Mrs. Isobel Bellas told the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald "It was terrible. It all happened in a few minutes. The building is a complete write-off" and added that the remaining pullets (2400) would probably have to be slaughtered as they would be no good for laying and there was no place to put them.

  Back in Appleby there was various traffic issues and I just love the photographs (provided by Maggie Clowes).


Scenes of the flooding in the town - December 1964   


  Below are several snippets from the reports that appeared in the C+W Herald:




    23rd March 1968 -     'Business as Usual'

  On the 'Appleby in Westmorland Society' website there is a fascinating account by Maggie Clowes regarding the floods of 23rd March 1968  -  the full account can be read here: Appleby Society    An abridged version along with some curious rainfall data is given below along with a little treasure trove of wonderful photographs.

  ^^   There is also an excellent first-hand account provided by Knowles, M. of 'J. Burne & Son' Sands garage, in a letter to Colonel & Mrs. Heelis dated 9th May and which was re-printed in the Appleby Society's newsletter (No. 51) - the letter is re-printed here, below the photographs of the floods.

  The account of the floods was found in a scrapbook compiled by Mrs Kath Smith which she kindly loaned to the Society  -  these floods were fairly well reported locally and particularly so due to the fact that it was this event that saw the bridge at Langwathby washed away  -  an account of which can be read here: Langwathby Bridge.

  On Saturday 23rd March 1968 there was a flash flood in Appleby; the river broke its banks at 5pm with the water starting to recede seven hours later. However, in that time Jubilee Bridge was badly damaged and people said they felt the St Lawrence Bridge “shudder”. At one point it wasn’t possible to cross the road because of the strong currents. Some businesses carried on regardless: the chip shop didn’t stop cooking chips, the pubs kept pulling pints and Burne’s Garage (actually on the Sands) continued serving petrol until 9p.m.

  DAMAGE OF £250,000, AT FLOOD-STRICKEN APPLEBY  -  Flood water swept through homes, shops and garages and the Sunday saw the start of a massive mopping-up operation at Appleby, where the damage was estimated to be in the region of £250,000. The River Eden rose to its highest level since 1928. All day the swollen river had been nearing danger level and by 4.30 p.m. it was swirling ominously at the pavement edge on the Sands. Then just before 5p.m. it gave way and the water spilled over the A66 road, flooding it to a depth of several feet. Residents on the Sands tried desperately to salvage cars and goods from their shops.

  About midnight the flood water reached its peak, and all low-lying ground on both sides of the river had been transformed into a swirling lake. The main road was completely inaccessible and traffic had to be diverted via Garbridge Lane and the Express Dairy. It was not until about 1a.m. that the waters began to recede, and then for the first few hours, only very slowly. It left a trail of broken wreckage and slime in its wake with pavements ripped up and walls knocked down  -  see photo.

  The flood water badly damaged the Jubilee Bridge, completely sweeping away the Bongate side and buckling the superstructure. Bystanders on the bridge over the Eden were worried about its safety when the archways practically disappeared, and the bridge started to shudder with the pressure of water.

  Several people were trapped by the rapidly rising water, including Mr Harry Horn and Mr Robert Hull, who own a coffee bar and sweet shop on the Sands. Luckily, their kitchen had a flat roof and they were able to climb out of the bathroom window and on to the bridge, via this roof.

  The bit that I particularly like myself is: BUSINESS AS USUAL - ALMOST  -  While many stopped work to watch the flood’s progress, some tradesmen battled grimly on, including the staff at Burne’s garage. They continued selling petrol until 9 p.m., when the garage was standing in 4 ft. of water! When the water became too deep to enter the office for change, they brought the till out on to higher ground and carried on from there. Mrs Marjorie Knowles, who is employed at the garage reported that the water reached nearly 5ft in depth in the lock-up garages. On Sunday morning, they hardly dare look in them, but the cars were not badly damaged and were left to dry out. “We got all the new cars out,” she said, adding that the staff took them to higher ground on Garth Head’s Road. She estimated the damage at around £1,000 and it just had to be the case that: Appleby’s only chip shop kept on frying until 9.30p.m. when the water was lapping around the counter and they were forced to close shop.

  The Bowling Green and Tennis Club ground was flooded to a depth of 5ft., and on Sunday morning the green still looked like a swimming pool and the tennis court - which was completely devastated, 'will be out of action for the whole season'. The football pitch was not only flooded, but was littered with debris from a wall which had collapsed with the pressure of the water in Chapel Street. A spokesman for the club said they anticipated that Saturday’s match would be still on if they could clear all the debris away in time. “It is going to take a lot of hard work,” he said ”but the soil is very sandy and the field should drain in time.”  -  did this match still go ahead?

  But what I find quite curious about this event is this: in 1968 there were two rain gauges in the town, one at the castle and the other at Highfield and this day in March was only the wettest day in Appleby at one of them! At Highfield 58.0 mm was recorded on this day and at Appleby Castle 50.8 mm, but the 12th September was the wettest day that year at the castle with 52.0 mm  -  how odd.

  ** 61 houses and 31 commercial properties were flooded.

  $$ The Jubilee bridge at Bongate was irreparably damaged ... the water stood three feet deep on The Sands and cars and vans floated about: one Mini took off down the river for an unknown destination (this information about the disappearing Mini is credited to Knowles, M. (2003) Letter to Colonel & Mrs Heelis dated 9th May 1968. In Newsletter, Appleby in Westmorland Society, no. 51).


Scenes of the flooding in the town - March 1968          -        damage to the road at The Sands and 'Do I risk or not?'



   Chapel Lane and the football pitch - in the picture on the left the old gas works can be seen in the background



   Down at The Sands



   Life goes on and the tidy up



   The car that was swept away  (^^)



   The letter to Col. Heelis





  Somewhat bizarrely I have yet to find anything from this decade, not even a small reference, but I'm sure that there must have been something, most probably during the winter of 1974-75 (January 1975 the most likely).

  The vicar at St. Lawrence during the 1970's was Kenneth Cove and his wife, Judith, tells me that she remembers Ken getting phone calls from someone in a village further upstream telling him that flood water was on its way. She can not remember (but is going to try and check) who that person was and which village along with a month/year, but after taking the call Ken would go and ring the church bells as an early warning to the town. She also remembers having to take up flooring in the church following some flooding.

  If you know more, let me know - my e-mail address is at the bottom of the page.



    1990 - February    ( **   and C+W Herald)

  Reported thus: '13 residential and 16 commercial properties were flooded to a depth of 1m in The Sands area'.

  But the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald went to town on their reporting of the event, as can be seen in the clips below.

   The Report in the C+W herald


    Further Reports from the paper included:

 'Down on the Sands Mr Harold Bainbridge and his JCB was running a ferry service using the digger bucket. He had been out since 7am transporting sandbags and people. PC Dennis Noble said that numbers 7 to 11 in Chapel Street had been worst affected and some people had to be evacuated.

  Where the Eden loops around Appleby’s cricket and football pitches, the flood water had decided to take a short cut and was rushing across both pitches and through homes in Chapel Street. At one point 10ft. of the football pitch wall had to be bulldozed to allow the torrent to escape.'

  And then from the Cumberland News:

  'FOLK CAUGHT ON HOP AS WORST FLOOD HITS TOWN'   -'The huge mopping up operation was still underway in Appleby after it was hit by the worst floods in over 20 years. Thirty houses were flooded and pensioners stranded in upstairs bedrooms as water and mud poured into their homes at 7am on Tuesday. Many people were up all night after sirens sounded the alarm at 2am.

  Council workers worked through the night placing hundreds of sandbags at front doors in Chapel Street, Holme Street and the Sands. The National Rivers Authority has started a survey to find out why Appleby flooded and to plan future defence work.

  The Eden burst its banks at the town’s bowling green and swept down the main street. Electricity supplies were cut off, but have now been restored.

  Keith Morgan, the town’s Mayor, said the worst seemed to be over. He said the mayor’s emergency fund, not used since 1968, could be available for people who were not insured. Pensioner Dorothy Gasgarth said her flat on the Sands was ruined and the carpets finished.

  Tables and chairs floated inside the Grapes pub, but newsagent Jack Sutton still managed to deliver his papers on time even though his shop was under a foot of water by 3.30am. Peter Merton managed to save valuable antiques in his Bridgend shop after wrapping table legs and chairs in plastic bags.

  A police spokesman said they were the worst floods since 1968.'



    1995 - 31st January     these floods just don't have a sense of timing!! (**)

  A very wet month ended with flooding in the town on the 31st and on the same day there was a fairly major de-railment on the Settle-Carlisle railway line at Ais Gill due to flooding/landslip.

  ** 'Flooding In January just as work had begun on the flood alleviation scheme. Despite extensive sand-bagging 70 residential and commercial properties in The Sands and Chapel Street areas were affected'. The photo says it all.


More scenes of flooding in the town - 1995 and 2009    -    both appear to be in the 'typical' category for flooding in the area of The Sands



    Moving onto the 21st century and it has certainly been a 'flood rich' start to the century with several notable floods, in particular 'Desmond'.

  In total, since 2004, there has been nine floods in six separate years. This may not be the worst period of flooding in Appleby's history, but it is still amongst the most flood rich periods in the historical record.

  As you would probably expect, the accounts of these floods becomes that bit more factual and certainly without the 'colour' of previous generations, particularly the newspaper reports. However, that little further into the century the forms in which events can be reported is much more varied and most phones contain a decent camera and ability to take video footage - some links to this video footage are included with the reports below and indeed it is in some of these that accounts of the impacts that the floods had on individuals, families and the community are more succinct.


    2004 - 3rd February    Dodgy sandbags?   (**)

  Reported as 'Feb 3rd – Approximately 10 properties on The Sands were affected, mainly through seepage through sandbags'.

  Additionally the report in the C+W Herald included: 'It burst its banks by around 3-30pm on Tuesday and The Sands side of the river, which still does not have protection from flooding, was badly hit. Roy Ashley Motors premises was immediately flooded, but staff there, forewarned from previous floods, had moved all the vehicles on to high ground and put machinery on to ramps to keep it out of harm’s way. Some water also made its way into the offices, but this was a smaller amount and largely soaked up by towels.

  The business did not appear to have sustained any lasting damage, but staff spent Wednesday pressure-washing the premises to get rid of all the silt brought up with the rising water. Appleby bowling green was also flooded to a depth of about two feet. Flood co-ordinator Norman Wood said: “It did get into the original bower as well and made an awful mess but it didn’t get into the main building ...'



    7th January 2005                        these floods became better known as the Carlisle floods

  The floods of 2005 would become the first of three significant events in Cumbria (along with Nov' 2009 and Dec' 2015) - but as normal, Appleby was the first to flood. The Environment Agency stated that 'The flow rates and flood water levels for this event were the highest on record.'

  Not as severe as those of December 2015, but the flooding in Carlisle was stated to be the worse since 1882. In total, 53 properties in Appleby were flooded and the official report published afterwards stated '... the majority of defences constructed (1995) were not over topped'.

  The Sands flooded at 2100 hrs, peaking at 0415 Hrs on the 8th at a depth of 1.2 meters and the depth of water in St. Lawrence church was quoted as 18 inches deep. One of the aspects of this storm that tended to be overlooked was just how windy it was. Along with the rainfall many trees were also blown over.

  Rainfall Totals: at Mill Hill in the 2 day period from 0900 hrs on the 6th, 79 mm of rain fell and this was considered to have a return of 1:30 years. In Ravenstonedale the fall was 146.0 mm.

  The C+W Herald provided the following account:

  The flood prevention barriers were brought into use but these are to protect the Chapel Street area, leaving everywhere else vulnerable. Environment Agency staff were quick to provide sandbags and many local people helped distribute them, but by 8-30pm the floodwater was overriding the sandbag walls and a couple of hours later the Sands area was under 3ft of water. The ground floors of shops and homes were being flooded and two people had to be rescued from one of the shops by lifeline, with both rescuers and rescued wearing life jackets while wading through waist deep flood water. By now the actual town centre Boroughgate area was being affected and flood water was building up in Bridge Street, High Wiend and Chapel Street.

  Remorselessly the water, unable to drain away, continued to rise behind the flood barriers and by 2am it became clear that the residents of Chapel Street would have to be moved from their homes. Appleby mayor Frank Harland, who had been a constant presence helping out in the town centre from early in the evening, decided to open the town’s public hall to accommodate those who had been moved from their homes. By 3am the floodwater was only two inches from the top of the flood defence barriers and the constant rainwater was adding to the river’s flow, causing more problems for Bridge Street, Low Wiend and Chapel Street. Homes were now becoming badly flooded so it was decided to evacuate Chapel Street and members of the fire and rescue service took residents to the public hall.

  Local butcher Norman Dowding had been helping out in the town centre and he now turned his talents to making a great many bacon sandwiches to go along with the hot drinks being provided to those in the hall. Then came a further blow to the already suffering residents, the rescue workers and those people who had just come along to help, as all electricity went off. Around 6-30 a.m. on Saturday morning most of the people who had been sheltering in the public hall had decided to return home, but now it was easy to see the terrible devastation caused by the water.

  On the Sands all the riverside shops and properties and the Sands Methodist Church had been flooded, while in the town centre St. Lawrence’s Church was also affected. There was a fear that the recently restored church organ, probably the oldest in the country still in regular use, might be damaged.

  And then at the end of 2005 parts of the town flooded again - on several occasions.

  On Saturday 8th October one day’s continuous torrential rain brought real concern that flooding would again affect Appleby’s vulnerable properties, particularly in the Sands area of the town. By the early afternoon, although the River Eden was coping with the heavy waters, the street drains were proving to be totally inadequate. Soon a strong flow of water was coming up into the Sands from the street water drains and at least two low lying homes had the dreadful problem of water flowing in.

  At the start of November on a Wednesday evening and for the second time in a fortnight, flash floods overrode blocked drains in the town, with the worst hit properties being on the Sands, including The Grapes pub, along with the Royal Oak, Bongate, which was forced to close.

  This flooding came only two weeks after a similar incident in which the drains could not cope with the volume of rain water and it was feared that there was a collapsed drain in the system or a blockage created by the January river floods.

  Water began to enter properties around 4-45pm, but whilst not particularly deep, the water was said to be a “filthy and smelly sludge” and left considerable damage.


Some of the flooding in the town - January 2005    -    and map showing the extent of the area flooded




    2007 - 12th January    community effort keeps floods at bay.

  Minor flooding on this occasion, reported thus in the C+W Herald:

  APPLEBY Grammar School was on stand-by in case it was needed as a flood evacuation centre on Thursday after the River Eden burst its banks in the town. The Sands area was worst affected, but while water got into a few commercial properties near the bridge, “no significant damage was caused”, according to firefighters who pumped flood water away from the area.

  The submerged road next to The Sands was closed by police at about 10-30am and remained closed for four hours. The river level reached its peak height at about 12 noon, causing water to enter about six commercial properties. One of the worst affected businesses, along with the takeaway restaurant Pizza Roma, was the Texaco garage where there was a couple of feet of water at the workshop front.

    However, Roy Ashley, the sales manager, said: “It’s not been too bad this time. The fuel is all sealed up and the showroom and office have not been hit.” He vowed that the garage would be back in business by yesterday, weather permitting, and thanked the police for allowing him to tuck new cars away at the rear of the police station across the road.

  Adrian Holme, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service group manager, said a pre-existing plan came together which centred around limiting damage to property. An appliance from Appleby was involved in pumping water from three affected properties, including Bridge End Antiques, while barriers of sand bags were erected at various locations to provide makeshift flood defences. Firefighters wore new dry suits while carrying out the emergency pumping work.

  Inspector Lee Skelton, of Cumbria police, said their main concerns during the operation, which began with the sounding of the flood siren, were public safety and the protection of property. “We have to plan for the worst case scenario,” said Insp. Skelton. “That includes touching base with the grammar school about a flood reception centre if we have to start evacuating people from their homes and that was on stand-by.”

  However, there were also claims that sand bags did not arrive in the town quickly enough. Water was lapping at the doors of many properties before the sand bags were delivered. In response, an Eden District Council spokesman said the authority received an initial warning concerning Eamont Bridge at 6-45am on Thursday and immediately mobilised its contractor to sand bag properties at risk. This was completed by 8am. “The flood warning for Appleby was received at 7-45am and the sand bagging procedure was instigated at this time with the council’s contractor on site sand bagging in Appleby at 8-15am, before the river was expected to break its banks at 9am,” he said.

  The river overflowed at The Sands at 9-30am, flooding the highway. The road was closed by the police, adding to the difficulties of sand bagging further properties. “The flooding prevented the sand bagging of properties on the north side of The Sands due to the speed that water levels rose, resulting in the closure of the road,” said the spokesman.

  David Maclean, MP for Penrith and the Border, has been in touch with the Environment Agency and Eden District Council about the flooding in Appleby. He said: “Appleby is flooding far too frequently. Plans are in the pipeline for flood prevention systems to guard against one in 20-year floods, but Appleby seems to be flooding every other year. We need those flood prevention plans accelerated and every effort made to prevent further flooding this weekend.” There are calls for a central sand bagging station to be located at Appleby, rather than Penrith, because of the town’s high flood risk.



    2009 - 18-19th November

  This was the first 'unprecedented' flooding event in Cumbria and whilst Carlisle didn't flood, the Lakes District was hit hard. Further east, we may have endured a couple of grim days, but the impacts were fairly insignificant compared to those at the likes of Kendal, Keswick and Cockermouth, which included the death of a police officer at Workington when a bridge collapsed.


Typical scenes along The Sands during the flood

   A video of the floods is also available at:   'FLOODS ON YOU-TUBE'   



    2011 - 8th December    concert cancelled.

  On the 8th December a rising river Eden caused the early closure of schools, not wanting to have children stranded on the wrong side of the bridge which was subsequently closed and it also caused the cancellation of the towns Christmas carol concert which had been due to take place that night.

  A video of the floods is also available at:  'FLOODS ON YOU-TUBE'




    2015 - 4-6th December     The Devastation of 'Desmond'.


  Up to late October it had been a dry autumn, but then the rain arrived! The end of October was wet and was then followed by a very wet November. By the time we arrived at December the ground was saturated and the rivers were full. Put simply, the events of the weekend of 4-6th December were genuinely unprecedented and no matter what level of prevention may have been taken, flooding was inevitable.

  When it comes to the weather, 'Unprecedented' is an overused word, but this time it really did fit the event and the grading of this being a 'Critical Incident' by the police was no over reaction. Record amounts of rain fell over the few days and as is the norm', Appleby was the first to flood and then later in the month, whilst not as bad, it flooded again!

  Nowadays with 24 hour news and various forms of social media, any such event gets reported immediately and on the www there are many accounts of these floods. Any search of 'Appleby Floods' will bring up an array of articles, YouTube videos, etc, (some of which I include below), but here I shall just concentrate on a few basic details.

  With the amount of rain that fell and using the overused terminology of the time 'onto already saturated ground' there was only ever going to be one outcome. I drove through Appleby at 0600 hrs that morning to get to work and the river still had a few feet to go before it breached its banks, but it didn't take much longer.

  The flooding caused by Desmond was terrible with over 200 properties flooded and which was quoted as the worst since 1954 and images of chairs floating along The Sands in some ways came to testify the impact of the floods.

  Below are the rainfall totals for the Desmond event from Appleby, the data obviously comes from Judith Mounsey at Mill Hill and I compare it to some other local totals:


Mill Hill Aisgill M.Meaburn Shap Village Kirkby Thore Orton 3rd Dec 22.4 31.9 30.8 37.7 18.0 29.4 4th Dec 50.3 43.7 63.8 97.4 35.2 95.2 5th Dec 61.6 94.9 122.4 165.8 44.2 137.6 Totals 134.3 170.5 217.0 300.9 97.4 262.2


  The impacts were great, apart from the 200 flooded properties, the bridge over the Eden was closed due to safety fears and this effectively divided the town into two - and the detour to get from one side to the other was a long one. With just the one primary school in the town some children had rather a long journey. The bridge finally re-opened on the 14th.

  But then the rain didn't stop after Desmond and December with 382.1 mm (Mill Hill, Appleby) became the wettest ever month in the entire Appleby dataset which commenced in June 1856 - and the result? More flooding.

  December 2015 will live long in the memory and as one resident quite succinctly described it "a simply tiring and exhausting month".

    A selection of news footage of the floods is also available at:   'BBC FOOTAGE'  and   'SKY NEWS ON YOU-TUBE'

  And the floods stayed in the news over the following days and this was one such report on the immediate aftermath: BBC NEWS REPORT

  Prince Charles visited the town on the 21st to see the clear up from Desmond for himself and then, as already mentioned, on the 22nd yet more heavy rain brought yet more flooding, this time affecting 40 properties.

  It was then quite understandable that the term "They're back, everybody's exhausted" which one resident used, came to represent the feelings of the town as a whole following a truly horrible time.

  BBC news footage of this later flood can be seen at: BBC NEWS FOOTAGE


    What, No Floods!

  But then the occasional oddity comes up - in the Appleby dataset (commenced 1856) 2013-14 is the second wettest winter in Appleby and there was no flooding! So in itself, it does not always follow that exceptionally wet winters will always see some flooding, it is so much more complicated than that.


    As and when I obtain more information on previous floods in the town I will update this section and when that is done I will add some analysis and a conclusion.


   © Darren Rogers 2016

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