Friday, 24 February 2017

When the Markheaton Brook burst its banks, May 1932

My mother never spoke of the Sunday the centre of Derby flooded.
It was 1932 and she would have been 12, but neither she nor my grandparents ever mentioned it.

And yet at the time it was a big event, flooding some houses to a depth of 7 feet causing £400,000 worth of damage and topping the level reached in the Great Flood of 1842.

 I suppose by the time I was visiting Derby in the 1950s it was ancient history and another one of  those events like the War which were best forgotten.

But the event is fading from living memory and soon there will be few left who have vivid memories of the Sunday morning the Markeaton Brook which runs through the centre of Derby flooded the shops and houses around the Corn Market, St James’s Street and the bottom of St Peter’s Street.

In an attempt to prevent a similar flood to the one of 1842 a huge culvert had been built which fed the brook into the River Derwent.  But during the previous few days there had been heavy rain which caused “an avalanche of water such as human ingenuity was powerless to control.”

And the sheer speed of the event is what I expect was the most frightening and took the town by surptrse.

In the low lying parts of “the town it gathered quickly and by ten’o clock shops in the Corn Market, St James’s Street and the bottom end of St Peter’s Street  were immersed half way up the windows”.

And as ever it was the least well off who faced the full force of the flood.  “residents in the poorer districts in some cases lost their all.”  And  these were the very people who could not afford insurance.

It was an “amazing spectacle of the main shopping district of a modern industrial town turned into a lake.”  The electricity failed and along with it  the telephone network.

Now Hope Street where my mother and grandparents lived was just a few minutes away and I guess they would have visited the site during the course of the day and may have been one of the countless hundreds of spectators caught on camera.  But it never featured in anything they ever said to me.

All of which makes me reflect that even recent events can be lost.

Pictures; from Souvenir of the Derby Floods, Published by the Derby Branch of the Y.M.C.A., in aid of the Mayor’s Flood Fund.

* Souvenir of the Derby Floods, Published by the Derby Branch of the Y.M.C.A., in aid of the Mayor’s Flood Fund. May 22nd 1932

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