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Remembering the Norwich floods, one hundred years on

PUBLISHED: 11:28 17 August 2012

Families return home after the Norwich floods of 1912.

Families return home after the Norwich floods of 1912.

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One hundred years ago, Norwich was under water and its citizens were fighting for their lives - terrible floods had brought death and destruction and the plight of the people touched hearts across the world.

In the Evening News on Monday, I shall be telling the story of the Norwich flood of 1912 in a special eight-page supplement with memories and photographs looking back on those dark days a century ago. More than 7in of rain fell – more than three times the month’s average – in little more than a day. Roads turned into raging torrents and thousands of people, mostly the poor living in the lower suburbs along the riverside, were washed out of their homes.

The deluge over Norwich and a 40-mile radius which started in the early hours of Monday, August 26, isolated the city from the rest of the country. Bridges came tumbling down along with factories and houses.

As the waters rose, rescue parties in boats could see the grief-stricken faces of men and women in upstairs windows, while everywhere was the awful wailing of children.

Four people lost their lives, one was a baby, Edward Poll, who slipped from his mother’s arms and was swept away, while another was a fish porter, George Brodie (Brody), who saved countless lives before losing his own.

The printing works of the Norwich Mercury (now the Evening News) was smashed by the savage waters along with many other buildings.

It was estimated that about 15,000 people lost property in the disaster but it also helped to unite a divided city – bringing the rich and the poor closer together and the bond between the public and the police was strengthened.

Thousands queued outside St Andrew’s Hall for food and clothes. Shelters, including seven schools, were opened up across the city for the people. Many had lost everything and it would be many years before they recovered and life got back to normal again.

Lord Mayor Henry Copeman launched a nationwide appeal which went international and touched thousands of hearts across the world. Money from as far afield as America, South Africa and Australia, was sent to help Norwich and its people.

With donations from members of the Royal Family, the King and Queen of Norway, and a massive £1,000 from J & J Colman, the flood relief appeal fund stood at an astonishing £24,579 14s 7d.

•Don’t miss the story of the Norwich Floods in the Evening News on Monday.

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