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Photo gallery: The heavens opened, and then came the floods of tears - when a month's worth of rain hit Norwich

PUBLISHED: 15:15 29 August 2014 | UPDATED: 15:15 29 August 2014

A scene from the Norwich floods of 1912.

A scene from the Norwich floods of 1912.

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It has been a year when floods and high tides have caused heartache and misery for many people in Norfolk and Norwich but these photographs illustrate the great flood which hit during this week in 1912 and the death and destruction it caused.

A scene from the Norwich floods of 1912.A scene from the Norwich floods of 1912.

More than a century ago a very wet August culminated in non-stop rain and a howling gale force wind on August 26 and the following two days. Swollen rivers burst their banks and the water cascaded into the city turning roads into rivers.

Four months’ worth of rain fell in a day, causing chaos in Norwich and the county. Street gullies couldn’t cope and the force of the water destroyed factories, public houses, offices and affected thousands of homes – especially in the poorer parts of Norwich where people lived in the courts and yards.

Bridges at Trowse and Lakenham came tumbling down and the city was cut off from the rest of the country for two days.

Three people died in the city, another life was lost in the county. Many people became heroes as the disaster brought the people of Norfolk – rich and poor – together.

Families, trapped by the rising water, appeared at crying at upstairs windows, waiting to be rescued while people in boats, horse and carts, struggled to get them to safe ground.

One rescue bid ended in tragedy when five-month-old Edward Poll, was lost from his mother’s arms in the swirling water. His little body was found two days later in a yard off Heigham Street.

Then there was George Brodie, a 46-year-old fish porter, who lived in Oak Street. He worked non-stop for hours, wading through the water to carry people to safety. He refused to stop work, saying there were still people to save.

Exhausted, he fell into the water... and was swept away. A huge crowd of people attended his funeral. A model of a statue was made but never erected.

The third death in the city was Mrs Kemp, of Goat Yard off Oak Street, who was said to have died from fright and shock.

So many emerged as heroes, including boat owner William Marrison, said to have rescued more than 100 people.

It was also a disaster which brought the city police force and the people closer together. The police did a wonderful job helping people.

The Evening News and Eastern Daily Press wrote at the time: “No more humane civic force exists in England than the Norwich police.”

Some of these pictures from the time illustrate the police at work. The relationship between the police and the public reached an all-time high.

At least 2,000 people were made homeless. Many lost all their belongings – for thousands the future was bleak.

Schools and public buildings were opened for the victims to sleep. They would spend hours queuing outside St Andrew’s Hall. Each house was entitled to two candles and one box of matches and each person could receive half a pint of milk, half a loaf, six biscuits, half a pound of pressed beef and three bars of chocolate.

The plight of the people of Norwich touched royal hearts, with the king and queen giving £150 to the flood relief appeal, the Prince of Wales parting with £50 and members of royal families in Europe also contributing.

The flood was said to have caused damage estimated at around £100,000 – a huge amount all those years ago.

The disaster made news around the world and the appeal raised £24,000 from people across this country and abroad.

It would be a while before life got back to normal for many people in Norwich... and then some of the flood heroes would be marching off to war. I wonder how many came home?

With thanks to Maurice Morson, former head of Norfolk CID, and the author of A Force Remembered. The Illustrated History of the Norwich City Police 1836-1967.

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