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How Norfolk pulled together after the floods of 1912

PUBLISHED: 13:05 15 August 2017 | UPDATED: 13:05 15 August 2017

A weary looking police officer helping people escape the Norwich floods of August of 1912. Photo: Archant library.

A weary looking police officer helping people escape the Norwich floods of August of 1912. Photo: Archant library.

Archant library.

Helping the flood victims was a huge project and one which brought the rich and the poor in Norwich and across the county together and in the city it also helped to strengthen the bond between the people and the city police.

Norwich Floods. Photo: Archant Library. Norwich Floods. Photo: Archant Library.

It swung into operation straight away.

St Andrew’s Hall was the heart of the emergency operation while many schools, church halls, clubs opened their doors to the homeless – many left with just the clothes they stood up in.

Farmers sent their milk to Norwich so it could be distributed among the victims and members of the swiftly established relief organisation visited every house hit by flooding.

Families were given emergency rations of milk, pressed beef, chocolate, bread, matches and candles.

Norwich floods of 1912. How the disaster was reported. Photo: Archant Library.
Norwich floods of 1912. How the disaster was reported. Photo: Archant Library.

A report at the time said: “Without distinction of position or social standing, men and women of high and low degree responded to that one touch of nature which makes the whole kin.”

Wise words.

In the days following the August floods of 1912 the Lord Mayor of Norwich Henry Copemen wrote to national newspapers with a heartfelt appeal for support.

“No fund, however generously supported by local contributions, can adequately cope with so great an emergency. It is for this reason that I am constrained to bring the plight of Norwich under the notice of the wider public,” he said.

NORWICH FLOODS

YOUNGSTERS ENJOY A PADDLE AT ST MARGARETS

DATED AUGUST 1912

PHOTOGRAPHNORWICH FLOODS YOUNGSTERS ENJOY A PADDLE AT ST MARGARETS DATED AUGUST 1912 PHOTOGRAPH

And the people responded. More than £24,000 was donated.

Members of the Royal Family gave £300 while the King and Queen of Norway sent £21 and money came in from across the world as news of the disaster flooded.

But the biggest donation of all came from probably the most famous and generous family the City of Norwich has ever seen – the Colmans.

J & J Colman Ltd., of Carrow Works, handed over the grand sum of £1,000 to help the flood victims. A huge amount of money in those days.

NORWICH  FLOODS

BREAD ARRIVES IN ORCHARD STREET

DATED  AUGUST 1912

PHOTOGRAPHNORWICH FLOODS BREAD ARRIVES IN ORCHARD STREET DATED AUGUST 1912 PHOTOGRAPH

There was also an appeal for help across the county and people dug deep into their pockets.

The children of the Railway Mission Sunday School at Melton Constable voted in favour of cancelling their summer outing with prizes and gave all the money, £12, to the Norfolk Relief Fund.

The Watch Committee in Norwich commended the city police for their brave and courageous efforts helping people and awarded the offices two days extra pay.

As the press at the time said: “No more humane civic force exists in England than the Norwich police.“

Norwich Floods 1912Norwich Floods 1912

• A Mrs Meadows was walking across the landing of her home in Churchill Road, Norwich, when, without any warning, the side of the house collapsed. A few minutes later the front of the house also fell and other houses started to subsidence as the waters hit.

• A man was driving down the road in the direction of Cromer. As he passed over one bridge it collapsed. Half a mile on the next road bridge he had to cross collapsed as he approached it. He was marooned.

The former Anchor & Hope pub in Buxton.  Photo: Archant Library.The former Anchor & Hope pub in Buxton. Photo: Archant Library.

• It was reported as a wild and savage scene. Wroxham bridge was shaking and swaying at the shock of the thudding water.

The whole pile of heavy masonry would have been swept away had not the river burst at another spot a little lower down and roared off in tens of thousands of tons down a byroad to make a river.

So, it was said at the time, by a freak of this ordinarily peaceful little river, many lives and houses and mills and shops were saved.

• Another important industry was said to be hopelessly ruined. That of tomato and cucumber growing. Acres of glass houses devoted to their cultivation were completely submerged.

• Norfolk surveyor Mr Heslop, reported that more than 50 bridges across the county, including the ones at Trowse and Lakenham, which carried trains, along with culverts had been damaged or destroyed. He estimated the cost of repairing them at £16,000 and it would need a further £12,000 to repair the roads across the county.

• An average of 7,000 people a day was queuing up for rations at St Andrew’s Hall in Norwich. Food was supplied to 2,405 homes where 8,617 people lived. The cost over nine days came to about £1,200.

• Caleys of Norwich produced hot drinking chocolate in soda bottles with a wire loop which could be passed to imprisoned families in upstairs rooms using long boat hooks.

• A boat containing women and children was going down a narrow street when it became impaled on spikes of submerged railings. It began to swirl dangerously but by chance another boat was passing and they were rescued just in time.

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