Cat no. 1174

Fen Floods, 1947

Running time10:00 Black & White Silent 1947 The Fens, Cambridgeshire

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Flooding of the Fens in 1947.



The film begins with high-angle shots of flooded countryside, possibly Mr. Starling's own farm. A car is stopped at the edge of flood water that lies across the road. Shots of the Wash flooded between Suspension Bridge and Welney Village. This is the area where the New Bedford River, the Old Bedford River and the River Delph, all man-made drains, run parallel and within a few yards of each other. Osiers and farm buildings rise above the flood waters. A panning shot shows a deserted bicycle and broken fences. The tops of the banks of the drains are sometimes visible above the flood waters. There is a long shot of a steam pumping station alongside the New Bedford between Pymoor and Welney. Smoke is pouring from the chimney, suggesting that the station is at full capacity. Men stand on a sandbag jetty surveying the flood waters. Flood water pours through a gap in the bank and the men stand by, helpless. There are scenes of the flooding alongside the London to Kings Lynn railway line. A man watches the floods and there are shots of the flooding and of a road from the railway line. This may be where the railway line and a road cross at Station Farm, Ten Mile Bank. There are shots of the flood showing submerged farm buildings and the water level up to the lower windows of the houses. The flood water is pouring through the banks and over the road. This may be at Hilgay, where the River Wissey burst its banks. Men and troops are laying sandbags and there are brief night shots of the flood patrol. In daylight, there are further shots of the Pymoor to Welney Road and of the river bank, by Mr. Starling's farm. Residents gather by the edge of the flood, in front of houses. A military vehicle crosses the flood. There are further shots of the banks, re-inforced with brushes made from brushwood. A pumping sub-station is semi-submerged. There are shots from inside a larger pumping station and the film shows large pipes pumping the water into the river. There are individual pumps alongside the road. The final scenes show the damage lift by the floods. Pools of flood water remain and the land appears devastated, with debris lying around. There are many dilapidated farm buildings, brick structures as well as wooden ones. The final, brief scene shows two boys on the beach.

Background Information:

Claude Starling farmed at Primrose Hill Farm, Pymoor. Local men formed groups to patrol the banks of the drains at night to give and early warning of and breaches.The winter of 1947 was harsh and heavy snow fell, lying on the ground until March. The thaw was sudden and combined with rain and high spring tides. This meant that the Denver Sluice and other sluice gates where the river was still tidal, could only be opened for short periods. The water couldn't get away. This was probably the most serious flooding known in the Fens. The Ouse Washes flooded on March 13th and the River Ouse at Ely burst its banks at Ely, flooding house and Ely Station. The railway was flooded to the North of Littleport. Many people had to by evacuated from their homes. On 16th March 100 mph gales were recorded. These brought down telegraph wires and trees. By March 20th waters were rising by 12 inches an hour. Some of the floods water remained lying on the land for two months.

Claude Starling

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