Cat no. 242

1953 Floods

Running time10:08 Colour Silent 1953 Gorleston, Norfolk

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A look at the day the 1953 floods hit Gorleston.


ActualityArchive AlivePortrait of a Place

The film opens with shots of some prefabs on Pier Plain. These were filmed during the late afternoon of Sunday 1st February. Men in thigh high boots are salvaging effects, mainly clothing, from the prefabs. The next shot is of houses near the Quay. The watermark is visible at window sill level. The water is still at the door sills.

After further shots of the prefabs, there follow general views over the river and of the port as well as of flooded street and land nearby. A boatload of people is rowed along the street and then carried onto dry land. Moving on to shots taken the next day, pedestrians and cyclists tour flooded areas, surveying the damage. There are substantial baulks of timber thrown onto the shore by the Pier Hotel and by the gas works there is a lighter that has been lifted onto the quayside beside a moored steam drifter. South Town Road, Yarmouth, is still flooded to depths of up to a foot. The traffic includes recovery vehicles moving stranded cars and buses. More unusual sights include a woman riding a horse and one of Jewson's high clearance timber transporters taking people back to their houses. The next sequence concentrates on the delivery of coal, a gift from Lancashire to enable people to dry out their houses, being delivered by a gang of men from an open lorry, down alleyways to backyards and coal bunkers. This is carefully controlled and people are asked to sign for the coal. One of the workers downs a bottle of beer, donated by a local brewery. The sequence ends with the householders waving as the lorry departs. A view of Breydon Water at sunset ends the black and white part of the film.

A colour sequence follows, showing the RAF using hot air blowers with pipes leading indoors in an attempt to dry out the prefabs. Rugs and mattresses are hung over fences and lino lies apparently abandoned beside the houses. The baulks of timber are shown again and then the film switches to the attempts to clear the debris from Yarmouth beach. The early shots are south of the Wellington Pier and the film moves along the beach closer to the Britannia Pier. The debris includes complete tarpaulined roofs and semi-circular workmen's shelters. We see the quantities of sand that has been washed up on the front, burying the lawns and partially filling the open air swimming pool. A crew of servicemen, vehicles and volunteers is seen on Marine Parade working with sandbags. Outside Yarmouth Town Hall a large gang of men shovels up wooden road blocks that have been lifted by the flood. The railway lines are visible. The film ends with people outside a terraced house, clearing out their possessions and attempting to mop up.1953 Floods.

Background Information:

It was 9 pm - an hour before high water - when water began to rise in the streets of Great Yarmouth ... Behind the town stretches the five mile gooseneck of Breydon Water. ... That night, the banks of Breydon Water gave away, attacking from the rear the town that was already battered from the sea in front. Nine Yarmouth people died and some ten thousand had to be evacuated from their homes. (M. Pollard, North Sea Surge, Lavenham Press Limited, 1978.)
Bernard Bothams was showing films at the Boys Brigade Hall in Yarmouth on the night of the floods. He had to remain in Yarmouth for the night, returning home on the Sunday afternoon. He immediately started filming. He took several shots over the next few days, before the water subsided.

Featured Organisations:


Featured Buildings:

The Pier Hotel; Gorleston; The Gas Work; Britannia Pier; Wellington Pier; Yarmouth; Town Hall.

Bernard Bothams

Bernard Bothams

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