The Great Flood of 1968

August 03 2018
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A SERIES of exhibitions have been taking place marking 50 years since a major flood swept through 3,000 homes in Bristol, killing eight people.

On July 10, 1968, around two months’ worth of rainfall fell in less than two days causing widespread flooding, damage and destruction as water spilled out from the river banks.

Known as The Great Flood of 1968, parts of Stapleton, Bedminster, Ashton, Brislington and St George were badly affected and rescue boats had to be deployed. 

One man was swept to his death in flood water at Parson Street, Bedminster, while there were a further seven fatalities in surrounding areas.

Pop-up exhibitions are being held across the city with Fishponds Library hosting the event from August 6-10.

Richard Stevens, aged 71, of St George, was visiting his girlfriend Lorraine in Bedminster on the night of the Great Flood and remembers the devastating scenes.

He said: "Houses were flooded as high as the first floor. The reflection of light on the water made it clearly visible. People were looking out of their bedroom windows. It was eerily quiet apart from the sound of thunder. On Parson Street a partly submerged car on the incline had just the boot and part of the roof poking out. I had to return and stay at Aylesbury Crescent for the night. There we watched the rest of the storm from the house and witnessed manhole covers at the top of the hill shoot up three or four feet up in to the air and then come clashing to the floor."

The events cover ongoing work to manage the flood risk to Bristol and how Bristol City Council and its partners are planning for the effects of climate change in the future. The events will also feature information about how the public can help by signing up to become a flood warden. Bristol has a network of volunteers looking out for early warning signs and preparing communities to be ‘flood ready’.

Following the Great Flood a large amount of work was done to improve defences and prevent a similar event happening again. This included mechanisms to divert water and increase storm water storage, plus flood defence walls.

All those measures have reduced the impact of river flooding. The city still remains at high risk from other sources of flooding, such as tidal flooding and surface water flooding caused by heavy rainfall events.

Cllr Kye Dudd, cabinet member for Energy, Waste and Regulatory Services, with responsibility for flooding, said: "As we look back at such a significant event in Bristol’s history, we also need to look to the future and at how we could protect the city centre from tidal flooding in particular. The nearby Severn Estuary has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world and we have seen how it affects the River Avon, which runs through the city centre.

"We are currently working with our city partners on how we protect the city centre from flooding. This is part of a wider vision for revitalising Bristol’s waterside areas, which includes early plans for the Western Harbour, in order to help safeguard our heritage and sustainably promote future growth and regeneration in the city. Further details will be shared in due course."

Visit bristol.gov.uk/greatflood to find out more. To find out more about becoming a flood warden, contact Bristol City Council on 0117 352 5893 or email flooding@bristol.gov.uk