memories of the 1981 storm in Burnham-On-Sea
asked Burnham-On-Sea.com readers to get in touch with their memories
of the dramatic 1981 storm, which
left a trail of damage across the town and a repair bill along
the Somerset coastline of £6 million.
we publish a selection of your memories...
Iris Rowe: "I was living in Adam Street and saw the
sea water rushing down the centre of the road to Oxford Street."
High Street and Oxford Street soon became impassable and we were
cut off, but fortunately the water did not back up far enough
to flood our house. The telephone soon failed and we were left
with only Citizen Band (CB) radios with which to communicate."
"Next day, numerous CB enthusiasts poured into the town and
started filling sandbags. My son was amongst the group near the
jetty where he helped to fill the enormous gap in the sea wall.
At lunchtime, Arthur Duckett very kindly
organised and paid for his 'crew' to have lunch in the Queens
Hotel. At Sea View Road CBer 'Troubador' spearheded another group
of CBers into filling sandbags to fill the gaps in the sea wall
at that end. Most of the CBers were personally unaffected by the
flooding but they raced into town to help wherever they could.
I can remember preparing many hundreds of sandwiches, at my own
cost, for those working near Sea View Road."
Tom Ashton: "In those days I worked at Lloyds bank's
Highbridge Branch. A customer called us to make an insurance claim
following the storm after a dead cow had been deposited at the
foot of his bed after coming through the first floor window of
I had just constructed a greenhouse in my back garden at Coleridge
Gardens and had lost a pain of glass worth £3 due to the
storms. I was cursing my bad luck when my neighbour called to
say he'd just seen a telegraph pole floating down the High Street."
Ann Murray: "I was only three at the time of the floods
but clearly remember my mother waking me up in a panic and telling
me not to run downstairs - the entire ground floor of our Alstone
Road house was flooded with dirty, stinking water. Our cat had
to swim to the kitchen door and spent the next couple of weeks
cowering under a bed."
went into the front garden at one point (probably a very bad idea!)
and saw my Uncle Keith wading down the road, dressed in full waterproofs
and a sou'wester - a very frightening sight for a three year old!
A lady opposite who wasn't flooded made us a big pot full of stew
and we had to eat it in the bedroom."
"It was cold, of course, and everything was damp - very miserable!
Our house was uninhabitable, and we had to move to my grandmothers
in Balmoral Drive for some time, where I became terribly sick
from the dirty water."
"After the water subsided, we found that all the ground floor
wiring was wrecked, the quarry tiles had lifted and there was
a skin of sewage scum covering all our possesions. Everything
had to be thrown away, which was very saddening for my parents.
"Even though I was so young I remember the flooding quite
clearly. It may not have caused the devastation that we so regularly
see on today's TV news reports but it was certainly one of the
worst things to happen in Burnham in living memory."
Jacky Sealey: "I lived in Combwich at the time, and was
Chairman of the Parish Council. High winds prevented the tide
from coming in normally, then the wind suddenly changed direction,
forcing a 4' wall of water onto the coast. That water broke down
the front doors and went out the back, taking everything that
had been on floor level with it and totally submerging the ground
floors of 12 homes in the village."
the beer barrels went from the Anchor Inn and the heavy wooden
settles in the bar were tossed around as if they were made of
cardboard. It was three days before we could reach Steart and
they were in a terrible state. All the sheep had been washed out
to sea. The army moved in and helped for a few days - I remember
phoning up the chip shop in West Street and ordering 39 lots of
fish and chips to feed the army boys!"
was a time I would never like to repeat and utterly devastating
for the victims. The Lions Club International were wonderful with
a huge donation and I was able to pay for the space heaters I
had hired at the onset! A few months later, I was invited to one
of their events and presented with their Certificate of Appreciation
- the first one ever awarded by the Bridgwater branch - although
I think they deserve the appreciation for the wonderful work they
Ricky Holmes: "We were living in Charlestone Road at
the time, and I remember having to move the driftwood and seaweed
from our front porch so we could get out. Luckily, it didn't come
into the house. We were some of the lucky ones."
Georgina Edwards: "We were in Bridgwater and the police
closed the town bridge when the water had reached the top of the
arch and was still rising. They told us that they had no idea
what was happening and that high tide was over an hour before,
but it was still rising rapidly."
Phillip Vearncombe: "My brother and I were at the Ritz
Social Club in Burnham on the night of the storm. At about 7.30pm,
it was very quiet inside so I went outside, knowing it was very
windy, and to my shock noticed a lot of water flowing down the
road. I went back to tell my brother because his car was just
around the corner. He had a look and we decided to go home because
there was so much water coming down the street."
our way home we had to make the decision on which way to go -
either through the town centre or past the Ring O Bells pub. We
deciced to go down past the pub, which nearly cost him his car.
The sea water there was rising very fast and was already very
deep. He put his foot down hard on the throttle to keep the engine
going - if it had stopped he could have lost the car. Not only
that, but when we were going through the water all I could see
was the water rising up to the top off the window ledge of the
Sue Newbery: "My mother-in-law lived at the the top of
Grove House and I remember talking to her on the phone when she
told us that the tide was coming down Grove Road, where it turned
left onto Berrow Road, and then it turned right down Rectory Road!"
Alan Higgs: "At Cadwells Lane in West Huntspill, I remember
opening the door of our home at around 9pm to collect my bike
and looking over my shoulder to see a 'wall' of water headed towards
me. I was completely awestruck by it and remember running quickly
back inside. Within a few minutes, we had 4-5ft of water inside
looked out of the windows in the morning to see water completely
surrounding our house - it felt like we were in the middle of
an ocean. The water had come inland so far here that it was almost
up to The Orchard. We
had to live upstairs for a whole fortnight afterwards, while the
rooms downstairs dried out."
Jenny Golding: "Remember the medical, fire and
ambulance services during this time. The Burnham District Nurses
coped with people in flooded areas, while the Highbridge nurses
covered out to Pawlett. I remember driving in my wellington boots
down the central white line of the A38 at West Huntspill,with
water on each side, in order to get to patients. The local council
loaned out many heaters to help dry carpets."
Mel Gosling was one of the Burnham Coastguards on duty on
December 13th, 1981. "It was a rainy, bitterly cold night.
We were called out at 6pm when the forecasters confirmed the severe
weather would be coming to Burnham."
were nervous about what was going to happen. We spent much of
the evening moving sand bags into position and helping residents
move out of basement flats along the seafront."
in the early hours when the storm hit, the waves just rolled right
over the sea wall and into the town. I'd never seen anything like
it. The gratings along The Esplanade were thrown upwards by the
force of the water under the sea wall - and parts of the wall
itself were badly damaged. We briefly stood down at 3am when the
storm began to subside but were out again at 6am to help deal
with the aftermath. We were then on duty for a full 24 hours."
Shaun Matthews: "I certainly remember that night - I
went outside to put my recently bought Hillman Imp on the drive
when I noticed something coming down the road in Maple Drive.
I looked a bit closer and it was a small log floating with other
rubbish. I quickly jumped in the car and got it on the drive and
ran inside to tell my parents."
the time we got back outside the water was lapping over the kerb
and starting to run down the path as the house was lower than
the pavement. We all then ran around the house trying to get everything
movable upstairs and anything else on something higher. We then
just wandered around the house watching the water get higher and
higher up the patio windows until finally it came through the
gaps and into the house. We
then realised that there was nothing we could do but to sit upstairs
and wait until morning."
to the radio, we knew that this was something extraordinary going
on. We lost the washing machine - only six months old - cooker,
fridge, freezer and a few other machines."
here for photos of the 1981 storm in Burnham-On-Sea
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