On the night of Saturday 31 January 1953 a severe storm coincided with a high spring tide in the North Sea, and the resulting tidal surge caused great devastation all along the east coast. In eastern England 307 people were killed, 120 of them from Essex. The worst hit communities in the county were Canvey Island, where 58 died, and Jaywick, where 36 people were killed (5% of the population). A major operation was mounted to rescue as many people from the flooded areas as possible. Along the east coast of the UK, 30,000 people were evacuated from their homes.
Damage was caused to over 1,600 km of coastline, as well as to thousands of homes. It is estimated that the damage in monetary terms today would be over £5 billion.
It was of course not just England that was affected by the floods; 19 people died in Scotland, 28 in Belgium, and a staggering 1,836 in theNetherlands. Over 230 people also died on ferries, fishing boats and other vessels which were in the North Sea that night.
We have been going through some of the many documents in the ERO which tell some of the stories of the floods in Essex, a small sample of which will be on display in our ‘Document of the Month’ case in the Searchroom throughout February.
A selection of these documents will be on display in the Searchroom throughout February. Others can be ordered to view in the Searchroom. Find out how to visit us.
To find out more about the floods, why not go to hear Patricia Rennoldson Smith talk about her new book The 1953 Essex Flood Disaster: The People’s Story as part of the Essex Book Festival.