An exhibition marking 50 years since a major flood swept through 3,000 homes in the Bristol area, killing eight people, will launch next week.
Known as the Great Flood of 1968, on the 10 July that year 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.
Parts of Bedminster, Ashton, Brislington, St George and Stapleton were badly affected and rescue boats had to be deployed. One man was swept away to his death in flood water at Parson Street, Bedminster, while there were a further seven fatalities in surrounding areas.
A pop-up exhibition will be held in local libraries during July and August starting on Monday 9 July in Bedminster, accompanied by two talks on the Great Flood and a ‘flood walk and talk’ by the Bristol Avon Rivers Trust.
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 the 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.”
To find out more, visit the exhibition in local libraries. Visit bristol.gov.uk/greatflood for details of commemorative events happening in Bristol and Somerset.
Talks on the Great Flood Tuesday 10 July, 12.30pm-1.15pm, Bristol Central Library, College Green, Bristol BS1 5TL Wednesday 11 July, 5.30pm-6.15pm, Southville Centre, Beauley Road, Bristol BS3 1QG
Flood walk and talk, Bedminster Wednesday 11 July, 1pm-4.30pm Commemorative flood walk along stretches of Pigeonhouse Stream and the River Malago, Bedminster. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pop-up exhibition in local libraries during July and August: Bedminster Library – 9 July until 13 July Bishopsworth Library – 16 July until 20 July Southmead Library – 24 July until 27 July Junction 3 Library – 30 July until 3 August Fishponds Library – 6 August until 10 August Central Library – 13 August – 17 August
Flood Wardens To find out more about becoming a Flood Warden, contact Bristol City Council on 0117 3525893 or email email@example.com . The role includes: • Receiving and communicating notifications of weather warnings • Monitoring the local situation and reporting flooding and blockages • Collating local information and collecting evidence of flooding problems.