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YOU ARE HERE > COMMUNITY > NEWS > FLOODS MEMORIES
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Past Memories of the Edenbridge Floods
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The past history of the River Eden and its high risk of flooding has not abated for hundreds of years, the local residents in our generation have had to face this threat from the river many times over the last 50 years, but never so destructive to the many homes and shops in Edenbridge as it was in the two accounts below...

This first disaster was in 1958, which became a very serious flooding incident that occurred after many day's if not weeks of severe storms and heavy rains, the whole town was in shock and disbelief as the waters rose and broke its banks, there were no flood defences built in those days or any restrictions as to where the water could flow, only that the torrent of water would be taken downstream towards Leigh and Tonbridge and along its course out into the sea.

A general alarm went out the all the services for help, the local Fire Brigade, Police, St Johns Ambulance, and the Territorial Army Volunteers, whose main training ground and buildings were situated right on the banks of the Eden by the bridge alongside the Fire Station. All were put on full Red Alert and Emergency stand-by, and many officials and residents from surrounding towns and villages flocked in to help.

The town was at the mercy of the rising waters, shop keepers along the high street and local residents whose homes were at risk of this severe threat of the incoming flood, began to prepare themselves for the onslaught. All along Lingfield Road, Crouch House Road, Church Street, Hever Road right up to the Maidstone & District Bus garage, the residents began to prepare for the worst as sandbags were frantically filled and packed tight against the doors of all the houses as the waters continued to rise dramatically.

Click Here for Video
   

The towns people stood in awe and disbelief watching the waters rise as it began to rage into the high street, the shops nearest the river were the first to feel the effects of the rising waters as their homes and shops became flooded out, every attempt to restrain the flow was effortless and they had to either flee upstairs or leave their premises to the the mercy of the raging flow. Torrents of water raced from the bridge down to the Star Public House, and all the way to the other side of the river to the Chocolate Box.

As the waters raged inside the shops it collected in its wake every kind of packet, box, tins of food, vegetables, fruit, and chairs, in fact anything that floated came bursting out into the street and was seen by the amazed onlookers as these objects came floating past, swirling around until they headed off downriver with the flow of the water.

As the flood waters rose manhole covers began to pop out of the ground by the terrific force, the underground sewer pipes couldn't contain the fast flow and raw sewerage flowed into the streets. It was beginning to become very serious as a health hazard was now evident.

As the hours went by a vast array of local residents all pitched in to help those that were at risk, from the Skeynes Estate, three residents Ron Bridle, Cyril Mills, and Ted Cox donned wellingtons and raincoats and trudged through the freezing cold waters nearly waist high to get to Lingfield Road. There they spent hours helping the people already flooded out to rescue personal belongings and carried the old and frightened people away using the fireman's lift.

As they made there way towards the high street to help out, Ron Bridle disappeared from the other two, frantically Cyril and Ted dived under the water trying to find their friend from Army days, when suddenly Ron appeared coughing and spluttering, they both grabbed him and held him above the water, once Ron got his breathe back he explained that he had been sucked down through a manhole many feet underground, and had to fight to get back to the surface, he admitted that he was very lucky..!

 
Flooded Edenbridge Click Here for Video

Those who were fortunate to have a boat, used them to ferry people away from the rising waters and to safety. The Fire Brigade and Police were there to supervise the rescue attempts from many houses and shops, accompanied by the Territorial Army Volunteers, who got them to the St John Ambulance staff who wrapped blankets around them and served them hot tea and soup.

The days that followed were to see the waters abate and leave the high street shops, and homes in the flood area decimated by the merciless waters from the River Eden.

It was now time for the residents to petition for better facilities especially to persuade the Council to adopt some form of barriers to prevent this happening again...!!!

The river Eden was partly dredged out in the 1960's, from the Black weir by Catherine Villas down through Church Street along to Delaware..in a hope that this would stop any future floods.

It only took another 10 years later for the townspeople of Edenbridge to experience another devastating flood. Severe storms and rain fell in torrents for many, many days on end in 1968, the river again showed no mercy as the waters rose to breaking point once again.

All emergency services stood by on Red Alert, and assisted with the many local volunteers to shore up their homes and shops.

Many were new shopkeepers and had no doubt heard about the 1958 flood and the damage it had caused, they too were preparing for this flood, as all along the high street their shops and homes were being sandbagged up. Everyone waited in fear and trepidation to see if the work of dredging the river years before had this time...hopefully saved them.

As the river broke its banks and began to flood the high street it seemed that the dredging had no effect on the rising waters, and therefore had failed dismally at great cost.

Those high street shops having experienced the last disaster were shocked beyond belief as the river.

waters broke the windows and came flooding through their shops dragging away the contents.

Many hundreds of onlookers were watching the raging flow surge out of the shops in the high street  with the contents floating past them, Bradford's Electrical saw many of its items come through the shop windows which were broken by the force of the water, televisions, radios, fridges, it was a sorry sight to see the loss and destruction of so many shops.

River Eden in Flood

The Warmafoam factory in Lingfield Road lay directly in a potential flood area, in front of the Mill Stream and across from that the River Eden. They produced and stored polystyrene items by the thousands, large blocks the size of a small car, lesney toy car packs, baby bottle holders, ceiling tiles, coving, scalextric packs, and many differing items.

Once the height of the flood waters reached the factory then the majority that was stored inside and out came floating down the main current of water along Lingfield Road, around the back of the old Tanney through the high street,and out along the river towards Tonbridge.

Two brave but foolhardy canoeists the Humphrey brothers from Fi-Glass, took on the might of the Eden in full flood and passed under the town bridge at tremendous speed, the current dragged them and their craft away in the distance towards Delaware. They were both seen after this so no harm came to them.

See the River Eden in Flood on Video - Click Here

As the townspeople tried bravely to cope with the flood and its trail of desolation, a strange noise was heard above the town early one evening, a helicopter had been scrambled to rescue a stranded man in his house... where the Akeide bathroom shop is...hundreds flocked as near as they could get to see this astonishing sight, a winch-man was lowered and he could be seen banging on the window of the upstairs flat, suddenly a man appeared and was taken into the arms of the winch-man, the helicopter then flew off with the rescued man.

   

Later is was said that the man didn't realise what all the fuss was about as he was happily watching “The Forsyte Saga” series on television, and had no idea that he was in danger from the rising flood waters...!

In the Old House at Home(The Old Eden) public house there is a plaque on the wall clearly marking the height that the water rose in the pub, the marker indicates at least 4-5 feet.

The flood waters were soon gone and the shopkeepers and home-owners had to settle the cost for all the damage done, this was another disaster for those living in the vicinity of the River Eden.

 

 
Click Here for Flood Video
 
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