Earlier this year my writing chums and I had a pleasant and writerly few days in the small North Devon village of Lynmouth, through which runs the River Lyn as might be guessed. I wrote about our productive and interesting stay and mentioned a little of the history of the attractive and interesting small place. When we were there the museum was shut, as was the exhibition commemorating the dreadful, catastrophic flood of 1952. As I mentioned a few days ago husband and I took a trip and on the return journey we stopped off in Lynmouth to break the journey. This time the museum and exhibition were open.
If you visit Lynmouth you will think what an attractive and interesting little village it is, right by the sea, on the edge of Exmoor, at the bottom of a steep gorge through which runs the Lyn, The river is actually two rivers, the West Lyn and the East Lyn rivers. Above Lynmouth, at the top of the gorge is Lynton. In August 1952, there had been way above average rainfall, culminating in 9 inches, 233 mm, of rain falling on the 15th – yes, nine inches falling in one afternoon and evening. There had already been something like six inches of rain having fallen in the preceding fortnight, the land was sodden, absolutely sodden and could absorb no more. The water poured down towards the village, the river had been culverted and the water rose and rose. Up above, fallen trees, boulders and debris was blocking the passage of water of the moor and it suddenly was breached and a torrent raced down the gorge, sweeping houses and buildings away and the poor souls within.
Overnight, over 100 buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged along with 28 of the 31 bridges, and 38 cars were washed out to sea. In total, 34 people died and a further 420 were made homeless.
Of the people who died, most were Lynmouth folk, but there were visitors from Manchester, Woking, Durham and Australia. The youngest person was a baby only three months old, along with his three year-old brother and parents, the oldest was 80. Four people were missing, their bodies never found so presumed drowned, and there was one woman’s body found who was never identified which is a tragedy in itself.
There’s an excellent article which tells the story including the experiences of villagers who survived: