Video: 60 years on, memories of the great flood of 1953
THE great flood of 1953 is etched in the memory of those who lived through it. Here, reporters RICHARD YORK and DAN RUSSELL tell more stories of what happened on that fateful day...
A MOTHER and daughter credit Chapman's Pond for saving their home from the flood.
Joyce Stone and her daughter June Millar were kept safe and dry because the pond acted as protection.
"Everywhere was flooded, but where we lived on Brereton Avenue, on the corner of Robson Road, was protected by Chapman's Pond," Joyce, 96, recalled.
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"There was no warning of the flood. We knew the spring tide was high but the defences had never faltered before.
"There was no rain. The enormous wind pushed the sea over the prom, destroying all the beach huts and even ripping out railings from the sea wall.
"My friend ran an ice-cream and tea hut called Maidens on the beach; that was completely destroyed. It was her business and it was just gone.
"As the seawater came crashing over the prom and tore up the railway lines, the large pond took the force of the water – saving several streets directly behind it that would have otherwise been devastated like everywhere else.
"I remember how the salt water killed all the fish in the freshwater pond and it was affected by it for years.
"It was very traumatic but we were very lucky and our house stayed completely dry. Almost everywhere else was flooded.
"The water came with such force that it swept over Fuller Street bridge and straight down to Elliston Street, but it was only as the water slowed at the school that it started to enter homes as it spread out.
"I was told that the weight of the old school being full of water made the road dip and sink slightly.
Joyce's daughter, June, was 13 at the time.
"I went to see my friend in Elliston Street, and it was total destruction," said the 63-year-old.
"Everything was wrecked; the water reached up to 4ft on the walls so they had to remove all the plaster, rendering and flooring.
"They lost a lot. The water was so quick there wasn't time to save anything.
"I also had friends who lived in Oliver Street, which runs parallel with the train lines near the seafront. Their homes were seriously flooded and they found many railway sleepers tossed into their gardens by the force of the water.
"I never would have thought in my wildest dreams that water could be so destructive. To see how the water had ripped the railings out from the seafront and smashed concrete was astonishing.
"Some friends and I went down to the beach afterwards and it was covered in debris.
"The Arcadia was destroyed, and the beach was covered in rubble and broken wood from all the huts which had stood on the beach before.
"The tide usually only came halfway up the beach and never reached the huts or the Ferris wheel, so for the sea to reach further than Elliston Street was astounding.
"For my parents, it must have been a lot worse. As kids, we had that curiosity. Nevertheless, it was terrible."
Chapman's Pond is a former brick pit. During the excavation of clay, the workmen ruptured a natural spring which eventually led to the flooding of the pit.
The pit is roughly 12 metres deep and 182 metres across at its widest.
June added: "We were so lucky to live near the pond; it saved a lot of people's homes.
"The carnage wasn't completely sorted out for months afterwards.
"The council eventually managed to clear the streets and repair the sea defences but they were like patchwork repairs until the 1990s, when the defences were completely renovated."