The following is a collection of references to, and memories of, adverse weather that have affected the Felbridge area.
The Great Wind
There are several accounts of a tremendous storm that hit the country on 18th February 1661, with the loss of numerous windmills. Daniel Defoe, the diarist, collected several accounts of the storm that apparently continued, unabated, until nightfall, accompanied by thunder and lightning, and the hail and rain in many places was said to be of salt brine. Thomas Foster of Reigate, Surrey, wrote a letter about the event:
In answer to the letter you sent me, relating to the Great Wind, the Calamity was Universal about us, great numbers of vast tall trees were blown down, and some broken quite asunder in the middle, tho of a very considerable bigness. Two windmills were blown down, and in one there happened a remarkable Providence, and a story thereof may, perhaps, be worth your observation, which is: That the miller of Charlwood Mill, not far from Reigate, hearing in the night the wind blew very hard, arose from his bed and went to his mill, resolving to turn it toward the wind and set it to work, as the only means to preserve its standing; but on the way feeling for the key to the mill he found he had left it at his dwelling house, and therefor returned thither to fetch it, and on coming back to the mill, found it blown quite down, and by his lucky forgetfulness probably saved his life.
In all some 400 windmills were overturned or set on fire by the fury of the tempest. Those Surrey windmills that were spared damage or destruction were again severely hit on 26th November 1703, when another hurricane struck, which was detailed in the Evelyn Diaries.
From Windmills destroyed by wind and fire by R C Elliott, 1978
Extracts from John Evelyns Diaries
This has ben the severest Winter, that man alive had knowne in England: The Crowes feet were frozen to their prey: Ilands of Ice inclosed both fish & foule, & some persons in their boats:
An extraordinary storme of haile & raine, cold season as winter, wind northerly neere 6 moneths.
2nd June 1658
Fell so deepe a Snow, as hindered us from Church: 10th
To London: in so greate a snow, as I remember not to have ever seene the like: - 12th
More Snow Falling, I was not able to get to church: - 17th
I dind at my L: Clarendons, it being his Ladys Wedding Day: when about 3 in the afternoone: so greate & unusual a storme of Thunder, raine and wind suddainly fell, as had not ben known in an age: many boats on the Thames were over whelmed, & such was the impetuosity, as carried up in the waves in pillars & spouts, most dreadful to behold, rooting up Trees, ruining some houses, & was indeede no other than a Hurocan:
11th September 1689
There was this night, so extraordinary a storme of wind accompanied with snow & sharp weather, as had not ben known the like, in almost the memory of any man living: greate was the harm it did in many places, blowing down houses, Trees & killing divers people: it began about 2 in the morning and lasted til 5: being a kind of Hurecan, which Mariners observe, begin of late to come northward, What mischiefe it has don at sea, where many of our Best ships are attending to convey the Queen of Spaine, together with a thousand merchants laden for several ports abroad, I almost tremble to think of:
This winter has ben hitherto, extreamely wett, warme, & windy: Such as went before the death of the Usurper Cromwell, which was in a stormy day:
11th January 1690
The dismall Efects of the Hurecan & Tempest of Wind, raine & lightning thro all the nation, especialy London, many houses demolished, many people killed:
26th November 1703
& as to my owne losse, the subversion of Woods & Timber both left for Ornament, and Valuable materiall thro my whole Estate, & about my house, the Woods crowning Garden Mount , & growing along the Park meadow; the damage to my owne dwelling, & Tennants farmes & Outhouses, is most Tragicall: not to be paralleled with any thing hapning in our Age or in any history almost, I am not able to describe, but submit to the Almighty pleasure of God, with accknowledgement of his Justice for our National sinns, & my owne, who yet have not suffered as I deserved to: Every moment like Jobe Messengers, bring the sad Tidings of this universal Judgement:
27th November 1703
I removed with my family to Dover streete, saw the lamentable destruction of Houses & Trees thro all the Journey: & observed it had least injured those trees which grew in plaine exposed & perflatil grounds & places; but did most execution where it was pent in by the Villages & among the bottom hills:
I thank God I found all well at my house in London: But both house, Trees, & Garden at Says-Court suffered very much: [he bemoaned the loss of some 2000 goodly oaks that were prostrated on his Wotton estates in Surrey.]
7th December 1703
Alarm at Hedgecourt Mill
The following is taken from a letter written by Susannah Saunders of Rose Cottage, Felbridge Water, now the site of Treck Diagnostics Systems Ltd., Imberhorne Lane, to her sons who had recently emigrated to America.
.Our English weather has been peculiar for we have had wet from the 2nd week in August till the first in October and on the top of that such excessive rain that the floods have done much damage in drowning both cattle and human life. Have not yet reached Maidstone, Tonbridge and many more places quite inundated. At the mill at Hedgecourt they were quite alarmed and thought
Unfortunately the letter is illegible at this point so we will never know what they thought, only that at that time the miller was John Saunders, the uncle of Carew Saunders, Susannahs husband.
19th October 1852
Park Paling Blows Down
Tremendously windy, our new paling was blown down.
From the diary of C H Gatty, 24th January 1856
Felbridge Park Paling
In June 1856, George Gatty received a quote to renew some of the fencing at Felbridge Place, he lists:
Lengths of iron fence required:
From the box gate to Park Wood 240 yards
From the gate in birch Grove to the wood 364 yards
From the garden wall to the New Lodge 317 yards
+ gates required
Total of 921 yards
The fence proposed is 3/9 a yard, as quoted by Mr Morris in a letter dated 13th June 1856.
From the account book of George Gatty, 1856
Struck by Lightning
It [Felbridge Park] contains a monument of stone in the form of a column, which is 56 feet in height. At the base of the circular column is the representation of a serpent biting its own tail. There was formerly a prevalent idea among the natives that this column was erected to commemorate the slaying of a serpent of monstrous size in the neighbourhood. The Dragon of St George, or the Sea Serpent of the Mann, were never more strongly believed in than this wonderful reptile, whose image was supposed to be represented at the foot of the monument. But, alas for human credulity, a gentleman visiting the neighbourhood spoiled the interest in the monument by informing them that the carved serpent, with its tail in its mouth, represented Eternity, and set their minds at rest further by translating the Latin inscription on it, which states that it was erected in the year 1786 by James Evelyn, and that one John Soane was the architect. On the top of the monument is a square block with cap and base, on which is inscribed in large letters Soli, Deo Gloria the whole being surmounted with a sort of Roman altar, with flame. Round the lower part of the column is engraved the whole of Addisons well-known hymn, beginning
When all Thy mercies, oh, my God
My rising soul surveys
This monument narrowly escaped destruction some time back, it having been struck and somewhat shattered by lightning.
From East Grinstead and its Environs, 1884
-10ºC in 1890
During the first three weeks of November it was unusually mild but an intense surge of cold led to the unprecedented reading of only 14ºF (-10ºC) at 4 pm on the 27th November 1890. Snow was a foot deep in the Ashdown Forest and caused evergreen trees to bend in all directions.
From The Sussex Weather Book, by B Ogley, I Currie and M Davison
Coach & four driven on ice
Numerous are the ways in which people make themselves, or are made, famous, and even if the name of Mr Henry B Budd CC, of East Park near East Grinstead was not well known throughout the district, his daring deeds during the past few days would have been sufficient to keep him in the memory for many years to come. Taking advantage of the intensely cold weather we have had lately, he, last Saturday afternoon, ventured on to Hedgecourt Lake in his dogcart drawn by a pair of horses in tandem. The lake is about 70 acres in extent and Mr Budd successfully drove about on the ice for nearly an hour! He was even more venturesome on Thursday afternoon and quite a crowd of spectators assembled in the expectation of witnessing the most extraordinary sight of a coach & four being driven round the lake. And they were not disappointed. Notwithstanding the rapid thaw, which set in that day, the daring horseman carried out his idea. His private coach was drawn by four hunters and he drove them on to the ice at the mill end and made a tour of the lake. The ice being somewhat rotten on the surface, the wheels of the coach went in some little distance and the ice cracked a bit but there was no breaking and the unique journey was safely accomplished. The weight of the coach and horses must have been about four tons. No one accompanied Mr Budd on his trip but it is hoped a permanent record of it will be made, a photographer having been in attendance.
From the East Grinstead Observer, 23rd February 1895
Lightning strike drama of 1926
Farm cottages on Imberhorne Farm were devastated, a woman was badly injured, and families were left homeless by a single flash of lightning at the height of a violent storm, which broke over East Grinstead at midday, on Thursday, June 24, 1926.
In a prophetic phrase, a Courier reporter wrote: The houses have the appearance of having been bombed in an air raid.
The cottages were struck at about 1.15 pm by a particularly brilliant flash, which, according to the reporter, was accompanied by a crash of thunder, which was heard for miles. His report appeared in the Courier the next day:
The scene is one of terrible wreckage. Bricks are lying in all directions; windows 30 yards away are broken, and one chimneypot was thrown 50 yards into a pond.
The lightning, it appears, entered a large chimney stack in the centre of the cottages, passed right through the building, blowing out the fireplace, and following the gas mains, passed out into the lane and blew three large holes in the ground.
The injured woman, Mrs Pollard, who was over 70, was in her kitchen at the time.
She was hurled halfway through a window, sustaining severe burns on the arms, and her clothes were torn to tatters. Mr Hill, a cowman, who was nearby, rushed into the house and dragged Mrs Pollard out in an unconscious state. Dr Marshall and Dr Graham were summoned, and they ordered her removal to hospital.
The next-door cottage was occupied by Mrs Cushion, who had a miraculous escape from death. She had just gone to the back door to place a plant outside when the stove was shattered and she was blown clean out of the back door. She was uninjured.
Mr A Creasey, the other neighbour, gave a vivid account of the affair. He said I was working a few yards from my house when I heard a terrific explosion and there was a shower of bricks and stone.
I felt as though half my head had been blown off. Another man rushed up and clung to my neck in terror.
I have only been married eight weeks, and now I have to leave my house because it is not safe to live in.
Mrs Pollard and her husband had recently celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, and the cottage had been their home for 47 of those 50 years. A week after the storm she is still in hospital, but was progressing favourably.
From The East Grinstead Courier
Christmas Day 1927 was met with torrential rain, but as the day wore on the temperature dropped to 46ºF (8ºC) and the rain began to turn to sleet and then full-blown snowflakes. By midnight the wind had got up causing the snow to drift, up to twenty feet in some sections of the North Downs. Many villages were cut off and the Southern Counties were gripped by Arctic conditions.
Being more sheltered, the Matthews hydroelectric farm, Greater Felcourt Farm, at Felcourt, Surrey, which used the water from Wire Mill Lake to generate its power, didnt suffer the drifting snow, which enabled William Henry Pike to venture out and to photograph views around the farm blanketed in thick white snow, which he later developed.
Stephonie J Clarke
That winter of 1928
In last weeks Surrey Mirror [January 1976] you asked if anyone could remember the bad winter of early 1928. My husband and I have good reason to remember, as we were newly married with a baby expected in early March, and we were sharing rooms at Old House Farmhouse at Crowhurst, near Lingfield, owned by Mr W S Heasman, for whom my husband worked.
The snow started on Christmas Eve 1927, and was still with us when our daughter was born on the 6th March. My husband was working all Christmas Day getting the cattle into sheds for shelter and all Boxing Day he spent rescuing the sheep from the snowdrifts. We were cut off from our neighbours, as the snowploughs were horse drawn and were unable to get through to us.
The village of Tandridge was isolated and food had to be dropped to them from an aeroplane. Our baker who came from Limpsfield could only get to the Royal Oak at Staffhurst Wood, so we had to trudge that far to collect our bread. Our grocers came from Blindley Heath (Gibbs Stores) and from Lingfield and our groceries were left at Crowhurst Church and we had to walk across the fields, with snow hedge high and frozen hard, to pick them up. The trade vehicles were only horse drawn then.
Our farmer was unable to get from his home in Oxted, so his sons came by sledge.
The road, now the A25, between Limpsfield and Westerham at The Rips just before Moorhouse was blocked with drifting frozen snow four and five and six and seven feet high for days.
My husbands father, Mr William Kimber, likened it to the bad winter in the 1800s when there was what was called Black Tuesday.
Letter from Mr and Mrs A W Kimber, From the Surrey Mirror, February 1976
Ice Skating on Hedgecourt Lake, 1929
Thirty-four years after the Bentick Budd coach and four episode, Hedgecourt Lake again completely froze over and the locals of the Felbridge area once again enjoyed prolonged skating on the lake.
Gale of 1930
A severe gale on 12th January 1930, with winds in excess of 80 mph, felled many trees in Sussex and Surrey and caused vast structural damage. The Matthews hydroelectric farm, Greater Felcourt Farm, whose power was generated by the waters of Wire Mill Lake, lost many sides to their farm buildings and, in some cases, complete roofs. William Henry Pike who had helped to set the farm for Robert Borlaise Matthews, an advocator of electro-farming, recorded the scenes of destruction.
Stephonie J Clarke
Hedgecourt Lake freezes yet again
The first extreme weather condition I remember is the long, cold winter of 1947. I was still at school and my method of transport was by bicycle. I believe there was a frost every day for seventeen weeks, and also a period of six weeks when the daytime temperature did not rise above freezing. One result of this, of course, was that skating was possible on Hedgecourt Lake for most of that time, and the patterns and variety of skates people produced from their sheds and attics (all, of course, from pre-war days) was surprising.
Due to the shortage of food, the birds became very bold, and blackbirds and robins, in particular in our garden, would happily feed from my hand.
As the non-stop ice-up went on for so long, one spectacular result was the ice build-up on the branches of trees. In particular, silver birches looked very pretty, with even the smallest twigs growing to nearly one inch in thickness, though many branches were not able to support the accumulated weight and snapped off.
There were, of course, snowfalls during this time, which meant that sledging was possible in relative comfort, although I dont think the snowfalls were as heavy as other years. My school at that time was in Windmill Lane, East Grinstead, and I used to tow behind my cycle a large and very heavy sledge in the mornings, so I could go after school (together with many others) to the very hilly fields in the area off Lingfield Road where the estate bordering Kennedy Avenue now is.
It was cold!! And it should be remembered that in 1947, loft and cavity wall insulation was not yet the norm (especially old houses that did not even have cavity walls), double-glazing was non-existent, and what then passed for central heating was installed in only the grandest of houses in the village.
No cars that I knew of at that time had a heating system, and the only way of dealing with fog in the hours of darkness was to push open the hinged front windscreen, as the very poor 6 volt electrical systems were too dim to penetrate even a moderate mist. Also road centre white lines were only to be found on the main roads. Clothing too was also very different present day light-weight synthetic fabrics had not yet been developed, so warm clothes meant thick and heavy, and if you got wet coming home from school or work, given the lack of heat in the average home, it was often not possible to dry them completely for the school or work journey next day.
Memories of the winter of 1947, by Brian Roberts
Swan upping, and falling over again!
It was not only human skaters that could be found demonstrating their skills on the frozen lake at Hedgecourt in 1947, but also the vast group of swans that frequented the lake!
After a very windy night we walked down the woodland path at Oaklands, Furnace Wood, my parents house, to find that during the night a very unusual thing had happened. Trees were lying over, branches everywhere, but only in the lower part of the wood. It looked just as if a giant had cut a swathe through the wood with a large scythe, all in a curve about twenty feet wide. It was a complete puzzle!
Memories of Marion Jones, mid 1950s
Summer Storm Havoc
Sundays storm, the worst for many years, left its mark on the Godstone rural district as on many other areas. Trees were the main victims and the local Highways Department dealt with more than two-dozen incidents actually affecting roads and were busily engaged all day from about nine oclock to nearly ten at night. Many roads were blocked, or partially so, for varying periods, and the Police helped in clearing obstructions. In some cases motorists and others also took a hand. Titsey-hill, Limpsfield High Street and the main road near the viaduct at Oxted were all temporarily blocked by fallen trees or boughs at about the same time and other incidents were reported from Bletchingley, Godstone, Blindley Heath, Lingfield, Dormansland and Felbridge. The storm also played havoc in gardens with growing crops, trees and fences and there were a number of interruptions in the electricity supply due to trees or boughs falling across low and high voltage overhead lines. In fact, it is estimated the damage caused was the worst experience in a summer storm at this time of year for more than forty years.
Parts of the Blindley Heath area were without current for nearly twenty-four hours, during which time milking normally done by machine had to be done by hand again and at the local people drank their beer by candlelight. There were also interruptions in supply for varying periods at the Domewood estate, Felbridge, several parts of Tatsfield, one area of Lingfield and at Mill Lane, Holland. The Electricity Board workers, however, did a splendid job of work restoring the supply as quickly as possible. Two hundred telephone subscribers lines at Oxted were down and about half had been cleared by Tuesday. The Tunbridge Wells telephone area, of which Oxted forms part, was the worst hit in the Home Counties, 6,000 subscribers lines being out of order.
From Surrey Mirror & County Times, 13.7.56
I joined the 1st Felbridge Cubs and later the Scouts. One Friday evening at Scouts, a tremendous storm blew up, the lights in the hut went out and the Stream Park river broke its banks and when the storm had stopped we looked out of the Scout hut and down the drive to see a bungalow flooded. Our Scout Master said we would have to go and make sure the people were safe. As we waded up to our waists, trying to find the bridge to cross the stream, I lost my footing and started to be washed away and my Scout Master had to grab me. We did make sure the people were OK.
Memories of Norman Woodward, 1958
In the back door and out the front
One Friday in 1958, it began to rain hard. My husband Jims father heard a strange noise at the back door of Croft Cottage in Halsford Green and as he opened the door water rushed in and they had to open the front door to let the water out!
Memories of the Storm of 1958, by Joyce Chewter.
Flood of 1958
We were living at Pixie Cottage, 18, Imberhorne Lane, East Grinstead, and Tony, my husband, was over the field collecting up the last of the corn, around 7 pm, amidst thunder and lightning. He finished and just got it under cover before the rain came pouring down.
The sky was a queer green colour and the clouds were very black, and it was by now around 9 pm. The stream came up and up and flooded the entrance to out gate to a depth higher than my wellies. Our elderly next-door neighbour and I (now barefoot) waded down and through our back garden to grandads [Ernest Jones] yard below. We went down to check on some young chickens, temporarily housed in the old green house, fortunately they were fine.
The stream had come right over the drive into the yard and was turning diagonally from the drive and across to the green at Stream Park, dragging in its wake, all the loose clinker from the drive. These all ended up on grandads neighbours frontage and on his front lawn, which was usually like a billiard table! I felt very sorry for him.
The people then living in Stream Cottage thought the water running sounded louder than usual, only to find it running past their front door step.
Memories of Marion Jones
Waves lapping up the drive
We had recently moved into Long Cottage in Imberhorne Lane, from Pixie Cottage (next door), when heavy rains made the stream come up and flooded over the road. This happened around lunchtime and people had a job to get through to Kolmar and the other factories further up the road. We watched from an upstairs window as vehicles going up and down, made waves up our front drive. Luckily none of the water reached the foundations of the house, only creeping up the drive to the garage.
Memories of the floods of 1962, by Marion Jones
An extra one for the birds
At about noon on Boxing Day 1962, I received a visit from a workmate who had travelled to Felbridge from Ardingly, via Haywards Heath, to tell me that the heavy snowfall that had occurred during the night had left Ardingly inaccessible from the North, with eight foot drifts across the road between the Gardeners Arms and the point where the South of England Showground now is. Consequently, my journey to work at Ardingly Bakery, for the next two weeks was via Turners Hill, (climbed usually after two or three attempts), Cowdray Arms, Balcombe, Haywards Heath, and Lindfield, then on to Ardingly.
The fact that made this journey possible was that starting work so early in the morning meant that I could negotiate the roads before they became clogged with stranded cars. The technique I adopted was to place in the boot of my Morris Minor, (directly over the back axle), a 140 lb bag of flour from work, and carry a shovel, a bucket of boiler ash, two empty sacks and spare clothing.
In those days, any more than a sprinkling of snow during the night meant that we needed to double (or more) our bread production, as most of our trade was in retail deliveries in rural areas, and were met by our customers with one or both of the comments You may not be able to get round next time or An extra one for the birds.
Having got to the bakery, and then produced the bread (confectionery took a back seat in these times), the real problem was the delivery. Two of out three vans were Morris Minors, which when fitted with chains on the drive wheels, were practically unstoppable, though they did not always travel in the intended direction! As long as we proceeded at a cautious speed, we found we could extricate a stuck van by engaging first or reverse gear, and wind back onto the road with the starting handle.
Our third van was an electric vehicle, which exhausted its batteries very quickly, either from excessive wheel spin or extra effort needed to drive the wheels with chains on.
I was not normally concerned with delivery work, but since one of the Morris Minor drivers was a seventeen year-old girl who had recently passed her test, I had to travel with her, and having spent two years driving in Egyptian sand, the techniques learnt were a great asset. Our drivers at that time had 240 calls each day, covering two rounds on alternate days.
In the event, on those first two days of deliveries, we only had to give up on one call, and that was Grovelands Farm, halfway between Highbrook and Vinols Cross, with many calls made via long walks, baskets on arm, from the nearest point that was sensible to park the van.
Although the worst of the snow made life difficult for a fortnight, it was into March before it finally cleared.
Memories of the winter of 1962/3, by Brian Roberts, Master Baker for Fellows Bakery, Ardingly
I remember very clearly the winter of 1962/3, it was recorded as the coldest winter since 1740. It was my first winter term at primary school, and there was so much snow that we were able to build an igloo. We also made wonderful sliding strips of ice on the playground that the teachers would then salt when we returned to our classrooms as they felt they were too dangerous.
Memories of the winter of 1962/3, by Stephonie J Clarke
At home on our farm off Imberhorne Lane, we had two shallow ponds behind the chicken sheds, which both froze. I remember skating on these in a pair of white skating boots, lined with sheepskin, which had belonged to my aunt. You could get up quite a speed as long as you dodged the reeds that stuck through the frozen surface of the ponds! However, those that skated or even took their sledges on Hedgecourt Lake had a clear expanse of snow-covered ice and therefore didnt have the challenge of dodging reeds!
Memories of the winter of 1964/5, by Stephonie J Clarke
Family get up early and escape death
A Felbridge family got up half an hour earlier than usual on Sunday, and those few precious moments saved their lives.
For while they were in the middle of breakfast, a huge red fireball the size of a room smashed into the roof of their home at Park House, Park Farm, almost totally destroying the upper storey where just 10 minutes earlier they had been peacefully sleeping.
Mrs Clare Edwards, her four children and a young girl staying with them, were downstairs when the mass of globular lightning plummeted on to the house.
It went through the roof, flinging aside tiles and rafters, and then careered through the six bedrooms upstairs, leaving a trail of devastation.
Floorboards were ripped up, walls split open, and the familys personal belongings hurled around the rooms to finish up as a charred heap of unrecognisable debris.
Farmer, Mr John Edwards, who was working outside at the time, was knocked sideways by the blast. It was worse than a bomb he told the Courier. I was in the cinema in East Grinstead when it was blown up during the war, but Ive never seen anything like this.
He estimated the damage as running into thousands of pounds.
Next-door neighbour, 14-year old Christopher Stonestreet, saw exactly what happened from his bedroom window.
My cat, Fluffy, which was on the bed, suddenly bristled with fear, he said. I looked out of the window and saw a great red ball rocketing towards the Edwards house, as big as a room, it blinded me, and then there was a terrific explosion as it struck the roof.
Worst hit of the rooms was the attic bedroom where 10-year old Caroline and her friend Elizabeth McCready, had been sleeping. All Carolines personal belongings and sentimental keepsakes were destroyed. Clothes, books, toys and bits of furniture were scattered around the room and embedded in the ceiling. A pink shoe turned completely brown as though cooked in an oven.
The whole upstairs was a write-off, said Mr Edwards. Our room was like a cave which had been sealed off for 100 years. It was dark, with the dust and rubble everywhere, complete chaos. If my wife had been in bed she would have been sliced in two by the mirror which was wrenched off the wall.
The four children, Caroline, Michael, aged nine, Nicola, 12, and four-year old Jane, had just bought new clothes for a holiday in Majorca with their fathers parents. These were all ruined.
The exact time of the calamity was recorded on the electric clock in the living room, which stopped at 8.30 am when the electricity was cut off by the blast.
Normally we would still have been in bed, said Mrs Edwards. But Mike was up and feeling hungry, so we had breakfast much earlier.
It must have been an act of God that we were up, commented Mr Edwards.
Mr Edwards said the East Grinstead firemen could not be praised too highly. They got here in record time and did a magnificent job. They were very good-humoured and helpful.
Although it was the top of the building that bore the brunt of the explosion, all the doors downstairs were blasted open and windows smashed.
Fortunately, none of the farms 260 head of dairy cattle was affected by the blast, and offers of temporary accommodation for the family have come from tractor-driver Mr Les Stonestreet, and Mr Edwards parents, who own the farm.
It could have been worse, I suppose, said Mr Edwards ruefully. We have been told that if it had been a modern house it would have been knocked flat.
From the East Grinstead Courier, 15.9.68
And after the storm came the floods
People in the East Grinstead area are just beginning to count the cost of the weekends floods, described by fire sub-officer Mr Walter Terry as the worst in living memory.
East Grinstead fire brigade, inundated with pleas for help, were only able to deal with first priority cases.
Their first call was to Courts furniture store in London Road Saturday lunchtime. Torrential rain had overburdened the drains, and manager Mr Bryan Brooks said a fountain three feet high was spurting up in the basement like Trafalgar Square. There was hundreds of pounds worth of damage to furniture, some of which was already on order.
At 5 am on Sunday Mrs Marie Baker, of 26 Portland Road, reported flooding caused by blocked drains. Firemen pumped out her house, but it was flooded again within a couple of hours.
East Grinstead police received their first reports of road flooding at 5.27 am on Turners Hill Road at Kingscote.
Then reports began pouring in of blown manhole covers and sewage being forced into the road.
Firemen began pumping operations at Dovecote Cottage, Dunnings Road, where water was flowing through the houses. Similar action was taken at Oakhurst, in Maypole Road, and at Imberhorne School, where on Monday the boilers were still not in use. With no hot water available for washing up, pupils used paper plates and mugs.
Double flooding also affected the Royal Oak at Crawley down and the old telephone exchange at Copthorne.
A resident of Durkins Farm estate stranded in Tonbridge asked firemen to check the gas stove at his home. The fire officer found two burners alight.
At Saint Hill Green a landslip blocked the road. Southdown buses were diverted.
At Forest Row many houses were reported flooded, as was the A264 Hartfield Road.
Road subsidence was reported in Halsford Park Road. In West Street and Harvest Hill walls collapsed, and at Hazeldene crossroads a bank slipped.
The A264 at Kitsbridge, Copthorne, was blocked with floodwater and sewage. The water was two feet deep at Dutton Homestall, Ashurst Wood, and six feet deep in Vowells Lane, West Hoathly.
The A22 was blocked from Woodcock Hill to South Godstone and the A264 at Furnace Wood was impassable.
Water poured over the Kent Water Bridge on the B2026. The Weir Wood reservoir staff reported that at one time 150 million gallons of water per hour were entering the reservoir.
East Grinstead Round Tablers came to the assistance of householders in Holtye Road, Dunnings Road, Felbridge Close and Stockwell Road.
British Rail Southern Region reported a landslip between Hurst Green and Lingfield, which partially blocked the line. Trains from London terminated at Oxted, and passengers were taken by bus to Lingfield and East Grinstead.
Over the weekend East Grinstead police station was swamped with calls from stranded motorists and inquiries about road conditions.
The GPO had to double the telephone exchange staff to cope with the increased volume of work.
East Grinstead Council surveyor Mr Jack Greaves said 12 council workmen were out from 6 am on Sunday until 11 pm, with a short rest in the afternoon, helping where they could to unblock drains and clear pipes.
On Monday they were clearing up areas where sewage had spilled on to the roads and repairing the damage where banks had slipped and roads subsided.
From the East Grinstead Courier, September 1968
George & Mildred
As a child I grew up on a farm called Birches Piggery, now the site of the Birches Industrial Estate. As the name suggests, we kept pigs, and a few chickens. We also had three donkeys, grazed heifers, and grew the occasional crop.
During the late Fifties, a couple from Orpington way in Surrey, arranged to stand a week-end caravan next to our Dutch barn, backing onto Birches Wood, with views of our large field at the front. They cultivated a small garden around the caravan within a boundary fence, and would visit most weekends, presumably for the country air and to get away from South London. The couple, in my minds eye, were later to be epitomised in the sit-com George & Mildred.
Any way, they had come down for one country stay and it started to rain, and rain, and rain. A stream, the River Fel to be precise, ran parallel to the lane leading to and from our farm and yard, and this came flooding up and over its banks, running across the bridge in the lane, heading off towards Stream Park. The country stay was terminated and George & Mildred decided to return home, but of course the only exit was across the bridge, now several inches under the swollen stream. I can still remember the sight of my father, walking in front of their car with bright orange/yellow water lapping round the top of his wellies, prodding the bridge to ensure it was still there, to enable the car to follow in relative safety.
Memories the flood of 1968, by Stephonie J Clarke
Floods in Felbridge, 1974
Severe flooding was experienced in the Furnace Wood and Mill Lane area in 1974, as a result of heavy rain and the raising of the level of Hedgecourt Lake by the then owner Dr. Ashby. The combination resulted in Copthorne Road being flooded to a depth of 18 inches, and erosion to Mill Lane with the volume of water running across the road and down the bank. Ironically, two years later in 1976, Felbridge like most places in England, saw a severe draught!
Ken Housman, 1974
The Great Storm of 16th October 1987
In the wake of the Great Storm of 16th October 1987, we tend to forget that the whole of that year had suffered extreme weather conditions. In the January heavy snowfalls meant that many schools were closed, public transport had come to a virtual standstill and in some area there were no telephones or post. This was then followed by intense cold. March saw high winds of up to 70 mph; little did we know that these would pale into insignificance later in the year. Early October saw torrential rain, and flooding in some areas, and then a television viewer mentioned that a hurricane was on its way. This suggestion was dismissed by the Met Office and Michael Fish reassured television viewers with his now famous quote: A woman rang in and said she heard a hurricane is on the way. Well, if you are watching and waiting, there isnt. But twelve hours later, England, and in particular Southern England, was hit by winds of up to 110 mph, the worst hurricane since the Great Wind of 1703, 284 years earlier. 8,000 people died in the Great Wind of 1703; fortunately the number of casualties was far less in the Great Storm of 1987. The year ended in a thick blanket of snow!
On the evening of Thursday 15th October 1987, Wendy and I ate at the Woodcock Inn. While we were there the rain, which started just before left home, became very heavy and when we left the Woodcock floodwater was pouring in through the front door. We waded through water several inches deep and were grateful that the way home was up Woodcock Hill.
We went to bed. Wendy woke while it was dark and thought it sounded a bit windy but went back to sleep until about 7 oclock Friday morning. I slept soundly until the same time. Wendy commented that it was not raining so hard and that the leaves appeared to have come off the trees and that the big oak in the middle of the garden had shed some branches.
We had no electricity, and therefore no radio or television, so we did not know what was going on. The road outside, the A22, was eerily silent. It is not unusual for the police to close the road as the result of an accident but Wendy thought there might have been a tree down across the road. I thought I had better have a look before getting ready for work.
It was by now getting fully light and the devastation down the A22 was plainly visible more than just a tree. We then went into the garden and discovered that so many trees had fallen (23 mature birches and 3 very large oaks) that much of the garden was inaccessible. The greenhouse was crushed and a fence had disappeared, never to be seen again! All rather heartbreaking. Wendy shed tears. We later found some batteries for the radio and discovered the extent of the damage in the Southeast.
An examination of the house disclosed that, apart from one or two loosened but not dislodged tiles, it had suffered no damage. We discovered some months later that our sewage system had suffered damage that we were able to repair at the expense of our insurers.
Wendy decided to walk to work at St. Piers, Lingfield. She started out with the intention of walking across country via the Kennels, Chartham Park and the racecourse. This plan was abandoned because the path was obliterated at the Kennels so Wendy clambered up the A22 and down Lingfield Road where people were already at work with chainsaws. The expedition took about two hours but as many staff had not arrived Wendy felt the effort had been well worthwhile. Later, after the roads had been partly cleared, somebody who had managed to get there by car drove Wendy home.
Bernard did not go to work.
The telephone was reinstated after four or five days but we were very irritated by the performance of Seeboard which announced, two days before the electricity returned to us, that supplies had been completely restored throughout the area of devastation. It took several telephone calls before anybody would admit that there some isolated areas where some problems still existed.
While we were lucky, in so far as Pine Crest did not suffer any significant structural damage, Coopers Wood next door had some very large holes punched in its roof. Coopers Wood lost a line of very large sweet chestnuts and many other trees.
A client of mine was woken in the dark by a shout from his wife who had heard a loud bang and wanted him to investigate. His first thought was to put on the bedside light. He then realised that he could not move as something was pinning him down. An oak tree had come down through the roof and was only inches short of crushing him and his wife but had not quite reached her. She was able to find a torch and help him to extricate himself.
Clearing up the garden at Pine Crest took many months with a great deal of help. It is impossible to remember how the garden was before the event but it is quite clear now that the event was of little consequence to the natural process of regeneration. We now have three oaks for every birch that fell. The clearings, which had before been overshadowed, were covered with foxgloves. From somewhere the wind spread the seeds of orchids more widely and they have colonised the areas where we had bonfires, effectively replacing bluebells destroyed by the heat and which the wood ash must have rendered less acid.
We both felt slightly cheated that we did not witness the devastation taking place but it was probably just as well.
One of the oaks was planked and I have made several items including a mantelpiece and settle, two beds for our grandchildren, a chest and two rocking horses. We are still burning the logs!
Memories of Bernard and Wendy Breese of Pine Crest, Woodcock Hill, 16th October 1987
Fires and Fir Cones
Karen, my daughter, and I came home from Guides at 8.30 ish on Thursday evening and as she put the car in the garage she looked at the sky and said Lets get indoors it looks a bit queer.
We didnt hear anything apart from a strong wind put next morning we woke about 6.30 and couldnt see the back garden for trees. One large beech tree had uprooted and had taken an oak with it, by chance and with luck, they went side ways and just missed our greenhouse, falling over my neighbours garden, but they flattened our shed completely and drove the gate post straight in the ground for about 3 feet.
After wed been up to town, where Karen worked, we set to work on clearing up, all hands on the saws, aided by the neighbours both sides. We had fires for a long time and kept picking up fir cones out of the garden for the next five or six years.
Memories of Joyce Chewter of Halsford Green, 16th October 1987
Fairy on the top of the tree
Most of my memories of the 1987 hurricane are of little, unconnected things. Like being woken by my wife in the middle of the night to be told it was blowing a gale outside and she could hear trees falling and tiles coming off the roofs. I remember telling her to go back to sleep because I did not think my getting up and going outside was likely to have any influence over the wind and, in any event, we were much safer where we were.
I remember trying to drive to my work in London in the dark and, whichever way I went (and I tried four different routes), the road was blocked and I had to turn round. I also recall the devastation caused to my golf club at Holtye, which is on the ridge about 4 miles east of East Grinstead and was exposed to the full force of the wind. We lost literally thousands of trees. Also there was a plantation of fir trees, several acres in extent, at nearby Hammerwood, which hadnt been blown down, the wind had simply snapped all the trees off at a height of about six feet just as though they were matchsticks.
But my one abiding memory is of me, sitting on, or more correctly clinging to, the top of a tree trunk about twenty feet in the air, yelling for someone to get a ladder to get me down!
Having unsuccessfully tried to get to work, I returned home and in the, by that time, early morning light, saw that, although I had been able to get out of my house, almost everyone else in the close in which I live, had been trapped in by a tree which had fallen in my garden, over the laurel hedge which was my boundary and across the entrance road into the close. The tree in question, we had been told, had some long time previously been the former owners family Christmas tree which, having fulfilled its festive function, had been planted at the bottom of the garden where it grew and grew until it stood about 30 feet high. That is it stood until the night of the hurricane, when it came to measure its length horizontally across my garden and the road.
What I did not realise until later was that the tree was not actually lying on the ground. The lower branches of the tree itself together with the strength of the laurel hedge through which it had fallen, resulted in the trunk of the tree lying parallel with the ground at a height of about 5 feet, supported principally by the hedge. Anyhow, I set to in ignorance of this, and, sitting astride the trunk at what had been the top, started to cut the tree into pieces each about twelve inches long, and for a while I thought I was doing rather well. But regrettably, I had not appreciated that this would not last, and inevitably there would come a point in time where the combined weight of the roots and tree on the garden side of the hedge became greater than the combined weight of me and the remainder of the tree on the roadside. And so it was, as I cut just one more log off the tree trunk I reached that point, and then the whole of what remained of the tree decided to slowly, and ever so gracefully, re-erect itself exactly where it had stood before, although this time it was only about 20 feet high and came complete with a live fairy at the top!! And that has become my most lasting memory of the hurricane!
Memories of Barry Clarke of Stream Cottage, Stream Park, 16th October 1987
PERSONAL MEMORIES OF THE HURRICANE
The 1987 Hurricane is still vivid in my memory. I live in an area surrounded by mature English trees mainly Oak, Silver Birch and Sweet Chestnut.
It was very windy when I went to bed on the Thursday night and it got extremely noisy as the night progressed, which made it impossible to sleep. I kept hearing thuds that I assumed were branches being broken off the trees. Because I couldnt sleep, I got up and went to the bathroom at about 3 am and discovered that we had no electricity. I realised then that I would need to get up earlier than usual so that I could get the camping stove out of the cupboard in order to make a cup of tea before going to work. However, I went back to bed, but was very frightened by the noise of the wind all around and even whistling through our double-glazing.
I got up about 6 am to have my shower by candlelight when there was a knock on the door. Two of our neighbours were dressed in hard hats and rather distressed. They pointed out that there were several of their large trees across our lawn and they were unable to get down their drive. We had to wait until daylight to see the full extent of the damage. We were invited next door to have tea and toast since they possessed a full Camping Stove.
I soon realised that there was no possibility of me or anyone else in the area being able to go to work that day. Consequently Leon and I set off on foot to Paices to purchase a supply of Gaz cylinders for our small stove so that we could at least make a cup of tea or heat a tin of soup. On our way we passed Felbridge Nurseries and encountered hundreds of pots and plastic trays that had blown over the hedge. On our way back home, we called into Autoculture and were able to purchase their last Chain Saw.
On the other side of our garden is a cattery and it was quite full, since the hurricane happened during half term. Two large Chestnut trees had blown over on one side of the cattery and trees had fallen on the other side, leaving the cattery itself virtually undamaged in the middle.
Although the glass had blown out of out own greenhouse, we considered that we had had a lucky escape, but we were without electricity and telephone for approximately six weeks and it took us a full ten years to clear up after the hurricane with a little help from our friends.
Memories of Pam Coleman of Tresloe, Cuttinglye Road, 16th October 1987
End of Tuftys Game Farm
Our youngest son, Michael, had set up a game farm in our big field at Llanberis Farm, Crawley Down Road, Felbridge, rearing red legged partridges and quail. This was his second season and he was just getting known in the game bird community.
We had a phone call at 5.30 am that morning [16th October 1987] from Michaels girlfriend at Holtye, to say that her father had lost his golden pheasants when a big tree fell on their pen. Tony, my husband, and Michael went out to check round and all was well, apart from the gale that had been roaring all night. They went back to bed but at 7 am there was pandemonium. Trees were blown down, the rearing pens shattered and blown all over the field, with only one pen remaining intact at the bottom corner. Trees round the fields and in the garden had been sucked out and whipped up-ended over fences. Big beech trees, oak, cherries chestnuts, silver birches and fruit trees were lying like ninepins all around.
All morning people were bringing in lost birds and trying to catch them in their gardens. Sad to say that out of 10,000 birds, only 1,000 and perhaps 300 odd ones were retrieved. There were just enough birds left to supply one last customer in Glamorgan. Michael phoned them and told them what had happened and they agreed to take all the birds he had left. Unfortunately, being game birds they werent covered by insurance. Michael was devastated, and so ended Tuftys Game Farm!
The main roads around Felbridge were impassable until the chain saw gangs got going. Electricity cables and telephone wires were down all over the Southern area.
There was a tall spruce tree in our chicken run, the top twelve feet of which was wedged between the barn and the chicken run wire. Luckily it hadnt touched the chicken house, which was undamaged. I bet the chicken got about a bit when it came down!
I couldnt get in to feed the turkeys, which we were rearing for Christmas, from day-old chicks, as the only door was behind the fallen tree. I had to wait for Tony and Michael to cut up the tree with their chain saws. The birds seemed to be none the worse for the excitement, and werent they hungry!
There was a belt of big trees down one side of our house but despite the high wind, they stood firm. We had one or two tiles dislodged, but otherwise the house was fine.
There were terrible tales of houses with roofs blown off, cars crushed, greenhouses lifted, and caravans blown away and smashed at the coast, all over the Southern area. Engineers came down from the North to help sort out the chaos of telephone lines and electricity cables, with some people without electricity for days.
The Storm did a lot of damage, but I think it brought out the best in people, the way they all worked together to try and get back to normal. It reminded me of the atmosphere during the 1939 war. I can still remember it, although I was only a child.
Memories of the Great Storm of 1987, by Marion Jones
No bread for a week
The first thing I knew about the 87 Hurricane was failure of the electricity supply in the bakery half way through the night on October 16th. As it happened, the ovens had been filled with the last batch of bread for that shift, and we were able to let it bake by the residual heat of the electric oven, and the operation of an illegal by-pass, which cut out the electrical safety equipment on the larger gas oven, allowing us to re-light it.
However, this was only the start of our troubles, as, having removed the bread from the ovens and packed it for the van delivery to our wholesale customers, we found that all the roads from Ardingly were blocked, though our own villagers had access to as much bread as they needed. The bulk of our production was normally distributed to neighbouring villages over an area of about a ten-mile radius.
Due to a maternity emergency later on in the day, a track was cleared by the emergency services to get an ambulance into Ardingly, which afterwards allowed us to get out in the Lindfield and Haywards Heath direction, but we only reached about a quarter of our calls.
Although the storm itself did us no direct harm, the longer-term damage was done by the complete lack of electrical power for six and a half days. The overhead supply reached Ardingly via a cross country (most of it woodland) route from the Cowdray Arms direction. So as the line repair operation was known to be a long and complicated one, we were put at the bottom of the list. The aspect of this, which hurt the most, was whereas all our competitors either did not suffer power loss at all, or at most only a few hours, we lost a complete week of production.
Memories of the Great Storm of 1987, by Brian Roberts, Master Baker of Fellows Bakery, Ardingly
The Giant returns to Oaklands
My mother, [Vera Pike] who was in her eighties, lived alone in her house in Furnace Wood, and being deaf, went to bed quite oblivious of the Storm raging outside. When she got up in the morning, she went into her kitchen and thought how light it looked down her wood, and she could see more of the skyline than usual. She then discovered that the prefabricated garage that used to stand to the left of her back garden, slightly behind the house, had tried to join the glass lean-to attached to the kitchen.
We went down to see how she was, the only access into Furnace Wood being off the Copthorne Road. She was fine, but couldnt understand that all this could happen while she slept. We walked down the garden and could not believe the number of trees that were down. The wooded paths had disappeared and we were confronted with a barrier we could neither climb over nor crawl under. The Giant had returned! She was very upset for about a fortnight after, as she loved her trees, some of the ornamental ones being planted by her during her fifty years at the property. She was also without electricity for about three weeks with all the overhead cables down and draped over the remaining tree branches along the side of the road.
Tony and Michael came down with their chain saws and cleared the immediate garden, and later Bill and Howard Searle moved in to reclaim access to the woodland. The end result was a lot of empty space! An up side to the loss of trees is that the bluebells bloom thicker, and heather and broom now grow where never before, as there is now much more light. Our daughter Stephonie and her husband Jeremy have now re-planted the wood with 500 native trees, including sweet chestnut, oak, and beech, with spindle, cherries and maple providing blossom in the spring, colour in the autumn and berries for the birds in winter. They bought my mothers house when she died, and now the deer and foxes roam around, scavenging in the orchard and garden, in fact theyll eat anything!
Memories of the Great Storm of 1987, by Marion Jones
Before the October storm the [Parish] Council had arranged to plant a number of trees in the village; in January last,  with the help of the Oxted Conservation Volunteers, fifteen trees were planted, some on the village green and others in the Village Hall field. The bus shelter in Crawley Down Road was wrecked by the storm and the [Parish] Council has ordered a replacement.
From Felbridge Parish Council by A C King, 18.6.88
The Storm of 1990
Compared to the Great Storm of 1987, this storm was more like a gentle zephyr, with winds recorded as only reaching 100 mph! However, the Storm of the 24th January 1990, probably had more impact on the Felbridge area, in particular Felbridge Primary School and Imberhorne Middle and Upper School. This storm struck during daylight hours and four hundred children from the Middle School at Imberhorne had to be evacuated when large sheets of the roofing were stripped by the wind. At Felbridge School, the roof of a hutted classroom blew away where a class of six year-olds were studying. The whole school had to be ushered to the safety of the school hall as more roofs blew off the hutted classrooms. However, on a positive note, as a direct result of this storm, Felbridge School had the hutted classrooms replaced by a purpose built extension that enlarged the school to take 210 pupils, which was completed and opened in 1994.
S J Clarke
Having just returned from shopping in East Grinstead, my husband Tony and son Michael headed off down the garden whilst I went into the dairy to put some food in the freezer. I was just about to leave when the walnut tree that stood opposite the diary landed on the roof of the dairy with one branch either side of me. How none of us werent hit Ill never know.
We later sold the butt to a wood turner and he presented each member of the family with a bowl made from the walnut.
We later found out that East Grinstead, the town at which we had just been shopping, was also badly hit by the winds with many glass windows being shattered and sucked out.
Memories of the Storm of 1990, by Marion Jones
Skating on Hedgecourt
January 1997, saw Hedgecourt freeze over with plenty of opportunities for skating and sledging on the lake.
Memories of the winter of 1996/97, by Jane Weller
The Felbridge Millennium Mound
The 3rd December 1999, saw the Felbridge Millennium Mound appear on the village green. Winds had been quite brisk in the morning, nothing in comparison with the Great Storm of 1987, but still, quite brisk. At around 11 am a tree in the front garden of one of the houses in Copthorne Road, opposite the green, decided it had had enough and fell across the road, blocking the A264. As it fell it divided a pair of lorries carrying landfill material, mostly poor quality soil, heading for the A22. The tree narrowly missed the front lorry and stopped the following lorry in its tracks. However, in his determination to keep up with the first lorry, the driver of the second lorry followed a van and trailer onto the village green, both duly getting stuck in the mud. The van un-hitched his trailer and with less weight was eventually able to drive round the tree and continue on his course along the A264, however, the lorry, being much heavier was well and truly stuck, even after off-loading his truck full of landfill material in a large mound on the green. Eventually the truck was removed, but not the mound.
Meanwhile chaos ensued, with artic lorries trying to turn round the oak tree in Mill Lane at its junction with the Copthorne Road. Other large lorries tried to travel along Rowplatt Lane, barely wide enough for cars to pass, let alone lorries! Eventually enough of the offending tree was cut up to allow traffic to once again travel along the A264.
The tree was eventually cut up completely and removed, but not so the mound. The offending company were contacted to come and remove it, but their response was that due to the wet weather the ground was too damp to proceed at that moment. As December wore on and the new millennium approached the mound was affectionately termed The Millennium Mound, and true to its name it saw the new millennium in, and the spring of 2000, being eventually removed in late March.
Stephonie J Clarke
Residents misery in aftermath
Torrential rain and gale force winds wreaked havoc on Sunday night plunging many residents across the district into darkness.
Residents across Tandridge were left cleaning up the aftermath of the storm, which had winds gusting up to 70 mph. Two inches of rain swept through the district turning roads to rivers and knocking down trees.
I spoke to someone from Seeboard at 10 pm on Monday and they said they had no idea when the power was going to come on. [Abridged]
From the local newspaper, 1st November 2000
5 hours too short!
After a series of wet and windy days during October 2000, with extensive flooding at the bottom of Woodcock Hill, and on the River Fel at Gullege Lane and across Lake View Road in Furnace Wood, we finally had one too many, and on Sunday 29th October the power went off at 5 pm. Living in Furnace Wood we are used to the power going off for quite long periods of time, as overheard power cables are notoriously unreliable. Fumbling around in the dark we managed to find the matches and within a short period of time were living life by the light of the oil lamps we collect, the odd tilly lamp, a few candles and the light of the open fire. Tea that night was toasted crumpets in front of the fire.
By dusk on Monday we still had no power, so the ritual of lighting all the oil lamps began, all too late, as it always got dark before I had finished! By Tuesday our routine was set, although by now the food in the freezer was beginning to defrost, so we borrowed a generator and powered up the fridge and freezer for about two hours a day. Cooking was no problem as having an oil-fired Aga you can run it manually, as long as you remember to switch off the oil before the needle goes off the scale, and switch it back on before it drops too low. Tuesday was also Halloween and we had arranged a Halloween party for the evening, this went ahead as planned with authentic use of candle power, but as we seemed to be the only area still without power the children did wonder why we couldnt run the scary video!
Wednesday morning dawned, still no power, but by lunchtime power was finally restored. Later in the local papers an article appeared which stated that you could claim compensation for the lack of power. I duly wrote my letter, but the reply I received informed me that you had to have been without power for 72 hours, and we were five hours too short to qualify!
Memories of the floods of autumn 2000, by Stephonie J Clarke
Record rain across the area
The first year of the new millennium was the wettest in the area since records began in 1910.
Sutton and East Surrey Water, which covers Lingfield and Dormansland, [and parts of Felbridge] says rainfall for the year 2000 exceeded the average total by more than 15 inches.
A grand total of 45.2 inches of rain fell in the area between January and December last year.
This beats the previous highest deluge in 1951 by nearly five inches. [Abridged]
From the East Grinstead Observer, 17th January 2001
Entertainment on Hedgecourt Lake
Hedgecourt Lake in the 20s and 30s was a place of entertainment. My cousin, Noel Sargent, remembers in 1934, being taken there by his parents to see the skaters dancing to music provided by members of the Copthorne Band. Also, there were ponies with traps, and he thought that they had some sort of studs attached to their hooves for the purpose of travelling on icy surfaces. I also heard mention in other years of someone roasting chestnuts for consumption by the skaters. Car headlights would be used for illumination in the evenings for people to take advantage of the short time the ice would be safe enough to bear the weight. One of the quotes I have heard is The more she cracks the more she bears, being that the air would even out underneath as the ice sank slightly.
During the war years the lake was drained, which reduced the depth (to prevent the enemy taking advantage of the surface for landing and for visual use from the air). Then it was quite possible to use the edges, when the centre, where the original stream ran, was unfrozen. Quite often there would be a pool on which the swans would float, kept free from ice by their paddling around.
I remember the winter of 47, when there was at least six weeks of frost and we all had a marvellous time. There was a hardcore of local skaters who would chase up and down the lake playing pseudo ice hockey, using hockey sticks, if they had them, a shinty stick in my case, or any handy piece of stick that could be easily found.
During the 50s Dr Ashby obtained the rights of the lake for the purpose of water skiing. The level of the lake was raised for this, to much consternation of local landowners as it back flooded on their properties.
During the 60s the lake was then dredged to remove sludge etc., this then made the water deeper and run freely, and this together with our now erratic climate change, lessens the chances of ice-skating. Although it has iced over in recent years, at least once, to be safe, in 2001.
Memories of Jean Roberts
Blacklands Guide Camp & the Hurricane
A week before the big storm Rona Bingham Division Commissioner for East Grinstead took a group of Felbridge Guides to Camp at Blackland Farm, the National Guide Association camp site. Which is situated on a hill between the reservoir and Sharpethorne
During the Friday afternoon, the tents all Green Ridge Icelandic's, except for the First Aid tent which was a very old frame tent, were pitched in readiness of the Guides arrival. This was done for two reasons, it would be dark on their arrival and the majority of girls had never camped before. Our site was Pee-wits one and two, the field nearest the top of the hill and farthest from the Wardens house.
The Guides all arrived and their bedding ect. put into the tents. At about seven p.m. what had been a little drizzle turned into a downpour, not having a marquee we sheltered in the hut. I then checked the tents and found that the rain had come straight through all the tents except one. Returning to the hut I informed the girls, and told them not to worry as we would sleep in the hut where we would be nice and dry, no sooner had I spoken than the rain poured through the hut and over our ankles. After discussing the situation with the girls and the other leaders, it was decided that everyone should return home and come back the next morning.
This was easier said than done, the reservoir had flooded and the police had closed the road and were not letting any one through. The top of the road was also closed because of the floods in Sharpethorne. I managed to contact my husband who spoke to the Police after a while they agreed that the Girls could be collected by parents. By Midnight all the girls had gone home except for the two Winamaranden sisters, they slept in the tent which was still dry. As they left the youngest one asked, "if we go home can we come back tonight?" I replied that sometimes we have to listen to what our head is saying, not our heart. But I was pleased that such a baptism had not put her off camping,.
The next morning we cleared up the site, and after discussion with the warden it was agreed that we should leave the tents up.To allow them to dry out and be taken down the following weekend. On the Sunday I read in the newspaper that two and a half inches of rain had fallen in East Grinstead, and I reckon that it all fell on me.
Waking up the next weekend to the hurricane, and the devastation that surrounded our house, I sent my son and a friend to check on the tents at Blackland, they were all still standing, except for the old frame tent which had been flattened by a large beech tree. This experience did not finish my love of camping as since then I have camped every year, including Korea, and the United States.
Memories of Rona Bingham