South Holland flooding of 70 years ago

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Seventy years ago one of the most catastrophic events in living memory hit this area.

Exceptionally high snowfall during February started to melt, and parts of South Holland were devastated by flooding.

Houses in Spalding were flooded and some Crowland people were forced to temporarily leave their homes. Thousands of acres of farmland was inundated and animals died.

The tragedy could have been far worse though; unlike other areas, there was no loss of human life.

In fact, as Ayscoughfee Hall Museum officer Julia Knight pointed out, the disaster happened at a time when there were men and equipment available to assist, and people still had the ‘Dunkirk spirit’ that had helped them through the Second World War.

Displaying the stoicism engendered during the war, people joined the effort to protect the area, whether by filling sand or earth bags, helping to push massive ice flows under bridges on the river Welland or assisting military personnel called in to seal the 60-yard breach in the North Level bank of Cowbit Wash, near Crowland, with 16 Buffalo tanks.

In fact the first breach was reported at the River Glen near the old Counter Drain station, and the Tongue End washes flooded.

That was on March 11, following the start of the rapid thaw and heavy rain.

Interestingly, official skating matches had been held on Cowbit Wash in early February for the first time in 12 years. A week later, German prisoners of war were pictured working in a “raging snowstorm” to clear the main road at Quadring, and ten feet snowdrifts were recorded at Quadring Eaudyke on February 24.

By March 17 the thaw had caused floods at Market Deeping and the Hereward Estate in Spalding was also flooded.

Then followed the flooding of the Tongue End washes and, on March 21 at about midday, the North Level barrier bank was breached.

In Spalding, residents were able to “estimate the danger” from the water level at High Bridge – the archway was almost covered until the Crowland breach, when the level dropped immediately.

There had already been flooding on London Road and around 100 Spalding homes had been affected. A help centre was set up at the Parish Room to assist and to give clothing coupons.

At Crowland, 34 people had been forced to go to the relief centre at South View Road schools. Boats, punts and lorries were used to carry fodder to cattle and horses standing helpless in waterlogged crew yards.