Harbour in the Flood of 1953 by Barry Jackson


I was ten years old at the time of the floods in 1953 and lived at Queens Road in Tankerton, which was on high ground and unaffected by the flooding. However, I can well remember the fierce storm during the night of 31 January and hearing about the damage on the wireless that following morning.

The BBC News presenter outlined the terrible devastation on the East coast and in Holland. Whitstable was mentioned as having "a seventy foot wide area of flooding in the town centre". I cycled to the harbour area that morning with my older brother and witnessed the appalling scene. Some seventy foot wide flood indeed! The whole town centre was under water of varying depths, with tremendous damage to areas such as Sea Wall, Island Wall and Nelson Road.

My interest at that age centred largely around the harbour and the barges and I can recall clearly that there were four barges in the harbour at the time. These were the Savoy, Ardwina, Major and Eureso. When we visited the harbour on the morning of the 1st February, the water level at high tide was only a foot or so below the top of the quaysides even then, and the barges towered over us, being almost on the quays themselves. Only the Major seemed to have any damage, as her port side leeboard was dangling, having broken the toggle and iron band at its head.

Ardwina and Savoy were both pure sailing barges (with no engines) and were owned by Daniels Brothers whilst Major was an auxiliary barge (that is, having an engine and wheelhouse and full sailing gear but without a mizzen.) She was owned locally by Andersons.

Position of barges at Whitstable Harbour during the Flood of 1953

Position of barges at Whitstable Harbour during the Flood of 1953

Savoy was berthed at the north quay and therefore sheltered to some extent from the northerly storm by the granary. Ardwina and Major lay at the south quay and were more exposed.

The fourth barge, Eureso, was a small round sterned motor barge which had been built as such between the wars, and was owned by the Greenhithe Lighterage Company. She lay at the inner west quay ,where the fishermen's sheds are now.

I thought you might be interested in this as, although much has been written about the floods, I don't recall any mention of which barges were in the harbour at the time.

Barry Jackson

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