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Remembering the floods of 1924

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: May 12, 2014

Lower High Street, Stourbridge, under water, June 1, 1924

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THE great floods of 2014 have all but receded but this picture is a reminder of an earlier flood which badly affected parts of the Black Country 90 years ago.

The photograph shows flooding in Lower High Street, Stourbridge, on June 1, 1924, and it has been loaned to us by John Taylor of Kidderminster.

The rain began with a burst of thunder on Saturday afternoon, May 31, and continued throughout the night, becoming torrential and continuing all the next day. In some parts it rained non-stop for 30 hours with around a month's rain falling over the weekend.

A week later, the Dudley Herald summed up the aftermath:

"The storm left its mark on Stourbridge. Rain, the like of which had not been seen for years, came incessantly for over 24 hours. The thunder was very heavy and the lightning extremely vivid. The back of house in Wood Street, Wollaston was struck by lightning, but no serious damage was done. Sunday morning was the worst.

"During the night the river Stour had overflowed its banks with the result that Lower High Street became a sheet of water, 60 yards wide, and in places several feet deep. The Great Western Railway goods yard was a lake. In some parts the water was over the truck wheels. A wooden fence which had been erected while alterations were being effected, was greatly damaged, and a large amount of timber was carried away. The shops of Messrs. Woolf, Perry, Bills, etc., were flooded out, the water being quite three feet deep. Considerable damage was done. An unfortunate victim was Mr Pitts, whose kitchen is underground. The water rushed in, and chairs, tables and piano were soon floating about. Mr Frank Tether donned a bathing suit and rescued a number of articles, but the greater part were ruined. At the house of Mr Boswell, down by the canal wharf, a ladder had to be used to enter the house through the bedroom window. The Fire Brigade, under Captain T.L.Walker, worked strenuously in pumping the water out of the cellars, etc.

"By 7pm on Sunday evening the flood had subsided considerably, but a width of quite 30 yards was still under water. Trams could not pass into the town all day, and the 'bus traffic had to be diverted via the Fish and Wollaston. Monday morning saw the Lower High Street clear of water, and normal traffic running, but the underground places were still swamped. An old resident informed our representative that he remembered the last flood, some 21 years ago, but it was nothing to compare with this one in intensity."

Naturally, the canals were badly affected by the downpour and the report continues:

"The greatest damage was caused at the Junction, Audnam, Wordsley, where the Stour runs close to the canal. Here the river overflowed into the canal, which in turn, became so swollen that the canal burst through an overflow weir.

"The weir was built on a sandstone rock, but the force of the flood swept the whole of the brickwork and a great piece of the rock completely away, carrying with it portions of a recently-erected brick and concrete dairy, pig-styes, fowl pens, etc., belonging to the farm house of Mrs Worrall. Eleven pigs were rescued after considerable excitement by people living near, but the safety of 150 ducks, fowl and chickens was for a long time in doubt. The foundations of the farm house itself and a small bridge over the weir were also seriously threatened.

"In addition, the flood entirely swept away a large garden, the fruit trees being uprooted, and when a reporter of this journal visited the spot on Sunday evening, where once was a garden had become a chasm, down which the water was rushing like a miniature Niagara.

"At this point the water flowed back into the Stour, and the river and the canal became almost as one large sheet of water, covering a dozen acres of land, including a large recreation ground belonging to Messrs. Jones and Attwood, engineers and ironfounders, of Stourbridge. The depth of the water here may be gauged by the fact that the cross-bar of the goal posts was only just visible, and tall railings round another field were entirely submerged."

The Stour was not the only river to burst its banks, the Tame also flooded:

"For many a long day Wednesbury has not experienced such a storm. Rain fell from about 5 o'clock on Saturday evening until about 8 o'clock on Sunday evening. At one period the storm was torrential and grew with great severity, until it appeared to many that it was a cloud burst or a semi-water spout. The streets of the town became miniature rivers and many of the low lying parts of the town were flooded. Fortunately, no serious damage was done to household property. Mesty Croft and Hydes Road suffered more than anywhere else. Here the River Tame and the brook that runs along the side of Hydes Road overflowed their banks, and the result was that in a very short time a large portion of the road near the aqueduct was under several inches of water, while the road leading to West Bromwich Old Church became submerged to a depth of about three feet."

Other parts of the Black Country were also hit by flooding that summer's weekend. The Dudley Herald reported "Havoc at Halesowen", a landslide at Blackheath, the flooding of Old Hill cricket ground, damage at Quarry Bank, minor floods at Bilston but the worst floods being at Cradley, where the vicar, Rev S. Cooper, set up a relief fund for the victims.

Have you any pictures of the 1924 Black Country floods? Please share any information or family stories you have and contact dshaw@blackcountrybugle.co.uk or write to us at 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.

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