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The Flood

1953 after the East Coast floods. Much of the wood on the promenade near the big dipper had come from the amusement arcades built out over the beach which were completely demolished in the storm.

Flooding is not new to us and in the past 100 years, flood events have occurred in 1919, 1920, 1938, 1953, 1973, 1976 and 1978.

But the worst of all was in 1953.

The 1950’s showed much promise and the first two years showed record crowds in Cleethorpes. Our North Promenade was crowded with thousands of visitors. The weather was generally very good indeed, petrol rationing was now a thing of the past and there was much to celebrate.

We joined in the National celebrations for the Festival of Britain in 1951 and the resort marvelled at various small models of the Skylon, which was a futuristic , cigar shaped object which apparently floated above the ground about  300ft high, at the side of the Thames, and which became the symbol of that festival.

The joke around our area at the time was that it was like the people of Grimsby, ‘It had no visible means of support’.  No doubt Grimsby comics said the same about Cleethorpes.  Though the truth was that Cleethorpes economically was doing rather well. At least until January 1953.

North Prom storm damage Cleethorpes 1953

North Prom storm damage Cleethorpes 1953

Then came the North Sea Surge.  This caused flooding over the entire East coast.  As far as our area went, the sea broke through the sea wall between Suggitt’s Lane and Fuller Street.  The railway line was badly damaged, the North Promenade road surface was destroyed and Wonderland together with the shops and amusement arcades on the front were all badly flooded.

Buildings and stalls built on the sands such as the Arcadia were so badly damaged,  that the remnants had to be dismantled altogether.  The North sands themselves were littered with broken slot machines, and the remains of ice-cream and confectionary outlets. Our seaside economy lay in ruins.

As regards our residents, when the sea defenses were broken, the sea raged down Suggitt’s Lane flooding everything in its path. Soon Oliver Street and Wilson Street were next and eventually the sea reached Grimsby Road.   Ellision Street and Tennyson Road soon followed and hundreds of residents had water inside their houses and were forced to retreat upstairs, dragging what belongings they could save, behind them.

It was accepted that up to that time, this was the worst flood to hit our area ever. Work started immediately to repair the damage and clear the wreckage. The race was on to open the area in time for the holiday season. Jobs and local income depended on it.

Surprisingly, much was accomplished in the time and various new festivities were successfully organised. For example the Coronation of our Queen occurred on the 2nd June that year and we enjoyed a full week of celebration, culminating with a huge event at Blundell Park. It was a Grand Coronation Display and Searchlight Tattoo.  It was a huge success.

A much later flooding in 1978 saw a repeat, with water again pouring down Suggitt’s Lane and Oliver Street with people taking refuge upstairs and having considerable damage to their belongings.  A total of 402 houses were flooded. This event at last, saw the need for building the new sea defense.

The Anglian Water company then built a new sea wall the length of the coast, between Wonderland and the Grimsby docks in an effort to prevent further episodes of this nature.

Then again more recently, the latest improvements to the sea wall include a new flood defense near Blundell Park, all of which is part of a £20 million pound scheme, being carried out by the Environment Agency, in partnership with ABP, and the Council, to reduce risk to 14000 homes in the area.

Nevertheless as with past years, many residents are well aware of the increasing problems of living in an area, that for years has been considered a flood risk and though grateful for these measures, do not believe that this is a total end to the problem.

Time will tell.