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Like many towns and villages in the Trent Valley, Long Eaton and Sawley have, over the years, been extremely prone to flooding.

"It may be proper to mention that in 1587 both the Trent and the Derwent were greatly swelled by a flood, which carried away St Mary's Bridge; and again in 1610 and 1673, the Moorledge was so swelled by sudden rain, as to do much damage in Derbyshire. November 5th, 1698, the Derwent was greatly flooded, also on the 21st November 1791, when it carried away Toad-Moor Bridge above Belper...... In February 1805 the Trent was unusually flooded.
Taken from Farey's Derbyshire, of 1817.
Many discussions had taken place and various plans proposed to prevent or reduce the nuisance and loss caused by flooding in Long Eaton and Sawley. When the Erewash Canal was first made, flood gates were fixed at Trent Lock. In the course of time these gates perished and have not been renewed. In 1886 and at later dates the old local board drew attention to the need for these gates to be re-instated in preparation for time of flood. Mr John Sheldon, surveyor to the Local Board produced a plan for dealing with floods, but nothing came of it. After the 1901 flood a determined effort was made to deal with the difficulty of flooding. Three schemes were suggested and considered and eventually the number two scheme was adopted, the cost was to be in the region of 1,500. After many discussions Mr Frank Worrall (surveyor) was instructed to prepare the plans.

In 1884, following heavy rain during the night, muddy waters spread far and wide by morning. Before the day was over, thousands of acres of land were submerged. The water found its way into town at a higher point than previously, and many tradesmen sustained considerable loss. Inmates of the almshouses on the High Street were washed out and had to be rescued. Local traders borrowed boats and rafts in order to deliver essentials through bedroom windows, to householders trapped inside. Later years brought far worse floods which took on the magnitude of a local disaster.

Still nothing was done until 1910 when a comprehensive scheme including a floodbank for the protection of Cranmer Street and Walton Street and a flood wall from Long Eaton lock to the railway embankment was proposed. Flood gates at the Sheet Stores Basin were to be considered. In July 1912 the first section of the flood wall from the lock to the wharf was reported complete and on May 26th 1914, the whole of the wall was finished. The wall is 18 inches wide and two feet six inches above the normal water level. This was a great attempt to control flooding, but was successful only up to a point. The problem was too big for any single local authority and in later years was dealt with by the River Trent Catchment Board by the building of a new flood bank for the protection of the town.

This flood bank commences at a point on Wilne Lane which is above the flood level and continues to the Harrington Bridge in Sawley. Beyond the bridge it continues to the railway embankment which became a flood bank to the area where Trent Station stood, then continued to Pasture Lane then turns north to join the railway line east of Long Eaton. On the Erewash Valley Canal flood locks were constructed near to the Sheet Stores and at dyke flaps and penstocks to prevent any upstream flow of flood water. Nevertheless, great floods still continued to cause serious problems in the town.

The photograph below was kindly contributed to this website by Mr Steve Shaw, cousin of Mr David Hutchings who has also contributed photographs to this page. The photograph was taken by his great-aunt, Mabel Annie Fisher, from the bedroom window of her house on Tamworth Road, where she lived for many years, opposite the fire station. The camera probably belonged to her neighbour Florrie Hobson who was manager of a store in Nottingham as far as he recalls. Mr Shaw's Grandmother lived at many addresses in Sawley, but at 246 Tamworth Road she had flood-water in several times "up to the light-switch" as she used to say. In the photo can be seen the roof of a factory on Broad Street which used to make"rubberised hair" for the furniture trade and probably supplied his uncle, Harold Hutchings, who owned the Duresta furniture company on Leopold Street. Also in the picture are some wooden huts which were classrooms of the Grammar School where music was taught.

In March 1933 an aeroplane pilot flying overhead, reported massive flooding in Sawley and Attenborough. His flight covered Derbyshire where he witnessed similar scenes, and the hills to the north of Ashbourne were covered in frozen snow, which threatened further disaster. But it was his opinion that the worst flooding was between Shardlow and Nottingham.
Thawing snow and heavy rain once again took its toll over Shardlow and Sawley in 1935, when hundreds of acres of farmland between the two villages were submerged.

Flood water rose so rapidly in February 1946, that families were too late to move furniture upstairs. A food distribution centre was set up in the Empire Cinema on the High Street in Long Eaton. The Army, Home Guard, Sea Scouts, Sea Cadets and Red Cross all helped in the distribution of food and the RAF loaned rubber dinghies. Dr J.P. Denny visited his patients in an army lorry, and was carried pick-a-back into the houses.

At a monthly meeting of the Long Eaton Council on Monday 25th November 1946, severe criticism was leveled at the River Trent Catchment Board, concerning flood prevention measures. Councillor F.G. Shipley was staggered that the Flood Prevention Measures Committee had been called only when the danger of flooding was so near and the people of Long Eaton and Sawley had spent a week living in fear of the possibility of flooding. Councillor Shipley said that flooding could be cured and recommended that the surveyor should be asked to prepare a scheme for the committee's approval. The Trent Catchment Board received a levy of 1d rate for flood prevention and it was suggested that the council should pay no more money until the Board took action.
In December 1946, Long Eaton was so near to another flood during heavy rains, that an official warning was issued. Those living in the flood areas moved all their belongings upstairs but fortunately, although water from the Trent and Soar inundated land on either side, it did not reach the town. The L.E.F.P.C. decided that the council should take some measures until the T.C.B. made a more comprehensive scheme. This involved building a flood bank from the high part of Wilne Road across to the bridge over the River Trent, then on to the railway embankment. The whole of the dyke from the railway at Lock Lane, to the cottages would be leveled and bought to fall at the old Lock Lane sewage works. The ditch to be re-leveled into the slough towards the River Trent.
At a council meeting in March 1947, it was reported that in the event of imminent flooding, a warning by loudspeaker vans would be put in action on the flood level reaching a height of 11ft. 4in. on the gauge. During the night of Thursday 13th March 1947, the Trent rose 12 inches at the rate of 1 inch an hour. It was feared that a rise of a further 2 feet would cause floods in Sawley. By March 22nd, 2,000 homes in Long Eaton, Sawley, Attenborough and Toton suffered severe and perilous flooding. The waters reached much higher levels than ever before. The Trent overflowed and the canal bank burst in 5 places. The steady and continued rush of water at Long Eaton reached the junction of Main Street and West Gate. In Tamworth Road, the water had reached to within 40 yards of Long Eaton Market Place and the town's situation was described as 'desperate'. The water was 5ft high at the junction of Tamworth Road and Wilsthorpe Road. Under the railway bridge, it stood at over 6ft. Traffic had to be diverted and hundreds of workers could not leave home. Those who had left before the flood levels rose, could not get back.

It wasn't until after these devastating floods of 1946-48 that a continuous line of embankments was formed around the south of the town, using railway embankments where possible. Although the Trent has not seriously invaded Long Eaton or Sawley since this time, Golden Brook and the Erewash have caused minor floods.

The 1875 flood has been the peak record for floods in Long Eaton. The next highest being in December 1852. The March 1947 flood came very close to the record, being only five inches less than in 1875, and two inches less than the 1852 flood, but in the number of people affected, the 1947 flood very much exceeded both the others. Very complete plans were organised and operated for the relief of flood sufferers. Ambulance cases were removed early, household furniture was removed and stored in the High Street Schools. Six punts were made available for use in the Meadow Lane area. Disinfectants and soap were distributed to all affected householders. At least 2,000 houses were affected by the 1947 flooding.

A total of 68,369 16s 0d was expended in aid to distressed people. The Lord Mayor's National Distress Fund provided a grant of 67,035 16s 8d to assist the work, the balance between the two was supplied from local fund raising efforts. Other relief gifts were received from the British Commonwealth and Colonies, and from the USA. The distribution was carried out by the British Red Cross and other volunteers.

The first major test for Long Eaton's flood defences after 1947 came in October and November 2000, when large areas of the country felt the effects of rivers that burst their banks due to abnormally heavy rainfall.

Shardlow was completely cut off by water. In Stapleford, sandbags were issued to homes in Moorbridge Lane, Warren Avenue, Oakfield Road and Thorpe Close. People in Attenborough voluntarily left their homes, in the Strand 30 or 40 houses had water lapping at their front doors while the Pavilion Recreation Ground at the nature reserve was under water.

The front page headline of The Long Eaton Advertiser dated 9th November read:

The accompanying report told how the Environment Agency issued a severe flood warning for the stretch of the River Trent between Castle Donington and Long Eaton.

The residents of Southfields on Main Street were evacuated as water was coming up through the drains around the area. Fields Farm was affected by overspill from the Erewash Canal and parts of West Park and the surrounding playing fields were under water.

Over the Harrington Bridge in Sawley, both Marshalls and the Plank and Leggit public house lost business as the road was closed due to severe flooding. The Lock Keeper's house at Sawley Marina had two foot of water inside and the only safe way to leave was by boat as the towpath was also flooded.

Many of Sawley's residents paid regular visits to the flood bank on Wilne Road to keep check on the level of the water. At its highest it reached close to the top of the bank and only a few feet below the motorway. The position of the Ox-bow lake could only just be discerned as the tops of the trees were visible above the water.

As most of the town remained relatively unaffected by flooding compared to earlier years, it would appear that Long Eaton's flood defences have, for the main part, been successful.

The following three photographs were taken by Mr M. Roberton on New Year's Day 2003 at Trent Lock.

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