23 JANUARY 1841, Page 5


Great alarm was created in Brentford on Sunday morning, by an overflow of the Brent River and the Grand Junction Canal. The canal joins the river Thames southward of New Brentford, running at the rear of the town on the South for some hundred yards. On the North side of the high-road, which crosses the canal by means of a strongly-built stone bridge, it is joined by the river Brent. The general belief is, that it was the immense body of land-water occa- sioned by the rapid thaw, which poured down from the country, swel- ling the stream of the Brent, which caused the catastrophe. The scene is thus described by the reporter of the Times- " The water, it appears, was first observed to be slowly rising about half- past twelve o'clock on Saturday night ; but no fears of an inundation being entertained by the persons residing near, they retired to rest, little dreaming that they would be so soon aroused from their slumbers. Towards two o'clock, however, Police-constable Smith, T 60, who was on duty near the bridge, observing the water still increasing and rushing with great force to the Thames, awakened some of the boatmen belonging to what are called 'monkey-boats,' large numbers of which were moored off the different wharfs abutting on the canal, and cautioned them to be on the alert for their own security. At that time, and even up to half-past three o'clock on Sunday morning, immediate danger was not apprehended • but a few minutes before four o'clock, a loud noise was heard to the North of the town, which momentarily approached nearer and nearer ; and it was soon ascertained that the narrow stream of the Brent had swelled into a mighty river, and, overflowing its banks, was pouring itself into the already increased waters of the canal. Numbers of boats, barges, and lighters were instantly torn from their moorings, and driven with great force through the bridge, towards the Thames. At the same instant, also, the accumulated waters having overflowed all the premises North of the high-road, burst with frightful force through two avenues by the houses of Mr. Brasher, near the bridge, and Mr. Farrell, directly opposite the church, filling the lower rooms of the houses. The Police immediately sprang their rattles, and lost no time in awakening the inhabitants to a sense of their danger; and where some were too deeply_ buried in sleep to be aroused by the knocking, they forced the doors open. The scene at that moment it is impossible to describe: men, women, and children, (many of them in their night-clothes,) were running in all directions for places of shelter ; while the roaring of the water, added to the screams of the wretched inhabitants of the boats, and of the individuals inha- biting the numerous cottages running South of the town down to the water- aide, were most appalling. In a very short time, all the houses at that portion of the town were flooded, and the water rising rapidly, the occupiers of the houses near the market-place commenced damming up their doors; and there is no doubt that the whole not only of New Brentford but also of Old Brent- ford would shortly have become under water, had the stream not found itself an outlet at the bottom of Church Alley, by razing the wall of the extensive nursery-grounds of Messrs. Ronalds, and another wall at the Southern extre- mity of the grounds, by which it joined the canal near its outlet to the Thames. Every possible assistance was immediately rendered by those of the inhabitants who had not been reached by the inundation. About five o'clock the water was at the highest, and the only means of communication between tile houses near the bridge was by a boat. Towards six o'clock it was ascertained that the water was gradually decreasing; and daylight was anxiously looked for,that the extent of the effects of the inundation might be ascertained."

The damage to the barges and houses was very great, but the loss of life was less than might have been expected. A boatman was drowned; and on Monday the body of Mr. Morris, a market-gardener, was found in a pond near his house. Some of the escapes were curious— "During the early-part of the day, fears were entertained that the whole of the crews of the boats, dr.c. which have been wrecked were drowned ; and much inte- rest was excited to ascertain the fate of a family of seven children, who, with their father and mother, named Tolley, it was known were on Saturday evening on board one of the boats belonging to Messrs. Price and Sons, of Brim-L.), Hill, which boat is one of those sunk. It was, however, in the afternoon ascertained that they had been most miraculously saved, as the boat was being driven along by the current, by the exertions of a family named Ayres, living in a cottage at the bottom of Boar's Head Yard, who, as the boat passed the window, suc- ceeded in dragging in the seven children, where our reporter saw them, and where he learned that the father and mother had also been saved. At the next cottage were also two sisters of the name of Forster, each with one child, who were rescued from another boat. It has also been ascertained that no fewer than twenty-one men, women, and children, saved their lives by climbing over the wall of the Duke of Northumberland's grounds and taking refuge in a cow- house, where they have been since found."

The inhabitants of the neighbourhood exerted themselves to assist the sufferers. The infant schools were thrown open for the admission of the boatmen and their families to the number of ninety persons ; who were provided with good food.

On Wednesday, an inquest was held on the ;body of William Spruce, aged nineteen, who was drowned during the inundation. The witnesses examined were of opinion that the great damage done to the boats and barges, of which about thirty were swamped, was owing to the floAs of timber in the river Brent ; the fastenings of which gave way, and then drove the boats against the bridges and banks, and upon one another. One witness stated, that in some instances the boats were thrown upon one another four deep. The water, when at its highest, rose to within a foot of the top of the arch of Brentford Bridge. It rose for more than three hours, and at one part of the time as rapidly as a yard in half an hour. The deceased was at the helm of his barge, when, by its suddenly striking against the Duke of Northumberland's wall, he was thrown into the water. The inquiry was adjourned for a week, with a view to ascertain whether there had been any culpability in placing the timber- floats on the river, or any neglect of proper precautions in their fas- tenings.

An inquest was held on Wednesday on the body of Mr. Morris. It appeared from the evidence of a Policeman, that he saw Morris on Sa- turday night about eleven o'clock, on Brentford Bridge, very much in- toxicated : the Policeman saw him partly on his way home, when he determined to go by another path ; and it is supposed he walked into a brook, which was flooded. There was a large wound in his forehead, caused probably by the ice. The Jury returned a verdict of "Found drowned."

In Essex, the river Lea overflowed and did great damage throughout the Western division of the county. During the whole of Monday, this part of the country, to a distance of about six miles in length, reaching into Epping Forest, was one vast sheet of water ; the depth in many parts where the land lay low being five or six feet The prospect from the line of the Eastern Counties Railway caused much alarm ; as north and south of the line, as far as the eye could reach, was one united body

of water, which was banked up by the railway, and had its outlet only through the arches. From that position horses and cows were seen swimming in various directions, and vast quantities of timber were floating upon the surface of the water.

Shortly after nine o'clock on Saturday evening, the lower part of the town of Windsor, in the neighbourhood of Sheet Street, and Sheet Street Road, was laid several feet under water, in consequence of a violent rush of waters from the up-lands in the Great Park, in the vici- nity of Cranbourne. In the space of less than half an hour, without any previous warning, such was the rapidity of the progress of the stream, the whole of the houses on the South side of Gloucester Place were inundated ; the cellars, parlours, and kitchens being filled, and the main road, leading from Windsor to Ascot, for several hundreds of yards three and four feet under water. A gradual rise continued till past one o'clock on Sunday morning, when the water partially subsided, after doing considerable damage.

The effects of the floods were severely felt in Watford and the neigh- bourhood. About five o'clock on Sunday morning, an immense body of water came down the river Comae, which speedily overflowed its banks, and rushed with the utmost impetuosity into the town. The rush of the flood was so sudden and violent, that the watchman on duty at the

waterworks had hardly time to make his escape, and he was obliged to

wade up to his middle in water before he got to a place of safety. The water poured with frightful violence into the High Street of Watford, and at eight o'clock there was a depth in some places of from six to eight feet. The inhabitants were obliged to take shelter in the top rooms, as they had no opportunity to leave their habitations. All means of communication were of course entirely stopped. The water conti- nued to increase for several hours ; and in the midale of the day the whole of the meadows, extending on each side of the town of Watford to the embankment of the London and Birmingham Railway, presented the appearance of a vast lake. A great deal of property has been washed away, and a number of pigs and sheep were also lost ; but hap- pily no human life has been sacrificed.

In Wiltshire, the destruction of houses and life has been lamentable, especially in the villages on Salisbury Plain. At Shrewton, thirty-six houses have been washed away, and three lives have been lost—a man, a boy, and a girl ; at Wylye, not many houses, but one life ; at Stoke, about thirty houses ; at Tilshead, seven, houses ; at Chittern, two en- tirely, two partially. The following account is given by the corre- spondent of the Times— 'On Saturday last there appeared no extraordinary rising of the waters in the locality of Shrewton, till about six o'clock in the evening, when a deep

body of waters surrounded those villages, which lie very low, and terror and

dismay seemed to oppress the spirits of every one. About eight o'clock, the scene baffled description : the night was dark, the wind very boisterous, the

roaring of the waters dismal, and the falling of houses in every direction with

a dreadful crash, truly appalling, and twenty-five houses, in less than three hours, were consequently either totally washed away or reduced to heaps of un- tenantable ruins. Children were heard crying for their parents and parents for their children ; and four hundred souls were left without house or home. At Maddington and Orcheston, which adjoins to Slarewton, there were eleven houses destroyed, making a total of thirty-six houses. We now proceed to detail some of the most heart-rending particulars_ Being near the house Of Joseph Blewden, a carpenter, who lived close by the main river at Shrewtott, our notice was particularly attracted to his house, it being rendered totally inaccessible by the gathering of the watery element. Blewden was unfortu- nately from home ; and his wife and five children were there alone, crying for assistance, which could not be rendered them. At length the top of one of the side-walls gave way, and then we could indistinctly perceive the wretched mother and her helpless children. Another crash then followed, which we found to be the foundation-wall of that side of the house; and with it the floor of the room in which the mother and the five children were, gave way partially, and then a scene of distress followed. Four of the children were seen huddled up together in a corner of the room, while the fifth, an engaging little boy, three years of age, had slipped partly down the declivity of the floor ; and the mother, with a wonderful presence of mind, caught it by one of its heels, and there held it for a few minutes, amid the shrieks and piercing cries of those who could every now and then by the assistance of lights catch a glimpse of the appalling scene. At length another tottering of the ruins followed; and the mother, to save hr own existence, was obliged to quit her hold, and the little boy was soon carried away, and drowned. The house of Mr. Fulford, baker, also in Shrewton, was another scene of wo." The house met with a similar fate to that of poor Blewden's : one of the side-walls hav- ing given way, the daughter of Mr. Fulford fell therefrom into the river, and sank to rise no more. Her body has since been found ; it was washed some distance, into a cart-house : and almost at the same time, Mr. Fulford was killed in the same house from which his daughter fell, by means of a huge piece of timber falling on him, which instantly deprived him of his existence."

At Sunderland, immense damage was done to the shipping in the river Wear, owing to masses of ice being brought down after the thaw

by the ebb-tide. Some provision had been made against the danger, but the force of the floating masses of ice was greater than contem- plated. The main body of ice, borne along rapidly by the swollen cur- rent, reached Sunderland harbour about half-past four o'clock on Tues- day morning, bearing with irresistible sway all before it ; driving from

their moorings, and in some instances with their moorings, upwards of one hundred sail of ships, several steam-boats, innumerable keels and other small craft, with rafts of timber, huddled together in the most distressing confusion. The ice was completely formed into one solid and extended sheet ; and it remained itnmoveable during the whole of the day, undisturbed by the flux and reflux of the tide, interspersed with wrecked materials, and men and boys passing and repassing in pursuit of what they could pick up. Several men were missing, but it was hoped that they were on board the vessels that had been carried oat to sea. One brig was swamped, and thrown, bottom upwards, across the harbour- mouth. The crew were drawn ashore with a rope, but one man was knocked overboard before the brig sank, and was drowned.

At Glasgow, the ice came down the river in the same manner as at

Sunderland, threatening destruction to the shipping. The precautions that had been taken were, however, generally sufficient to prevent seri- ous damage. Four vessels got adrift, but they were brought back with- out having received much injury. The Glasgow Courier describes the masses of ice on the river to have resembled icebergs-

" From the continued accumulation, large bodies would rise to the height of several feet, and crush against each other with great impetuosity; but the pres- sure below, from the bridge to the mouth of the harbour, was so great 48 to form an impassable barrier, while the dark surge rolled below as obscurely as if it had been tunnelled over. The scene was one calculated to create uneasy feelings ; but even in its most dangerous aspect there was magnificence, and many thousands were attracted to the banks of the river and the bridges, to gaze with wonder on a sight so unusual in this part of the world."