The 5 Deadliest Flash Floods In England

Written by Justin Sexton
Published: October 9, 2023
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A rainy day on the South Bank of River Thames with Palace of Westminster in Background, London, England, UK

A rainy day on the South Bank of the River Thames with the Palace of Westminster in the Background, London, England, UK


England is an island in the region of the United Kingdom alongside Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. The country has contributed to much of the world’s history. Their contributions are limitless to inventions, literature, art, architecture, and technology. England has almost 1,500 total rivers across their small country. Many of those rivers are susceptible to flooding based on their constant rainfall. They get more rain than the United States as they average eighty-seven days of rainfall compared to the one-hundred-fifty-six rainy days England gets annually. England is very prone to flooding because of their climate. This article will cover some of the deadliest floods in England.

The Lynmouth Flood 1952

Old-time footage of the Lynmouth Flood in 1952

England natives still look back at the tragic Lynmouth Flood to this day. On the night of August 15th going into August 16th, a storm with heavy rainfall hit Lynmouth village in north Devon. The tropical storm hit the southwestern England region giving nine inches of rain to the area. Floodwaters came down a slope and hit the Lynmouth village. There was debris from fallen trees and materials swooped up from the flood that formed a dam. The dam eventually broke and sent a massive rush of water into the surrounding rivers.

In a 1952 issue of the Sunday Express, a guest at the Lynmouth Hotel gave her depiction of the incident.

“From seven o’clock to nine o’clock, the water rose rapidly. At nine o’clock, it was like an avalanche coming through the hotel, bringing down boulders from the hills and breaking down doors, walls, and windows. Within half an hour the guests had evacuated the ground floor. In another ten minutes, the second floor was covered, and then we made the top floor where we spent the night.”

The River Lyn and the River Bray flooded as a result of this storm. The storm destroyed more than one-hundred buildings along with twenty-eight bridges. It sent thirty-eight cars out to the sea, and four hundred twenty people were homeless. There were a total of thirty-four casualties as a result of the flood.

The Devastating North Sea Flood In 1953

A video documenting the significance of the 1953 North Sea Flood that impacted four countries.

This horrendous flood caused the surrounding countries to think about redefining their coastal defenses, warning systems, and weather predictions. The devastating North Sea Flood affected England, Belgium, Scotland, and the Netherlands.

It had a number of different elements combined to create this tragic flooding. Severe gust winds with a deep pressure system affecting the spring tides became the perfect mix for disaster. Costa Hill in Scotland recorded winds up to 126 mph. The high winds and high tides funneled southward toward the narrow English Channel. One of the things that affected England during the flood was their terrain. England has some spots that are above sea level. Some of the significant areas that are just above sea level are Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Essex, and the mouth of the Thames. Fifty percent of the Netherlands territory is fifty percent above sea level and twenty percent of it is under sea level.

On January 31st, 1953, the North Sea flood swamped northern Europe. The weather forecast that day only said rain and high winds, but didn’t mention any potential flooding. A survivor in Norfolk stated that it took less than fifteen minutes for his house to fill up five feet inside of the house. Many houses around the beachside and lower sea level terrains collapsed instantaneously due to the immense water pressure.

The death toll was very high. The storm hit a passenger ferry MV Princess Victoria, destroying the ferry. 133 people died and only forty-four people made it out of the sunken ferry.


The sea walls of the United Kingdom from World War 2 became no more. It inundated over 160,000 acres of land with seawater, therefore making it incapable of agriculture for many years. Thousands of livestock and animals were washed out into the sea or killed by debris. The flood destroyed over 24,000 English homes. This left over 40,000 England residents homeless. This wasn’t only one of the deadliest floods in England, but one of the deadliest floods in European history.

The death count in the Netherlands was much higher. Flood waters submerged over 337,000 acres of Dutch farmland. The countries received help from countries such as Canada, Finland, and even Kuwait. The Red Cross also took the initiative to help the flooded countries. England and the surrounding countries launched some new protocols in order to rebuild the lands and prevent future catastrophes like this from ever happening again.

The overall death count was:

  • England lost over 307 people
  • 19 people died in Scotland
  • 28 died in Belgium
  • 1,836 people died in the Netherlands
  • 361 people died in the seas

River Thames Flood of 1928

This infamous flood started at the source of the River Thames in the Cotswolds. Heavy snow thawed and doubled the water volume. On January 7th, 1928, this flood left many people in Millibanks and London swimming to safety and even more houses severely damaged. A total of fourteen people died; four thousand people were homeless. This was London’s last severe flood. The Parliament, The Tower of London, and The Tate Gallery were swamped with water.

Fourteen people drowned as a result of the River Thames flood. Unfortunately, there was no warning system in effect nor a Thames barrier to alarm and protect the residents of London and Millibanks. For the first time in over eighty years, water filled the moat at the Tower of London with water. The first section of the river to give way was Millibank by The Tate Gallery. A good amount of the portraits were on the first floor of the gallery. Tate Gallery lost eighteen paintings as they were beyond repair. Sixty-seven of them suffered slight damage. Meanwhile, two hundred twenty-six of the oil paintings suffered severe damage.

Police urged citizens to leave their homes. They rescued citizens via carts and boats. Plenty of notable victims were poor residents who lived in crowded basements. The river embarkments were heightened in the flood’s aftermath. However, the North Sea Flood of 1953 had to happen in order for the government to look into constructing the Thames barrier.

Great Flood of 1968

This video shows thirty-three unique photos of The Great Flood of 1968. Some photos show the flood in real time and the aftermath.

A trough of low pressure brought an insane amount of rain and thunderstorms across South England and France in September 1968. The worst day during the month-long span of storms took place on September 15, 1968. Some of the flooded areas include Horley, Petersfield, Tilbury, Tunbridge Wells, Crawley, and East Grinstead. The flooding also affected train travelers. A train going to Hastings had to stop due to the inclement weather, leaving over one hundred fifty people stuck on a train for twelve hours. Overall, two months’ amount of rain struck South England in less than forty-eight hours

The Great Flood took eight lives and destroyed over three thousand homes. Newspapers the next day had the headline “Terror That Struck In The Dark” as the flood happened overnight going into the morning. Many shops and stores at Bedminster were severely flooded and closed as a result of the damages. Residents were hanging out of their windows to view their flooded gardens. The flood was so bad that the mayor of Lewisham jumped in a dingy to evacuate residents out of flooded homes and buses.

Boscastle Flood of 2004

In 2004, BBC News covered the Boscatle Flood and called it one of the most devastating floods in modern British history. This flood damaged two villages in Boscastle and Crackington Haven. Before this flood in 2004, they had a similar flood exactly fifty-two years ago to that day. On August 16th, 2004, moisture from the residual heat in the Atlantic Ocean moved toward the southwest Cornish area of the United Kingdom as strong gusts. The winds and the moisture created the rainfall that hit England that day.

In one hour, it created a seven-foot increase in the river levels. Then a ten-foot wave swerved down the South West Cornish area. It was an estimate of 530,000,000 US Gallons of water flown through Boscastle. Over 100 buildings were destroyed. Trees and debris were scattered across the area. Over seventy-five cars, five caravans, several boats, and six buildings were washed into the sea. Fortunately enough, no lives were lost and no major injuries were reported. The only reported injury was a broken thumb. However, the cost of the total damages was very grave. Total damages cost England fifteen million pounds, which is roughly eighteen million dollars in American currency.

By early 2005, most of the shops and stores reopened. New flood barriers were built. Most of the repairs to the damaged buildings were done and new buildings constructed were in place of the ones lost by the storm. The Cornish area of Boscastle and Crackington Haven finished their recoveries by 2008.

The Flood of 1099

This is the oldest flood in this article and it might be one of the deadliest floods in England. If not, the deadliest one. The Flood of 1099 was also at the River Thames. England had a thing called “The Sands”, which are sandbanks that guarded a deep water anchorage called “The Downs.” History recalls that “The Sands” was once an island owned by Earl Godwine, an advisor to King Edward The Confessor. Yet, there were claims that the storm washed away the island and left behind the sandbanks. Most historical reports stated that over one hundred thousand people were killed in The Flood of 1099.


This table is in no order of which out of the five deadliest floods in England was the worst. There are too many factors to indicate which one was more severe than the other. If it was ranked from best to worst, some of these factors would’ve been considered:

  • How much money did it cost?
  • How many lives were lost?
  • How high was the flooding?

Most of the floods in this list happened in a one-hundred-fifty-year range with the exception of The Flood of 1099. Plus the value of the British pound has grown tremendously in the past millennium. Also, some metrics of the 1099 flood can not be tracked properly like the others on this list such as how much the damages were. Below is a chart of the five deadliest floods in England.

The Five Deadliest Flash Floods In England

1The Flood of 1099
2The River Thames Flood of 1928
3The North Sea Flood of 1953
4The Lynmouth Flood of 1952
5Boscastle Flood of 2004

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Csaba Peterdi/

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About the Author

Justin is an A-Z Animals Writer that loves to cover places, unique natural disasters, and travel. He has eight years of experience as a writer in the medical and media fields. He wrote for the likes of VCU Health, theMSQshop, PayDay LA, and Comic Book Resources under the penname Jay Guevara. Although he's a full time writer, Justin graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2019 with a Bachelors in Health, Physical Education, and Exercise Science with a background in Community Engagement. After spending over two decades in Richmond, Virginia, Justin now resides in the suburbs of Rancho Cucamonga, California. He's a dedicated gymrat. He's also a two-time poetry author who's influenced by rappers Joe Budden and IDK along with Dante Alighieri.

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