The Lynmouth flood disaster occurred on the night of Friday 15th August 1952, when 34 persons lost their lives on Exmoor, 16 of who were at Lynmouth, 12 at Barbrook.
Lynmouth is situated on Exmoor, at the mouth of the East Lyn and West Lyn
rivers. Exmoor is a high tableland at about 1500 feet above sea level, covering
some 265 square miles, and is drained by rivers and streams running in steeply
sloping gorges. It is a barren plateau, sparsely covered with grass and heather
in the shallow soil, covering the solid rock beneath. The shallow soil depth
results in a quick run-off of rainfall, down the steeply falling streams and
The first two weeks of August 1952 had been very wet: 6½ inches of rain were recorded in the district. On the 15th August, heavy rain commenced before daybreak, and continued until the early hours of the following morning. In fact about ten inches of rain fell during those 24 hours. In this country one inch of rain in a short period is unusual, but on this occasion it was calculated that the intensity was equal to five inches in one single hour.
Rainfall of this magnitude, falling on the already waterlogged and impervious ground, resulted in a rapid and nearly complete run-off from the moor. The rivers became raging torrents; trees were uprooted and carried away; bridges blocked and then burst asunder, and boulders weighing up to 30 and 40 tons were torn from the river beds and banks, to become instruments of destruction.
It is therefore no wonder that Lynmouth, situated at the confluence of the two rivers was so severely damaged, 93 buildings were either swept away all damaged; 132 vehicles were missing -- presumed swept out to sea, and 114,000 tons of debris had to be removed from the river channels and estuary, and Lynmouth generally. Every boat was washed away from the harbour and smashed to pieces: the harbour arm, surmounted by the Rhenish Tower was under scoured and carried away, leaving only a shattered remnant.
The building of the harbour, roads, bridges and river realignment work in Lynmouth took four years, at a cost of £725,000, funded by local and national government. The £1.3 million raised by the North Devon and West Somerset relief fund was distributed to the 1710 people who suffered in the disaster.
To make Lynmouth secure in future, the river channels as carved out by the flood were accepted and widened still further for safety.
To commemorate the disaster and to acknowledge their magnificent generosity of all those who contributed to the flood fund, a Memorial Hall was built in Lynmouth. Upstairs in the building and open to the public, there is maintained a permanent exhibition of flood memorabilia.
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