Floods of 1953 at Sutton on Sea.
Throughout its history, Sutton has battled against the sea. Early accounts tell us of floods which washed away parts of the village in 1248, 1250 and 1251. Also in 1253 the sea flowed as far as Alvingham. 1571 saw great disaster for the village when, on October 5th, the high tide accompanied by a fierce wind and rain, took the church and a great part of the village.
On the night of January 31st, 1953, came a grim reminder of what it must have been like in 1571 when the sea overran Old Sutton. All that day a fierce gale had been blowing. A storm surge caused by winds built up to about 10 feet above high tide. It travelled along the coast one and a half hours ahead of high water. This, combined with the high tide, caused the sea to overflow into the town. It also caused breaches in the defenses. One of the most extensive being at what became known as Acre Gap.
Seawater, sand and mud poured through, covering a wide expanse of land, both along the coast and inland until it was stopped by rising ground. Flooding in some places reached a depth of 5 feet or more. A number of people were drowned and Sutton was evacuated.
Sandilands Acre Gap - temporary defence
An army of troops and workmen worked round the clock to repair the damage to the sea defenses, often having to refill gaps made by the previous high tide. They had two weeks before the next high Spring Tide. They were successful. The next high tide on February 16th., came and went with the defenses still intact.
Work had continued day and night with 25,000 tons of material being poured into the breaches every 24 hours. Millions of gallons of water had to be pumped back into the sea.. Sand and mud had to be cleared from streets and houses. The RAF used their large dryers to dry out furniture and carpets. The people of Sutton returned to their houses and set about the task of getting life back to normal.
New sea defenses were constructed and, to date, have served the town well but a constant watch is kept on them and new work carried out when necessary.
Text by John Monk; photos courtesy of Peter Leake.
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