January 31, 2023 7.00 pm This story is over 15 months old

Lincolnshire survivors reflect on “terrible night” of 1953 floods

Survivors recall the devastating flood on the Lincolnshire coast

Survivors and relatives of the 1953 flood that claimed the lives of 43 people and devastated Lincolnshire communities on the east coast have been telling their stories at a special exhibition marking 70 years since the event.

The exhibition is held at the North Sea Observatory in Chapel St Leonards until the end of February, and features photographs, newspaper articles, and local children’s schoolwork from the time of the flood. A memorial service was held in Ingoldmells prior to the event.

The flood, which was caused by a combination of high spring tides and severe winds, saw water surge as far as two miles inland, seriously affecting areas such as Mablethorpe, Sutton on Sea, and Skegness.

Reports from the time say that the sea overflowed into the towns and villages along the coast, breaching defences and leaving them underwater.

With the addition of the morning’s high tide and the continued storm, the flooding only got worse.

Following the flood, sand and mud needed to be pumped back to sea so that people could return to their homes, and the military were brought in to shore up defences before the next high tide in February.

Ian Espley looking at some of the Sutton on Sea images. | Image: Daniel Jaines

David Mitchell, who lived in Chapel St Leonards at the age of 10 at the time, said: “It was a terrible night, it really was.

“There was some real heroism, two George medals and lots of other citations, and it has an indelible effect on my memory and that of my family.”

John Castleton’s parents lived in Mablethorpe and his father pushed his mother to safety on a table.

“Mum couldn’t swim, dad could, and he had quick thinking to use the kitchen table,” he said.

“They must have gone for nearly three miles because he told me they grounded at Maltby le Marsh.”

However, it wasn’t all happy news as a First World War survivor in the bungalow behind his parents sadly died.

Gordon Maltby with a visitors permit he was issued on February 3, 1953. | Image: Daniel Jaines

A number of local dignitaries attended the opening of the exhibit. | Image: Daniel Jaines

Several pictures, maps and childrens’ drawings are on display. | Image: Daniel Jaines

Ian Espley was six at the time and saw the high tide as it came in.

“We went upstairs and within half an hour the water was almost at ceiling level,” he said, describing how his father helped rescue two boys from across the road.

Mr Epsley was evacuated to Barton upon Humber for about six weeks to escape the devastation.

Councillors also paid tribute during the event, with Councillor Colin Davie saying: “Lincolnshire has battled with floods throughout our history and its a challenge that persists to this day.

“It’s vital that we take steps together with local and national partners to maintain and improve those sea defences where necessary,” he said.


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