Tuesday, May 21st, 2024

Do you remember when Sevenoaks was almost washed away 50 years ago?

THE Sevenoaks area experienced some of the worst floods in its history 50 years ago this month.

Chipstead residents are evacuated on the back of a farm truck with some of their belongings

A weekend of torrential rain in September 1968 resulted in people being evacuated from their homes while others were trapped on the top floor of their houses. Cars were carried away by the deluge and blocked drains made the situation worse. They caused a health hazard when sewage and mud combined into a sea of filth.

Every village surrounding Sevenoaks was also affected but elderly Otford residents with long memories will particularly remember the floods because the flowing water washed away the Mill Bridge over the River Darent. Otford High Street was cut off from Pilgrims Way for several days until the army erected a temporary Bailey Bridge which was controlled by traffic lights until a new road crossing was built.

Seal Hollow Road, close to the entrance to Knole Park Golf Club, is almost unrecognisable under the floodwater which turned the road into a raging river

Former Sevenoaks photographer, Roger Tutt, was again out and about capturing many of the memorable shots featured here, although it was his friend and colleague Alex Watson who managed to get one of the most dramatic pictures in Seal Hollow Road, Sevenoaks.

Roger said: “Alex took the iconic picture in Seal Hollow Road when water burst through the wall next to the hole in the wall entrance. The water ran like a raging river and continued on along the entire length of Seal Hollow Road.

“The water crossed the A25 Seal Road and ended up filling a quarry behind the houses opposite the former Wildernesse School. I noticed on a recent visit that there are some new houses built where the quarry once was!

“I went to Chipstead where people had to be rescued on the back of a farm trailer and I took the before and after photographs of a bungalow garden which was completely washed away by the flood.

BEFORE: This bungalow close to Chipstead Lakes was almost completely washed away

In the health and safety world we now live in I am sure I wouldn’t be allowed to go to the places to get the best shots now. To take the shot of the water roaring past the bungalow I waded in about thigh deep. It was a case of bracing against the flow. I had just done the picture when I heard someone shouting, I turned and there was a policeman standing on a dry part of the road beckoning to me.

“I made my way back to him and was told, in no uncertain terms, that I was an idiot for wading into the water. When I went back the next day the place I was standing was part of the big hole. I guess he had a point, but it was a good picture!”

AFTER: When the water subsided a Fiat 500 was found in a large hole caused by the floods

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