|The eastern end of Chesil
Beach has often been overcome by the sea, over the years
many houses have been destroyed and ships wrecked by storms
in Lyme bay.
'Great Gale' of 1824
Those who lived in Dorset's coastal towns
and villages were well used to severe storms which threw up
on their shores wrecked ships, spilled cargoes and drowned
men. Nothing, though, prepared them for the terrifying night
of 22nd/23rd November 1824 when a gale which had been
blowing all day rose in the darkness of the early hours to
become a hurricane of such destructive violence that it has
gone down in the county's history as the 'Great Gale'.
The storm ripped across the south-west of
England leaving devastation in its wake. Buildings were torn
apart, trees uprooted and livestock drowned as rivers rose
and overflowed their banks. Sea walls were breached, piers
and quays were swept away as tides reached unheard of
heights. Wrecked vessels littered the coasts of Hampshire,
Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. At Portland there were scenes of
destruction and misery as huge seas swept over Chesil Beach
and crashed down on the village of Chiswell, demolishing
more than thirty houses and damaging a hundred others so
badly that they were uninhabitable. Twenty five Portlanders
drowned in the deluge, some buried under their homes, others
swept away by the sea. The ferry between Portland and the
mainland was washed away, as were the boats and nets (and
consequently the livelihoods) of the local fishermen. In the
days which followed, not only were the Portlanders burying
their own dead, but also the bodies of shipwreck victims
cast up by the waves.
Below are pictures of flooding.
Click on the images to see them
under several feet of water during the 1978/79 floods.
Extract from the Daily Mirror, February 14 1979:
"Tide of Fear: Families flee as 60ft waves engulf their
"The tide-tortured people of Portland trembled in their
beds last night - numb with terror at the mountains of water
shattering their lives. Only the brave stayed put after a
barrage of 60 ft waves roared into their homes... Wave after
wave crashed over the beach, pounding cars into rows of
crumpled wrecks and swamping homes with 6 ft of water.
Screaming victims jumped from windows as the sea swept
upstairs, reducing some houses to the point of complete