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Portland Floods

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.

The '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 full size


The aftermath of the a flood in Brandy Row, Chiswell.
Flood damage at the bottom of Brandy Row.
A cyclist battles through the flood water outside the Masonic Hall in Victoria Square.
Stranded cars in flood water in Victoria Square.
Children play in the flood water outside the the Terminus Inn (now The Little Ship). To the left is the Lord Clyde public house. The buildings set back to the left on the Lord Clyde were bombed during WWII.

Thanks to Richard Ashe for the above information.

Victoria Square 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 homes."

"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 collapse."


The 1979 floods.
Damage to the causeway in 1979.
Huge waves pound the sea wall.
Huge waves pound the sea wall.
Victoria Square February 14 1979
The aftermath of the floods on February 14 1979, destroyed cars stacked up behind the beach. After this storm Chesil Beach Motors moved to the top of the island and out of harms reach.
February 14 1979
February 14 1979
February 14 1979

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