Miscellany 4 - Floods in Longsleddale since 1749
including Storm Desmond
stranded tups
Black Thursday, 28th June 2012, stranded tups near Wadshow - but no casualties!

It often rains in Longsleddale. Heavy rain falling for several hours causes the river Sprint to rise rapidly and overflow into the fields and onto the road, making it impassable. When the rain stops the flood water quickly disappears down to Kendal. This flooding happens regularly, and the houses are sited well above the flood plain. But sometimes the rain is exceptional ...

Storm Desmond, 4th-6th December 2015: heavy rain fell continuously for 38 hours, a total of 262mm (10.31 inches) at Sadgill, which included 215mm (8.46 inches) on 5th December. After a very wet November the fields were already sodden, so the rain just ran off. Meteorologists described this event as an atmospheric river, thin but very long, which focussed directly onto Cumbria. Amongst other places in the county, Kendal was badly affected, with the worst flooding in living memory. December continued very wet, with 927mm (36.5 inches) at Sadgill, making the total rainfall here 3580mm (140.95 inches) in 2015, only half an inch less than record-breaking 2012.

the Sprint near Buckbarrow Crag
the Sprint near Buckbarrow Crag
the view from Wads Howe Bridge
the view from Wads Howe Bridge
the road near Middale
the road near Middale
photos courtesy of Margaret Bennet and Jean Norgate

graph, typical Typical heavy rain, easing off after a few hours.

graph, Storm Desmond Massive total rainfall, the result of steady heavy rain all day and all night.

graph, Black Thursday The reason for this dramatic event was not the amount of rain in total that day, but that so much fell in one hour!

Black Thursday, 28th June 2012: The rain on 28th June 2012 was quite different, a local cloudburst. Water cascaded down hillsides scouring out tracks and streams to bedrock, demolishing walls and scattering the stones, flattening crops, flooding houses. The river rose high, over Wadshowe Bridge, and a wave of water racing along the road overwhelmed a visitor's car.

cascades above Toms Howe
cascades above Toms Howe
the track at Wads Howe
the track at Wads Howe
the road near Stockdale
the road near Stockdale
rocks brought down by the torrent
rocks brought down by the torrent
Lily negociating Stile End Track
Lily negociating Stile End Track
Tills Hole Beck scoured to bedrock
Tills Hole Beck scoured to bedrock
photos courtesy of Geoff Plant, Alan Andrews, Lindy Jarvis, Martin Norgate

Raging torrent in Stockdale Beck, 6th August 2002. What rain you get depends very much on where you live. Over a year there can be 25% more rain at Swinklebank than at Murthwaite, and at Sadgill 50% more. Moreover each rain-storm is different, concentrated on one side of the valley, or on a particular fell, swelling different streams, causing different problems. Sometimes the contrast is startling. On 6th August 2002 there was bright sunshine at Tills Hole, whilst just a mile to the east a violent storm caused Stockdale Beck to break its banks in a spectacular way!

Stockdale Beck in spate
6th August 2002, Stockdale Beck
photo courtesy of Sylvia Fishwick

Post Office Van submerged, 1950's perhaps?: This picture seems to have come from the Westmorland Gazette. Can you help to date it? It is likely to be in November or December (Santa's Grotto is advertised on the back) but does not seem to belong to the big Kendal flood in December 1954.:-

PO van stuck, 1950's?
picture courtesy of Margaret Bennet and Westmorland Gazette

Black Thursday. Our postman's
van was safe this time
but he was unable to leave
for 5 hours!

Storm damage in Longsleddale, 9th October 1926: A long report about this storm in the Westmorland Gazette, 16th October 1926, page 7, was very detailed and interesting:-

The Great Kendal Flood, 2nd November 1898: When Kendal is flooded, Longsleddale may not get a mention in the newspaper. However the write-up of the storm on Tuesday night and the "Great Flood on Wednesday" on page 8 of the Westmorland Gazette, Saturday 5th November 1898, included a small paragraph:-
"... At Dale End, Longsleddale, considerable damage has been done. A breast wall three roods long was demolished, also a quantity of fence walling. The beck was so full that it quite covered the bridge. The roads in Longsleddale were quite impassable; near the vicarage the river overflowed into the road and was still there on Thursday. Right up to the top of the valley fences and light bridges have been carried down, and much damage done. On the Flatts above Sadgill the stream was a big lake, whilst the effects of the ghylls down the hillsides was very fine."
This flood was noted in the school log for November 3rd 1898:-
"School was not opened yesterday. The roads being in many places knee deep in water, neither children or I were able to cross."

Regular Flooding: The School Log Book, 1885-1946 shows that flooding was common, it occurred many times a year, especially in the winter months, reducing attendance even when the school could be opened. On January 23rd 1889, the schoolmaster complained:-

"Again the rain descends the valley is flooded. Half the children cannot get to school, the road is blocked unless they come by boat, and a great portion of the grant is paid on the average attendance. We get an extra grant on account of the small population. We need a weather grant to compensate for bad attendance on wet days." (Kendal Record Office : WDS70/1)

the Sprint at Sadgill Bridge
the Sprint at Sadgill Bridge, 19.11.2009
water over the river bank
water over the river bank, 22.2.2012
flooded fields near the church
flooded fields near the church, 22.2.2012

The Longsleddale Flood of 1749: A very damaging flood occurred towards the end of August 1749. The quarter sessions records for Kendal show that it caused at least 3 bridges to fail, those at Wads Howe, Sadgill and Beech Hill:-

Petition, Robert Wilson, Mathew Munkhouse, Thomas Hall, Thomas Hudson, Robert Walker and Jonathan Newton of Longsleddale, "in August 1749 a large and serviceable Stone Bridge within Longsleddale afd. was drove down by violent Floods which your Petre are liable to rebuild" the said bridge is necessary to make the highway from Ambleside to Kirkby Stephen passable, petitioners were at great expense 24 years ago in erecting said bridge and have received considerable damage by the said floods. Desire bridge to be rebuilt by county or gratuity. (Summary from Quarter Session Rolls; Kendal, Christmas 1749 :: Kendal Record Office : QS AR/2/13/3 213/18)
[This was Wads Howe Bridge, and 8 was paid. (QS AR/2/13/3 220/11)]

Petition, Michael Mattinson, John Airey and James Anson of Sadgill, Longsleddale, being liable to repair the highway from Kentmere to Longsleddale Head about 14 years ago built a stone bridge at their own expence over the ford at Sadgill, and received a gratuity of 5 from Mr Dennison High Constable of Kendal ward, said bridge "abt September last by very violent & sudden Rain was intirely destroy'd & the Corn Hay & other goods of Your Petre were damag'd to the Value of 100 & upwards." Desire bridge may be rebuilt or assistance.
(Summary from Quarter Session Rolls; Kendal, Christmas 1749 ::Kendal Record Office : QS AR/2/13/3 213/19)

Petition, Isaac Goodman, Mary Gibson, Alice Collinson, Anthony Kellet & James Garnet of Longsleddale, that Bitch-hill-Bridge was by the Rapidity of the River in or ab[out] August last intirely destroyed and they have also suffered by the floods about the same time and cannot rebuild bridge without assistance. ... Rejected (Summary from Quarter Session Rolls; Kendal, Easter 1750 :: Kendal Record Office : QS AR/2/13/3 215/23)

The exact date of the Longsleddale storm is not recorded here, but on 22nd August 1749 there was a famous and well documented storm south-east of Threlkeld which caused very dramatic floods in St.John's and at Wanthwaite.

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