Discovered this one today, via Facebook (credit Julian Harrop and the Beamish Archive). It shows a guy cycling through floodwater in 1950 (unknown exact date). The riverside was a bit different then. The bus shelters can be seen to the right of the photograph (Gypsy Queen, Diamond and Hammel bus stops).
Some of the worst floods ever in Durham were in 1793 and 1903. Here’s some data for the 1903 episode.
8th October 1903
Extensive flooding on Tyne, Wear and Tees and also on some smaller tributaries with much urban flooding especially in Sunderland (Details from Echo not provided since it is a prolonged rainstorm.) A depression moving from the Bristol Channel to the Wash brought heavy rain to NE England accompanied by an E to Se gale especially around Newcastle giving rise to floods and interruption of telegraphic communication. Totals decrease inland. Tees flooded in many places including the roads at Croft and Neasham. Yarm was flooded for the first time in 11 years affecting High Street and the Skinyard. Widespread floodplain flooding.
Rainfall: Heavy continuous rain; Middlesbrough Albert Park 2.29”; Middlesbrough Ormesby 2.81” (1.95” in 12 hours); Stockton Rimswell 2.30”; West Hartlepool 2.90”; Hurworth Burn 3.45”; Hart resvr 2.45”; Durham Observatory2.51”; Waskerley Resvr 2.52”; Smiddy Shaw Resvr 2.67”; Seaham Dalton PS 3.14”; Fencehouses 3.25”; Seaham Harbour 2.48”; Ryhope PS 2.84”; W Hendon 2.59”; Sunderland Fever Hosp 2.72“; Claxheugh Grove 3.03”; Sunderland The Cedars 2.94“; Newcastle Clifton Rd 2.67”; Newcastle Lit & Phil 3.66”; Newcastle Northumberland Rd 2.29”; Newcastle Claremont Rd 2.68”; Newcastle Leazes Pk 3.25”; Newcastle Town Moor 3.68“; Jesmond Welburn 3.34”; N Shields 2.58”; Tynemouth 2.50”; Angerton Hall 2.69”; Morpeth Bothalhaugh 3.22“; Morpeth Longhirst 3.45”; Cockle Park 2.87”; Cragside 2.58”; Alnwick Castle 2.68”Source: BR; Sunderland Daily Echo Oct 9
The River Wear in spate again in mid September 2008. The main wear, normally visible about 4ft above the river is almost totally submerged. The river was 6” away from bursting it’s banks.
This was the scene in Croxdale in September 2008 as firemen begin the cleanup process after another flooding episode at The Honest Lawyer Hotel. The River Browney burst it’s banks and inundaded the hotel and motel rooms.
Further North in Northumberland, there was a disastrous flood in Morpeth on 6th September.
The centre of low pressure was slow-moving over Cent England on the 6th. There were continuing heavy falls of rain overnight across N England, with much of England, Wales and S Scotland seeing rainfall.
Rainfall on September 5th: Morpeth Cockle Park 80.7mm; Chillingham Barns 76.2; Westgate-in-Weardale 72.6; Stanhope 69.3; Copley 56.5; Whitley Bay 36.5; September 6th; Chillingham Barns 82.1; Westgate-in-Weardale 47.6; Spittal 29.1; Whitley Bay 26.7
The North East region, despite its general rain-shadow setting, is no stranger to floods (Archer, 1992) and Morpeth has endured severe flooding often: for example, in 1863, 1876, 1877, 1878, 1881, 1886, 1898, 1900, 1903, 1924 and 1963.
The event of 6 September 2008 was in many ways typical, and has been well-documented. The floods on this occa- sion were brought about by 24 hours of persistent rain causing the River Wansbeck to burst its banks, flooding the town (Figure 4) and causing damage estimated as costing £40 million.
The cause was in contrast to that of the previous serious flood, on 7 March 1963, which was due to the thawing of deep snow that had accumulated over the famously-cold preceding winter. The 2008 event was associated with a slow-moving but active frontal system. In this case the centre of low pressure lay to the south of the region exposing it to easterly winds, turning this normally sheltered side of the country into an exposed region and producing an estimated 80mm or more of rain in the pre- ceding 24 hours over the catchment. The distribution of precipitation over Britain on the evening of 5 September is illustrated in Figure 5: the control exerted by the slow-moving fronts across northern England is clearly seen.
An important causative agent was that the preceding summer had been wet, the Northumbrian region having experienced 200% of average rainfall in July and August, so that soil-moisture deficits were very low. The catchment consists of narrow, relatively steep-sided valleys, encouraging the rapid movement of water into the tributary channels upstream of the town; the Environment Agency estimated that as much as 54% of the rainwater took the form of this runoff. But these rains were widespread and many gauging sites in northern England recorded new record peak flows (Environment Agency, 2009) and it was the combination of the factors noted that brought about this disaster.
There was an almost identical repeat of these conditions in the town (whose motto, with an irony not lost on local residents, isInter Sylvas et Flumina Habitans or living between woods and waters) on 25 September 2012.
From “Regional weather and climates of the British Isles – Part 4: North East England and Yorkshire” by Dennis Wheeler, University of Sunderland, Weather July 2013.