Lying as it does in the valleys of both the rivers Kennet and Dun, flooding in Charnham Street used to be a frequent event until the middle of the 20th century. Families got used to
"pumping-out" their premises and homes.
One well-recorded event was the Charnham Street Flood on 16th May 1932, when Charnham Street
was under several inches of water.
A much more serious flood took place in 1894, as is recorded by the Marlborough Times of 17th November 1894:
"Never in the memory of the oldest inhabitant has Hungerford been visited by such floods as occurred on Monday night and on Wednesday afternoon. Our correspondent is writing this under
exceptional circumstances, namely, in an upper room, shut off from the outer world by a sea of water, the whole of the ground floor being submerged. The river Dunn on Monday night about 10 o'clock began to rise
and invaded the stables and yard at the Bear Hotel, the horses having to be removed to safe quarters at the John 0' Gaunt. This was no new experience, as the yard and stable had been often flooded before, but on
this occasion the volume of water kept increasing, and not only were the rooms on the ground floor of the hotel flooded, but the water kept rising and overflowed into Charnham Street, which was soon a deep rushing
river. The police and several townsmen did the best they could to warn the inhabitants of the approach of the flowing tide and also to aid them in saving their property. Most people were in bed, and had to be
aroused from their slumbers, it being then about half-past one a.m. The houses opposite the Bear Hotel occupied by Messrs. Palmer, Hawkins, Mepsted, Taylor, Noon and others, soon had about 2ft. of water in their
sitting rooms, but the inhabitants of the houses between the Bear and Mr. Gibbon's Iron Foundry were, if anything, in a worse plight. Mr Pinchen's house near the Fire Station was flooded, as was also the
Engine House. Mr. Skinner's shop and dining room had nearly 2ft. of water in them, and boxes and confectionery bottles were floating about. The whole of Faulkner Square was under water, and had the appearance of
a large lake. All the houses in the square were flooded, and the inhabitants had to remove upstairs, provisions, where needed, being drawn up in baskets. Mr. Hidden was a considerable sufferer, as to carpets and
Mr. Edmonds and Mr. Pearce had their underground kitchens invaded, and as their supply of provisions and fuel were in them, they were cut off from food and firing. In the houses of Mr.
Wren and Mr. Gibbons, the water rose to a great height, and the fire in the grate at Mr. Gibbons's was put out. Mrs. Withers, too, at the Red Lion Inn, had a terrible time of it, and the houses of Mr. Andrews,
Mr. Lamsden, Mr. Buxey, and Mr. Joyce were also flooded. The water had not abated at 6 o'clock in the morning, and Messrs Cottrell's men could not get to their work at the Eddington Foundry. The postmen had
to deliver the letters in a cart. The flood began to subside about 10 o'clock on Tuesday morning, and by noon the street was almost clear, but in the houses it was hours before it had subsided to any great
Tuesday was fine and it was hoped that the worst was over, but the gale of Tuesday night and the downpour of rain, which lasted daring the night and up to about 3 o'clock on Wednesday
afternoon, caused the river to rise to an unprecedented height. Suddenly, about 4 o'clook, the cry arose that the flood was coming, and the second visitation proved far more terrible than the first. The
"Bear" yard was about 5 feet deep in water, and Charnham-street was again a roaring torrent. Mr. Skinner's shop and the houses before mentioned were all flooded in a short space of time, but to a
greater depth than before, and great damage has been done to property. Poultry at the Bear Hotel have been drowned, and Mr. Withers had seven pigs drowned. Several others were carried from their styes by men, who
waded through the water, but some of the animals got loose and were swimming about in the water, making a most unearthly noise, and it is feared some of them will die. Mr. Skinner, whose shop is in an exposed corner
of Charnham-street, will be a considerable loser by damaged stock and by loss to business, as he had been unable to pen his shop since Monday. As it was on Wednesday full of water to a depth of about two feet it
must be some days before business can possibly be resumed.
The men who left off work at the iron foundries of Messrs Cottrell and Mr. Gibbons at half past 5 had to walk through water up to their thighs and children from school had to be carried
on men's shoulders or driven in carts or other vehicles. Mr. Walter Gibbons has been disporting himself in a canoe, paddling up and down the street, ind Mr G Andrews was in a large washing tub. The G.W. Railway
dray and Mr. Platt's cart have been conveying people through the water. Numbers have had to wade all through it.
A man named Samuel Harding had a narrow escape from drowning about 9 o'clock. It appears that Mrs. Withers' little boy was at Mr. Hidden's in Faulknor Square, and owing to the place
so flooded, could not return to his horns. Mrs. Withers got Harding to wade through the water to carry him, and as he was crossing the lawn to do so fell into an open well in the centre of the lawn, which could not
be seen, as the lawn was entirely covered by water. The poor fellow was in about 7 feet of water, but managed to scramble out.
On Monday night Bridge-street escaped, but on Wednesday all the houses as far as the Primitive Methodist Chapel were flooded, including the shops of Messrs. Faulkner, New. Maton, Taylor,
Joyce, and Freeman, and the International Stores.
The Fire Brigade turned out and with their engine did good service in pumping the water from the shops in Bridge-street.
Writing yesterday (Thursday) morning, at 10 a.m., our correspondent says the water was somewhat abated, and he was able to get out into the street. Having visited most of the houses in
Charnham-street, he found them in a most deplorable condition. Carpets and furniture, where the water had subsided, were thick with mud and quite ruined, and much furniture damaged, Mrs. Lamsden, china and glass
dealer, had a good deal of stock damaged, as the basins and dishes bad floated about and, coming in contact with one another, were broken. At Mr. Harris's house a garden engine was at work, pumping the water
out. In this house the water rose to 3 feet 6 inches. In Mr. Skinner's dining room and shop there are still about 5 inches of water. Large volumes of water have yet to come down from the Bedwyn district, and it
is feared there will be a repetition of the flood to-night.
The High Constable (Mr. Alfred Buckeridge), has started a fund for the relief of the sufferers by the disaster. A number of sheep belonging to Mr Rumball, butcher, would have been
drowned, but a number of young men went through the water and carried them off bodily. Several got loose and were swimming about in the water."
- Charnham Street flood, 1932
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