District remembers the ’87 great storm

PUBLISHED: 16:25 18 October 2007 | UPDATED: 21:50 29 May 2010

Trees were ripped out of the ground during the storms

Trees were ripped out of the ground during the storms

TWENTY years ago this week the worst winds since 1703 battered South East England, costing 18 lives and causing widespread havoc across the region. On the night of October 15, winds of up to 120mph battered East Anglia and the southeast of England, fellin

TWENTY years ago this week the worst winds since 1703 battered South East England, costing 18 lives and causing widespread havoc across the region.

On the night of October 15, winds of up to 120mph battered East Anglia and the southeast of England, felling 15 million trees and causing millions of pounds' worth of damage.

Twenty years on, residents of Uttlesford recalled how the great storm had affected them.

Malcolm White, who has been Saffron Walden Town Council's clerk since 1976, recounted the damage the gale inflicted on the town's trees.

"We lost about six trees on The Common," he said, "and there were others down elsewhere. The road out of Saffron Walden towards Newport was blocked, but we were relatively lucky in that there was no significant structural damage in the town."

Alistair Walters, who was town mayor in 1987, said that the extent of the damage was staggering. He said: "I'd been out that evening and arrived home quite late. I decided to have a nightcap before bed, and went out into the back garden.

"The wind was beginning to blow wildly, but it wasn't until the next morning I realised how serious the storm had been.

"I was staggered to see the extent of the damage - it was quite amazing to see all these lovely big trees, snapped and spread around like matchsticks.

"Jim Ketteridge's father and brother were up early clearing the fallen trees and freeing up the roads, and did a splendid job clearing the debris. It's amazing there weren't more casualties."

Soldiers from Carver Barracks chipped in to help the clear-up operation around Saffron Walden, and Insp John Emmerick of Saffron Walden Police said at the time that at one point, all of the roads leading out of Saffron Walden were blocked off.

John Davey, who has lived in the windmill on St Edmunds Lane in Dunmow for 61 years, said that Dunmow escaped relatively unscathed.

"Dunmow was relatively lucky," he said, "it was much worse elsewhere. Power lines were down, and some people in the outlying villages were without power for days, as the electricity board simply had so much repairing to do.

"Luckily the windmill my family has lived in since 1905 wasn't affected - I used to worry about the top blowing off in a strong wind, but after it didn't in the gale I didn't worry so much!"

John Freeman, Thaxted Parish Council chairman, said: "I remember the big clear-up operation, but Thaxted wasn't too badly hit - there was no real damage. In the morning all the farmers were out with their chainsaws clearing the roads."

- DO YOU?have memories of the great storm, described by then Home Secretary Douglas Hurd as "the worst crisis to hit South East England"?

If so, e-mail us at james.burton@archant.co.uk

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