Shropshire History

Minsterley Flood

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Photo said to be in Minsterley but location not identified 

An extraordinary flood happened at Minsterley on the evening of May 27th 1811 and the following account is taken from the Shrewsbury Chronicle.

"On Monday afternoon a violent storm of hail, thunder and lightning was widely felt, particularly South West of the town of Shrewsbury. The air was sultry, the lightning very vivid and the thunder is described by persons near Minsterley to have been similar to the report of many cannon immediately over their heads: near the White Grit, hailstones two inches in circumference lay almost a foot deep. About five o'clock in the afternoon, a cloud burst upon the ridge of hills called the Stiperstones and a torrent of water, with irresistible force and thundering sound, rushing down the hillside, swept away several small cottages belonging to the White Grit miners. Part of the vast body of water took a direction through Habberley but the greatest quantity pursued its course along the valley through which runs Minsterley Brook. From the vicinity of Mr Nailor's Hoxton Mills, buildings and everything in its way were overwhelmed; and our readers may form some idea of the bulk and impetuosity of the torrent when they are told that among many others which it tore up by the roots one tree containing about 80 feet of timber, that was floated over meadows more than a mile.

Between five and six o'clock the deluge reached Minsterley, flooding almost every house in the village. Mr Vaughan, a farmer, was swept away from his fold and carried several hundred yards through the bridge, where the current threw him upon a pigsty, from whence he climbed to the roof of a house and was saved: his sister was carried a great distance and left in the branches of a tree; but so much bruised that she is not expected to survive; not a trace is left of his thrashing machine, or stabling; but five horses escaped. Thirteen persons were miraculously saved in the Angel public house: on the first alarm they ran upstairs and, when the water had reached the second story, they clung to the rafters. The stabling, with all other contiguous buildings, were swept away. In the stables were 17 horses and they swam out. The stables of the Rev Mr Williams, and part of the church wall, were also carried away. The persons who perished in this village were Mr Hoggins a farmer; Holmes a labourer and another person. The water was from six to eight feet deep in some houses: the house and mill at Plox Green were carried away.

The next scene of desolation was Pontesford, where it is enough to mention its ravages only at one spot. At Mr Heighway's it burst into the house through the windows, till at length the walls gave way and Mr. Heighway's venerable grandmother, aged 83, with two female servants and a labourer, were hurried into the abyss. Meanwhile Mr Heighway's wife and another lady climbed upon the roof of the house, from whence they beheld Mr Heighway clinging to a pole, who was lifted by two men upon the bridge about 30 yards distant. Mr Bennett, an overseer of Pontesbury coal works, and two others got into a hay loft, where deeming themselves secure, they were in the act of petitioning the Almighty to deliver the persons upon the bridge, part of which had just fallen in; when instantly the building was swept away and the unfortunate men were all lost. The bodies of these men were not found yesterday. The loss of Mr Heighway it is supposed will exceed £4000. Nearly the whole of his house, except the end on which his wife and her companion were saved, is destroyed, together with the furniture, stabling, barns, sheds, two valuable horses, tan-pits, hides, bark, etc; and every tree is torn away from his orchard. At this place the water was at least 20 feet deep.

At Hanwood, the damage done in the linen mills of Marshall, Atkinson & Co is considerable. The stocks of flour and the premises belonging to Mr Blower and Mr Pickering have sustained much injury; and indeed it may said that every bridge and mill within the course of the torrent has either been destroyed or greatly damaged. Mr Warter's of Cruckmeole had one cow carried away and Mr Rogers another.

The torrent following the course of Meole Brook, reached Coleham, one of the suburbs of this town, about half-past ten o'clock at night with a tremendous roaring noise. The cellars and lower rooms belonging to the Seven Stars public house and all the houses adjoining were deluged; the street in front of Mr Hulbert's factory was inundated to the depth of nearly three feet, by an instantaneous gush. At this time the noise of the current was inconceivably dreadful and the cries of "Help! Help! Drowning!" etc. contributed to the horror of the sound. The force of this great body of water rushing into the Severn from Meole Brook actually turned the current of the River Severn, which rose near the English Bridge four feet perpendicular in less than ten minutes. Much damage has been done at the Abbey Mill and in the garden contiguous. The force of the torrent running under Coleham Bridge carried with it a portion of the field occupied by Mr Birch, by which several hundred square yards of ground will be lost to the owner.

The number of lives lost amounts to nine at Pontesford and three at Minsterley. Yesterday, the coroner (Mr Wollaston of Bishop's Castle) and a jury assembled to view the bodies that have been found, in order that the friends of the unfortunate individuals might pay the last duty of mournful affection.

Ours is but a faint description of the calamity and distress which have been felt. Unaccustomed as we are in this inland situation, to such scenes, no imagination can picture the desolation. It is impossible to calculate the amount of property damaged and destroyed; many hundred thousands of pounds cannot recall order, and redeem the destruction to agriculture and property of every kind. We have heard it said that, in the parishes of Pontesbury, Worthen and Westbury, at least three thousand acres of land were deluged. The number of cottages lost has not been ascertained; and who shall tell the anguish of many a peasant, whose family is now perhaps homeless, and whose garden ground is laid desolate.

In this instance, the benevolence of Salopians was unbounded; the sum of £1,862 was subscribed, leaving £514. 14s over and above the liberal aid afforded to such sufferers as were known to require it, or who applied for relief."