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Archive film: When the floods hit Exeter

By Laura Joint
BBC Devon

The River Exe in Exeter has burst its banks to devastating effect on a number of occasions down the years - and 2010 marks the 50th anniversary of the floods of 1960.

On 27 October 1960, serious flooding effectively split the city in half.

An emergency rescue operation was launched, as more than 1,000 properties were left under 6ft of flood water.

Later that year, on 3 December, the city suffered further flooding when 1,200 properties were damaged.

Car in flood water, 1960
Serious flooding hit Exeter twice in 1960 - in October and December

The floods prompted an £8m flood defence scheme - the last works to be carried out.

Now, the Environment Agency is reviewing Exeter's flood defence scheme and has been holding an exhibition to hear the views of residents.

The exhibition, at the Riverside Christian Centre in Okehampton Street on 20 July 2010, gave people the chance to speak to Environment Agency officers and engineers.

"While Exeter hasn't suffered anything like the floods of 1960 in recent years, it is important to remember the devastating floods in places like Boscastle, Tewkesbury and Cockermouth and the need to be prepared," said Steve Rendell from the Environment Agency.

"We think there is a good economic case to improve the current scheme and further reduce the flood risk to Exeter."

The film at the top of this page features archive BBC film of the 1960 floods. Much of it has no audio, but there are interviews at the end of the film.

Were you there during the 1960 Exeter floods? Tell us your memories using the messageboard below.

Send us your memories using the form at the bottom of the page:

I was 7 and luckily our house near Crediton station was just above the highest flood level in Fordton. I was volunteered to wade out to help old Mrs Vanstone clear the mud out of her home nearer the river. I remember seeing the cob cottage opposite Fordton's shop fall down - due to the flood - great excitement for we kids but tragic for the residents. (The remaining orchard proved good scrummping the next year though.) I heard about old Dr Markby giving a piggyback to an elderly lady all the way from the bridge (where he lived) to the station and higher ground.
Andrew Harris, Crediton

At this time I lived in Woodbury Salterton, and travelled to Exeter School by bus daily on the Devon General 26 route. Our journey took us through Clyst St Mary, where, to our considerable delight, the bus had difficulty finding the road. Unfortunately our driver was a typical doughty Devon man, and he completed the journey. After the flood ther was a shortage of buses, and Devon General had to lend many of their buses to Exeter City. Our bus was replaced by an antique, a beautiful bus with wooden windows and mushrooms growing on the seats. Oh! How I miss Devon!
John Cole, Maryland, USA

I was nearly 16 at the time and had decided to stay home from school. A friend from further up the road apparently did the same as he came down to see me approaching lunchtime. It was a gloriously sunny day! My brother came home for lunch to tell us about the floods so we high-tailed our way down to Okehampton Street. I can well remember wading along Flowerpot Lane, tackling a very strong cross-current, to save some canoes in a building near the river's edge. I've no recollection why but, more to the point, I wouldn't have stood a chance if I'd lost my footing - and not just because I couldn't swim!!! The following day a 'team' of intrepid helpers made their way down to the Royal Oak to help clean all the mud from the skittle alley. This action resulted in my first drink in a pub - and I'm not talking about those bottles of spirits that were unsalvageable, ie below the waterline, from the stock-room. I have vivid recollections of the Drambuie being fine. :-)
Anthony, Plymouth

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