Page last updated at 14:23 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 15:23 UK
Aberystwyth's great storm of 1938

Seafront damage
Winds reached a speed of more than 90 miles per hour

The devastation caused by the hurricane-force winds that hit Aberystwyth in 1938 is recounted by local historian William Troughton.

The late Victorian houses of Victoria Terrace now preside over a tranquil scene that belies the events that took place here on Friday 14 January 1938.

It was a day that started no differently to any other January day in Aberystwyth.

Leaden grey skies stretched to the horizon, merging into a grey, grumbling Cardigan Bay.

Mrs Linnett was found behind the cottage holding on to a table, semi-conscious and only feet from the swollen River Ystwyth.
William Troughton

Towards evening the wind stiffened from the south-west and every breaker seemed to crash with greater force than the last, each backwash throwing the pebbles together, hissing and swishing them down to meet the next wave.

As the night wore on the wind increased, howling through gaps in the door frames and casement windows of sea front houses, rippling even the heaviest of curtains and sending the heat from myriad coal fires racing up the chimney.

Parlour chairs were drawn closer to the hearth as occupants read, dozed, or listened to the wireless.

Little did they know that when the weak winter sun next shone it would be on a far different scene from that of the night before.

Those who witnessed the events of 70 years ago agree that the storm reached its crescendo at about five o' clock in the morning.

Winds were estimated at 90 miles an hour. There was talk of a tidal wave striking the coast, later reinforced by the account of a Royal Navy tanker disabled by a large wave.

Damage to Victoria Terrace
The total cost of the damage was 70,000

For the residents of Victoria Terrace the storm broke with incredible ferocity. Basements were soon flooded and large stones driven against windows up to second-floor level, breaking the glass and letting in gallons of water.

Front doors were smashed to matchwood as boulders and paving slabs were hurled against them and the sea cascaded in and rose to first- floor level.

Wave after wave entered the houses flooding the basements to a depth of several feet and smashing all furniture before them.

Shortly after anyone had been brave enough to still be watching the scene would have seen the promenade collapse, to be washed away in a few short minutes.

Under siege

Though the ordeal of the occupants of Victoria Terrace was considerable, just a mile away to the south a far greater drama was unfolding.

On the beach at Tanybwlch stood a small cottage, home for the last 13 years to Mrs Linnett, her two daughters and their cat.

As the storm increased in ferocity and the sea broke around them the three women decided to abandon their cottage and seek refuge with their neighbours.

No sooner had they wrapped their winter coats around them and slipped on their wellingtons than there was a deafening crash as the front door was burst open by an enormous wave.

The Linnetts' home
The promenade is now protected by an apron of boulders

The two daughters escape was now hindered by their water borne furniture. The next wave brought the roof down, pinning them firmly under the heavy roof beams.

Their plight was noted shortly after by the driver of a passing train.

At his next stop he alerted the emergency services who were able to free two of the women from the wreckage of their home, the family cat scrambling free at the same time.

Destruction

Mrs Linnett was found behind the cottage holding on to a table, semi-conscious and only feet from the swollen River Ystwyth.

As dawn broke the extent of the destruction was clearly visible as was the need for urgent action to prevent the sea doing any more damage.

The end of the pier had vanished and every property from the King's Hall north was damaged, those on Victoria Terrace having suffered the greatest damage.

Work rapidly commenced on a protective coffer dam and continued well into 1940.

The total bill came to £70,000 or some £2.5m by today's standards.

The expensive lesson of 1938 has been well and truly learnt, and today the promenade is well protected by an apron of boulders making a repetition of the events of seventy years ago a near impossibility.




SEE ALSO
Storms in Wales cause fatality
06 Sep 08 |  Today
Storms continue to batter Wales
09 Dec 07 |  Wales
Storms bring travel problems
18 Jan 07 |  Wales


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