York floods, 1970s, before the defences

I was on YouTube, looking for something else, when I found this short film. Very happy to find it as it illustrates what I was trying to describe in some of the pages written during the floods in September.

The Ouse is high again, and there have been the usual flood photos on Twitter etc. But this film shows what it was like before the walls and floodgates were constructed at the bottom of Marygate and in the Tanner’s Moat area near Lendal Bridge.

Uploaded to youtube.com by tebbuch, who says that this film dates from the 1970s. I think it must be the floods of December 1978. More information below.

From around 0.22: the bottom end of Marygate. The Bay Horse pub is a recognisable landmark

0.30 – people getting out of their cars apparently to have a good gawp, just as we still do, though they can’t yet post wonky photos of it on Twitter …

1.25 – near the Bay Horse on Marygate, on the opposite corner is a shop (recently a dental practice), which is knee deep in water (as illustrated by the gentleman and two policemen wading through it) – actually, thigh deep.

1.38 – change of location to the Wellington Row/Tanner’s Moat area. Building on left now the Cycle Hub. Shots of the garage which used to be on the site of the Aviva office.

1.47 – looking towards Lendal Tower

1.54 – another good illustration of how things used to be – Rougier Street, under flood water (looking towards the city wall, visible in the background), with car driving through, followed by a shot taken from, I think, the end of Tanner Row, looking towards the ‘garden’ area alongside the river. Where those open railings are between brick piers we now have a solid flood wall with steel gates to close in times of flood.

2.10 – not sure of location, but clearly near the river [update: it’s North Street, see comments below]

2.13 – famous and regularly underwater pub, the King’s Arms, near Ouse Bridge

2.21 – a rather dramatic shot of the Ouse Bridge arches, on the Queen’s Staith side

2.41 – Ouse Bridge levels gauge. Young folks please note, it’s in feet, not metres, things were bad in the 1970s but not that bad. About 4.3 metres?

2.45 – note advertising billboards on buildings near Ouse Bridge, on what is now a rather posh place.

. . .

Paper has dramatic headline SIEGE OF YORK, large aerial view of floods, stories about the flood
And I just happen to have a copy of the front page (most of it anyway) of The Press (Yorkshire Evening Press as it was in those days) from 30 December 1978, which reported on the floods of that time under the front page headline SIEGE OF YORK. It reported that 200 homes had been evacuated, in the worst floods since 1947.

Flood panic mystery

The paper also reported a mystery rumour ‘which swept the city’ that all road bridges over the Ouse were to be closed at 3pm. This resulted in general confusion and more pressure on the ‘already heavily loaded police and council telephone switchboards’. Thank goodness for Twitter, eh?

Rise and fall

The same report includes a reminder of how much has changed since we lost/reduced our industries, our factories, how many people they once employed. Because of the disruption, Rowntree Mackintosh (as it was then), sent most of its 8,000 workers home, and 6,000 British Rail staff (3,000 at the carriageworks) could go home if their houses were affected by flooding.

How many thousands?

It may seem like ancient history to people in their twenties, but this is within the lifetime of so many of us.

. . . . .

In this city we had small-scale industries employing a few people, then we had factories employing thousands, now we’re back to the smaller scale.

Meanwhile the rivers rise and fall, just as they’ve always done. And we gawp in wonder, just as we’ve always done.

I’m glad that back in the 70s someone was not only gawping in wonder, but recording it, and that this record is freely available on the web.

Tag(s): rivers, Ouse, floods, 1970s

About Lisa @YorkStories

Lisa @YorkStories is the creator, administrator, and writer of content on www.yorkstories.co.uk. She can be contacted on this link or via Twitter, @YorkStories
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  1. The location at 2:10 looks to me like the Viking Hotel viewed from the Co-op (now Mill House). Perhaps it’s the Yorkshire Hussar pub sign just visible in the extreme left of the frame?

  2. YorkStories

    I think you’re right Frank, thanks, and the North St frontage of the hotel has been modernised a bit since. I thought it looked vaguely familiar. What really confused me was the building on the horizon, which I couldn’t place at all. From the angle of the photo it looks like it would be on the opposite bank and perhaps part of the old Evening Press offices – or in that area anyway, where the City Screen is?

  3. I couldn’t work that other building out, either. Peering at my phone without my contact lenses didn’t really help.

  4. YorkStories

    I think it’s perhaps the Yorkshire Club building – now Pizza Express? Not visible now from that location I think, as the trees in the riverside garden area have grown.

  5. I lived in a Basement Flat just by the river. I had gone home to Leeds for Christmas and developed flu and so all in all a pretty unhappy week. Once recovered my Father and I drove to York where the police told us to turn around even though we explained I lived there. They threatened to arrest us unless we left. We drove in from the north instead and eventually waded to the building. The water was 5 feet deep and everything lost. My employers at the time, NatWest lent me £200 interest free to help me get back on my feet.

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