Saturday, 23 March 2013


Newton Abbot floods!

19th Dec 1853, Newton Abbot suffers flooding.

Nov 14th 1894, the same happens.

Aug 6th 1938 - and yet again.

 During this year the summer had been very dry and as a result the river was low.  However as a result huge thunder storms known as the 'worst storm' in living memory caused flooding which damaged the town centre.  After this flood it was decided to build a culvert in order to allow the water from the river to pass under Newton Abbot.

Dec 27th 1979 - it's just after Christmas and Newton Abbot is hit badly by flooding;
flooding which  caused millions of pounds worth of damage to Newton Abbot.

So why did this happen?


Running through the town is a river: The River Lemon.
It is 16km long and its source is on the south east side of Dartmoor near Haytor.
The River Lemon joins with the River Sig and the Langworthy Brook at Sigford and passes the village of Bickington. Lower down it is joined by the Kestor Brook and then it  flows through the woods in Bradley Valley.  It is after this that it flows through Newton Abbot, passing through a 400 metre long tunnel below the town centre. Just below the town the river joins the River Teign near the head of its estuary.

So what happened was that there was too much water in the channel and the estuary, which allowed the culvert to overflow. 

In December 1979, the river burst its banks, yet again, and the pressure on South West Water to build a robust prevention scheme, increased.

Councillor Reg Wills was chairman of the Flood Action Team that lobbied for defence for Newton Abbot city centre, and said that the worthiness of the dam would not be overrated.
What a wise man he was!!

The agency's response was the construction of the Holbeam Dam well upstream and capable of holding back a sudden deluge and then releasing it slowly. The work was completed in 1982 and cost South West Water £628,000 and included the strengthening and raising of the river banks below Bradley Mill.
The Holbeam dam is able to hold back 900 million gallons of water up to 20 feet deep in a 34 acre storage area.

The Holbeam Dam

The dam's first major test came in December 1986. 
Although the ford between Bradley Barton and Ogwell was under five feet of water, the Lemon culvert in the town centre wasn't breached. 


Then, in December 1989 torrential rain led to an accumulation of more than 22 million gallons behind the dam and it was worse in February the following year with 40 million gallons safely contained.

Since the opening of the dam, Newton Abbot people can be well assured that, whenever they hear the heavens open, they will be safe from flooding.



Anonymous said...

Great research Sal...fascinating!
The 34 acre storage area happens to be fields on our farm which have been getting more than a little wet of late :-(
When the dam is out you can literally get into a boat and sail for about a mile upstream!!!
Love Amanda (Shabby Chick) xxx

Anonymous said...

I remember the flood well!We were living in Quay road and it rained for 48 hours from boxingday night.the clean up was endless but we got on with it not like the fuss nowadays. One thing that niggled, all the emergency funds that were raised and we did not get a penny, why because we bothered to have insurance ok but that only replaced the material things