Towards the end of December, 1900, torrential rain fell across the Midlands and did not spare the Arrow valley. The "Alcester Chronicle" details the floods which followed "at the dawning of the 20th century". The new century had surely dawned twelve months earlier but this flood caused much devastation and confusion: in three years time will we get the new century (and millennium) right?
The press account presents a general picture of destruction from Redditch downwards but states that Alcester had the greatest calamity. The confluence of the Alne and Arrow must have had its effect. Local mills, such as Hoo, Oversley, Arrow and Broom were greatly ravaged, with the force of the water smashing fences and walls as well as ruining bags of flour. The water in the middle of Alcester town carried away much furniture from ground-floor rooms, for the flow was strong, and in some cases rose to the bedroom windows. Although some domestic stock was swept away, there was no report of human casualties. Swan Street was full of upended and broken paving slabs, while Stratford Road had the appearance of a river. The water invaded the Gas Works and put out the fires, while the railway line at Arrow was buckled and the sleepers dislodged.
The lower part of High Street has always suffered from Alcester's many floods: we know now, what may not have been known in 1900, that an old course of the River Arrow lies under the buildings there, especially the Midland Bank. The cellar there fills up first before the water rises to cross the part of the High Street once called 'The Bull Ring'
There had been two bad floods in the 1870s and 1880s but this one of 1900/1901 was called 'The Great Flood' . It must have taken many weeks for High Street, Bleachfield Street, Henley Street, Swan Street and the Moors to dry out. Farmers and business men suffered considerable financial loss over a large area of central England. In places like Alcester and Bidford a situation in the Arrow valley had shown how disadvantageous it could be. It still is, in spite of the work of the river authorities to control floods. The emergence in the first century A.D. of a Romano-British settlement at Alcester has always seemed a puzzle, considering the marshy ground that existed in the area we call The Moors and the constant flooding which the Arrow and the Alne must have inflicted on the population around their junction.
Prolonged storms in the Midlands we can do without, for we have no desire for another 'Great Flood' like the one which met the eyes of Alcestrians on the morning of the lst January, 1901.
Winter 96 index