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Cliffe's Sunken Barges

During the first few months of 1947, huge falls of snow in the area, especially in the hills, followed by a sudden thaw resulted in much agricultural and industrial flooding.


During the week commencing March 23, many lakes were formed after the Ouse topped its banks. This was then compounded by the exceptionally high tides flowing inland from the Humber.  

Ouse bank bursts - Barlby

The bank at Barlby bursts

Barlby Bank Breach - Floods 1947

With the tides 3 feet higher than expected, the Ouse tore holes in its bank at two places in Barlby.

The flood water swept through the B.O.C.M. factory (at the time it was known as O.C.O. and produced a third of the country's margarine).

Barlby Road

The floodwater making its way across Barlby Road

The water swept Eastwards, down the 'Old Ways' (The old course of the River Ouse) at the South side of Cliffe and Hemingbrough, reaching almost as far as the River Derwent.

Cottage Farm, Cliffe - Floods 1947

Turnham Lane with 'Cottage Farm' on the right

Trapped in the middle of this floodwater, set close to the riverbank, was a farm at Newhay. It is reported that the farmer was watching from his bedroom window one morning, as they had been consigned to living upstairs, he could see the bank start to bulge towards the river (at the time the floodwater was higher than the river level), the farmer turned and called to his wife to take a look, but by the time he turned back again, the bank had already disappeared, a huge breach had been torn into the bank and millions of gallons of floodwater was now pouring back into the Ouse.

This picture shows the water at Newhay flowing back into the Ouse

Newhay bank breach
Testing Depth Of Cuts

This chap is testing the depth of the cuts, reputedly 30ft deep in some places

To fill this huge breach, on the 13th April, the army and workers from O.C.O filled 'lighter' barges (towed raft-like barges) with sand bags, the sand was liberated from Brayton Barff.

Tugs towing barges into place

Tugs are used to tow the barges into position

Here is one of the barges sitting in the cut of the bank

Barges in the cut
Barges in position
Filling barges with sandbags

All hands on deck as the lighters are filled with sandbags

Breach barge, Newhay floods 1947

Sitting very low in the water now...

Sinking the barge at Newhay, 1947

Down she goes! The lighter is sunk.

Once the barges had been sunk in their positions, the bank had to be rebuilt.  

Tons of mud and clay was excavated to fill in the huge gap and cover the barges.  

The holes that this excavation caused are still there to this may know them better as the Newhay Fishing Lakes.

There is one more tell-tale sign of what happened over 70 years ago...

Barge top

The top of one of the lighters is still clearly visible poking out of the grass!

Barge top, Newhay, Cliffe

For further pictures of the floods of 1947, check out the archive gallery on this website.

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