Flooding has occurred along the River Thames for millennia. As the size of London and its population grew, the effects of flooding grew more intense, causing considerable damage to homes, the land, disruption to people’s lives and death. High walls (the Embankments) were built along the banks of the river in London in the 18th Century but flooding still occurred. Only when the Thames Barrier became operational in 1982 was the potential for flood waters reaching London controlled successfully.
In the first half of the 20th Century flooding happened with such regularity that people living on low lying land along the banks of the Thames developed a very stoic attitude towards the flooding. Black and white photographs from that time recorded images of people having to escape their homes via the upper windows, or walking on a raised pathway of wooden planks, rowing boats or paddling improvised craft down flooded streets, as well as vehicles ploughing up to their axles through flood water.
My image shows two elegantly dressed ladies, flooded out of their basement flat, poling their way through deep flood water perched precariously on a door they had wrenched off its hinges. They tow their niece sitting in a galvanised bath with them. They also rescued their niece’s pet rabbit but could only find a birdcage in which to carry her treasure. They have a few clothes for a couple of night’s stay in less wet surroundings. In the background, the river has claimed a prestigious victim as rather expensive, locally parked car idly bobs up and down, partially submerged in the flood waters.