ARE the current floods the worst Worcester has ever seen? The question possibly has several different answers because the topography of the River Severn and its environs has changed over the years, but certainly the city saw more than enough flood water in 1924, 1947 and more recently in 2007.

However, for most authorities, the benchmark has been Friday, March 21, 1947 when the maximum amount recorded reached 24ft 3ins, which the Worcester Evening News and Times described as “exceeding all previous levels.”

This was not the height of the river, but the amount of water above the river’s normal winter levels. As the paper explained: “There were 26ft 5ins on the upper sill at Diglis and 34ft 3ins on the lower sill, representing 16ft 5ins and 24ft 3ins of flood water respectively.”

This dramatic event was to virtually cut off St John’s and a third of the city’s westside was sandwiched between the swollen rivers Severn and Teme, becoming almost an island.

New Road was flooded by several feet of water and what was described as a "Dunkirk-style operation" had to be mounted for several days to ferry people between St John’s and the city.

The News and Times reported that “the co-operation of all forms of transport at Worcester lessened the crisis”. Corporation horse drawn carts and heavy open backed lorries ferried people up and down New Road and Burnham’s Coaches ran a free ferry service between the Bull Ring and the bridge.

A 15 minute shuttle service by train, again free, was also run between Foregate Street station and Henwick Halt, giving another vital line of communication between the city centre and St John’s. The platforms on both stations were constantly crowded.

People whose homes were flooded tried to struggle on by living in bedrooms and upper floors, but it eventually became necessary to evacuate most of them. Some booked into packed local hotels, while others were found emergency accommodation at Hillborough Hospital on Tallow Hill or in council houses.

For those who stayed put the WRVS and other voluntary services waded out with meals or used vans, horse-drawn drays and boats. While the Mayor of Worcester started an emergency fund for city flood victims, raising several thousands of pounds.

Many Midland Red bus services had to be abandoned with Newport Street Bus Station completely under water and at least a dozen roads leading in and out of Worcester were totally impassable.

Upton upon Severn and several villages were cut off by road and a team of Royal Engineers with boats ferried marooned families and sheep to safety from inundated tracts of Worcestershire countryside. 

But perhaps the saddest story of all emerged when flood water from the River Teme entered the cottage home of 88-years-old Mrs Rose Little and her 90-years-old husband Tom at 1, Mill Yard, Lower Wick, Worcester. The pair decided to stay on, but a few days later Mrs Little died. As the News and Times pointed out: “The funeral arrangements presented several difficulties.”

Eventually Mr H Manning, manager of Worcester Co-operative Funeral Department, and three assistants, two of whom were builders, hired a punt and ferried the coffin across the flooded Teme having gained admission to the cottage via a bedroom window.

They managed to get the coffin to dry land and it was then transferred to a horse drawn coal cart and taken to the home of one of the couple’s sons, Mr George Little at Manor Cottage, Lower Wick, to wait until the waters subsided sufficiently to allow the hearse to pass along the Malvern Road to Powick Church.

Mrs Little, who had lived in Mill Yard all her life had been flooded out nearly every winter of her 88 years and often said she would not leave the cottage until she died. With his wife’s body safely removed, Mr Little left their little home to keep a vigil by his wife’s coffin until it was buried at Powick a week later.