Local History Society

 The 'Mercury' and the Home Front in WW1



The Weather - a perennial subject

From March 1914 we learned that Arborfield got a battering during the Point-to-Point races held on the 10th: There was both warm sunshine and bitterly cold snow; a ‘very heavy snowstorm broke over the country as the last race was being run. The going was very heavy owing to the recent rains, and galloping across the plough was a severe test to the horses’.

A week or so later, other events were cancelled because of the atrocious conditions.

1915 began with two types of flood; the first was an influx of Belgian refugees, who were accommodated in Reading, Wokingham, Maidenhead and other Berkshire towns, and would become quite established as the year progressed. The second was ‘Storms and Floods in the Reading District’ following 23 days of rain in December, with over 6 inches recorded as falling at Caversham Lock:

  •  ‘Church Lane, which is in the district of Shinfield and Three-Mile-Cross, was on Thursday submerged for a distance of 500 yards, and a similar state of affairs prevails in respect to portions of Arborfield-Road’.

  • A report on 9th January said that floods had reached their peak by Wednesday 6th. Farms in Lower Earley, Woodley and Sonning were entirely submerged.

The wet winter continued to cause misery; the 20th February issue reported more flooding following heavy rain, but not quite as serious as in the New Year.

Ted Cordery on the Reading Road near the 'Magpie and Parrot' PH

[This photo shows Ted Cordery, near the 'Magpie and Parrot' public house one winter in the 1930's. It appears that the 'Causeway' is on the left. The Cordery family lived in the thatched cottage just off the Mole Road, behind the old 'Mole' PH. (with acknowledgements to his son Reg Cordery, who loaned the picture).]

The following winter also featured flooding. The December 18th 1915 issue reported: "Owing to the heavy rainfall experienced this week the Thames has risen rapidly, and in several places has overflowed its banks. So far Reading has escaped, but the water yesterday was high, and there was a somewhat strong current. The River Kennet and River Loddon are on districts in flood, and quite a large acreage of meadow-land is submerged."

Later on, there were also high winds, as mentioned on January 1st 1916. In the Bank Holiday gale the previous Monday, the roof blew off the western enclosure at Reading Football Club, causing a lot of damage to surrounding property. More locally, the Barkham Brook was reported to have overflowed, and trees had been blown down.

By 15th January 1916, there was unseasonably mild weather; snowdrops were already out, and bulb shoots were appearing strongly. However, this had changed a couple of months later. The edition of 25th March stated that there had been flooding following three days of continuous rain. ‘Flowing Spring Lane’ in Sonning was 5 ft under water, and many fields were flooded. By April 1st, the ‘Great Blizzard’ was accompanied by gales, uprooted trees and further flooding.

Swallowfield, upstream on the River Loddon from Arborfield, often provided the weather news, probably because when it flooded, everyone was affected, unlike Arborfield, whose main road has been raised on a causeway for well over a century.

On 11th November 1916, it was reported: "The heavy gale on Sunday did a lot of damage in Swallowfield, trees being uprooted in all directions, and two fell across the road by the Post Office, completely blocking the thoroughfare. Owing to the incessant rain, the floods are very severe, all the low-lying meadows being under water; and Part Lane has been impassable: ducks are swimming about all over the road. It is very unfortunate for the farmers, as, after having a poor season, they are unable to plough or sow corn owing to the waterlogged condition of the land; and a good many have been unable yet to gather in the root crops.

In August 1917, the Reading Borough Engineer and Surveyor reported that 5.181 inches of rain fell in July – a local record. It continued into August, as reported from Swallowfield on the 11th:


Owing to the exceptionally heavy rains last week, the floods came out rapidly,
and the low meadows and roads were under water several inches deep.
Much damage has been done to the corn, and in many instances it is growing out,
and the outlook for the local farmers is not of the brightest.

The bad weather continued, as related on September 1st in an article headed 'SUMMER GALE – DAMAGE TO CROPS AND FRUITS'. To read it, see the web page on Weather.

There were more high winds in October 1917. On the 13th, under the heading 'WOKINGHAM', the paper reported that a violent gale on the Monday night blew down an elm tree at Shute End.

At the end of January 1918, Swallowfield was again closely affected by rain: 'Floods: Both the Loddon and the Blackwater have overflowed their banks, with the result that the roads around Swallowfield have been flooded to some depth in places'. No doubt the Causeway at Arborfield allowed life to continue more normally downstream on the Loddon.

The following winter, on February 1st 1919, Swallowfield again reported, this time on:

The Snowstorm. 'Monday night’s fall of snow was in some parts as much as 18 inches in depth, and great inconvenience was caused till the thaw set in.'



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