The great storm of ‘87 – that’s 1887


Most people over the age of 35 have memories of the Great Storm of 1987 but few know there had been an equally blustery night 100 years earlier.

On January 4 1887, the Mid Sussex Times carried an account of the River Ouse bursting its banks with rather impressive results.

The report read: “As a result of the great storm, the Ouse became unable to contain itself within its usual limits, and consequently a great tract of land in the Plumpton neighbourhood was inundated and a sea of water reached from Lewes to Plumpton on one hand and Uckfield on the other.”

That’s quite a flood!

The report went on to say the water rose up to the banks of the railway line and, in many places, only the tops of the tress could be seen.

It continued: “Even up as far as Lindfield the floods were very great, and at Cockhaise Mill, the house and premises were flooded.”

So that’s 1887, 1987...could anyone who is still around in 2087 please warn the meteorologists of the day to be on their toes?

The storm wasn’t the only talking point in the early weeks of 1887 – Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee was just around the corner and there were plans to be made.

The 68-year-old Monarch had ruled for 50 years and that June saw European heads of state join delegates from throughout the empire attend some of the most lavish celebrations the country had ever seen.

In Haywards Heath, though, the community appeared to have adopted a somewhat lackluster approach to the whole thing.

On January 18 1887, a letter in the Middy stated: “I should like to see announced a meeting at the Corn Exchange or St Wilfrid’s schoolroom to ascertain whether the inhabitants are desirous or not of commemorating the Jubilee year, and in what direction their efforts would tend.

“We shall then have the various local ideas upon the subject and very likely more original notions.”

One man who definitely had other things on his mind while the Jubilee celebrations were planned was a lad called Pattenden.

Young Pattenden was the Ardingly messenger – a postman – and had recently collapsed under the strain of the loads he was required to carry.

Sick pay and other benefits were still a pipe dream and the community was so concerned about the pressures placed on Pattenden and his colleagues, they called for Post Office reform.

The Middy reported: “Before the introduction of parcel post, rural messengers had to carry an ass’s load, but for a considerable time now they have been doing horse’s work.

“Who has seen the Ardingly messenger, Pattenden, toiling under a load fit only for a camel’s back and not thought him an object of pity?

“We venture to say that no men in the United Kingdom are so hard worked as he, and it is no wonder that he has broken down under it.

“This case is but a sample of all the rest, and it quite time there was Post Office reform.”

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