The Worst Floods in the UK on Record


Historically, the UK has endured severe flooding especially in regions like Yorkshire and Cumbria where large quantities of rainfall occur. Areas by large seas or rivers such as Cornwall, Hull and coastal areas like Great Yarmouth are also at the greatest risk from floodwater.

Low-income households are eight times more likely to live in areas with tidal floodplains, leaving them at risk of flooding. A whopping 61% of low-income renters are without home contents insurance, leaving them vulnerable to devastating financial consequences.

As a country, the UK is notoriously ill-prepared for flooding. The current damage costs around £1.3 billion each year, with the total economic damages for England from winter 2015 to 2016 floods estimated around £1.6 billion, with 32% of total damages occurring to the business sector. Pumping stations can play a part in helping to move water away from flooded land. We consider regular pump station maintenance as an essential step for averting disaster. 

To give you a bit more insight, we’ve put together a summary of some of the UK’s worst flooding disasters and the impact they had.

The Benchmark – 1947

In 1947, Britain was struck by ‘the perfect storm. Record snowfall followed by a sudden thaw culminated in heavy rain which produced the worst flood the country had ever seen. Valleys turned into lakes in over forty counties and East Anglia’s fenland became a sandbagged inland sea. The impact devastated a staggering 100,000 homes and over 750,000 hectares of farmland were submerged.

The damages at the time totalled around £12 million, which is estimated at £300 million in today’s economic climate. The final cost, after repairs to infrastructure and the devastation to farmland, was between £3bn and £4.5bn.

The Wet Autumn – 2000

The unprecedented ‘wet autumn’ of the year 2000 is an example of the rapid environmental change we face as a country and globally. In the Autumn of 2000, England, Wales and Northern Ireland faced such heavy rainfall that the Met Office quoted it as the wettest Autumn on record.


The flooding affected 10,000 homes and businesses at 700 locations. Peak flows on five major rivers - the Thames, Trent, Severn, Wharfe and Dee - were the highest for sixty years, and the River Ouse in Yorkshire reached its highest level since the 1600s.

Overall, the flooding incurred an estimated £1 billion worth of damage, affecting fewer properties but incurring more costs than the 1947 flood.

The Rising Costs – 2015/2016 Floods

When storm Desmond struck the UK on December 5th, 2015, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology recorded the month of December as both the wettest and the warmest since records began in 1910. According to the Centre, this volatile weather caused peak river flows in England’s Tyne, Lune and Eden, resulting in a volume of water large enough to fill a space as big as London's Royal Albert Hall in less than a minute.

A record 341.4mm of rain fell at Honister Pass in the Lake District in a 24 hour period and overall, over 16,000 properties were affected across the UK, totalling a pricey insurance bill of £1.3 billion.

The constant fluctuation and severity of our changing climate are resulting in massive changes in weather, which inevitably affects the increasing economic cost when it comes to repairing the damage. Historically speaking, our national flood defences have been unable to protect everyone, so it seems like it has been left to the individual to protect his or her property. 

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