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Willsbridge Mill Pond, South Gloucestershire
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Image by brizzle born and bred
This undated photograph was taken before the 1968 floods it shows the power dam wall and the old dilapidated, rickety wooden walkway to the sluice gates, which controlled the water levels in the mill pond. The mill building stands to the right of this picture.

These mills were erected on the site of the ancient Manor House of Oldland on a stream called the Mill-Clack Brook. It is a continuation of the Siston brook and runs through the valley of Southern Wood also known as ‘Catscliffe’.

During the great storm of 10/11 July 1968 which was probably the worst in living memory, had been lashing the West Country for most of Wednesday increased in intensity during the evening and deposited an incredible 6 ins of rain on Bristol in 24 hours.

In the late evening of July 10th 1968, my uncle Sidney Townsend,. tried in vain to relieve the pressure of water in the mill pond, by tying a long thick rope round his waist, and securing the other end to a large tree trunk.

He then walked slowly across the dilapidated and rickety old wooden walkway to the rusty sluice gates, which controlled the water levels in the mill pond. These old sluice gates were last used when the mill was using water power.

But the pressure of water was so great, the sluice gates refusing to open.

Then in a second Sidney just managed to jump clear, before a massive 20ft long tree trunk was swept into the dam walls, acting as a large battering ram, the dam was unable to withstand the force of the impact and it gave way, allowing the pressure of millions of gallons of water, from the mill pond to devastate the lower lying areas of Willsbridge valley below the mill.

It was a night I will never forget!

My family lived in The Tanyard just below the mill in Willsbridge.

On the day of the flood, I was at home on leave from the army, it rained for 24hr non-stop, then in the late evening the lower lying areas of Willsbridge valley was hit by a tidal bore of water from the mill pond.

The force of the flood water collided with our house and caused structural damage to the main wall.

The pressure of water inside the house, shot furniture through the windows and out on to the street.

My father was thrown from the back-door of the house into the front living room, such was the force of the water. There was no escape most people had to live up-stairs for many weeks, until the houses dried out and were completely rewired.

We had to move a massive pile of furniture and break down the kitchen door — all this in a chest high raging torrent of water that was rushing in through the back door of the house and out the front.

The elderly folk who lived in the bungalows had to be rescued by a large bucket on a JCB.

The water was rising rapidly and by 11.00pm had reached 7 feet deep. My family were rescued by two boats, one a Fire Service inflatable, the other a private dinghy.

Several families were rescued by the Army on Thursday morning. £10,000 of cash aid dispensed to flood victims from the city’s permanent flood fund. Free services provided for carpet cleaning, transport, laundry and bedding loan.

My car an old Hillman Minx was swept into the nearby River Avon, and was lost for many weeks!.

Many people lost everything and most were not insured against flood damage, it was heart breaking.

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