The Gale of the World - photographic essay

 

 

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Photographic essay

 

Henry Williamson's photos of the Lynmouth Flood Disaster; and some early photographs and postcards of the area

 

 

Over 14/15 August 1952 there occurred the violent storm over Exmoor that caused utter devastation to Lynmouth, as flood water poured down the East and West branches of the River Lyn, sweeping away all before it, destroying buildings and killing several people. It is that storm that HW used for the climax of The Gale of the World, and indeed of the whole series.

 

The day following the storm HW drove over Exmoor to see the damage for himself. He spent some time there and took a number of photographs.

 

His diary entries are spare:

 

 

gale 6a HW diary 15852

 

 

gale 6b Dairy 16852

 

 

gale 6c diary 19852

 

 

How many photographs he took is not known. There are seven in the archive, though more may have been mislaid over the years, for the prints are very small. They have been enlarged here, and give a very clear impression of the destruction wreaked by the raging torrents of the River Lyn.

 

 

gale 49A HWs photo Lynmouth flood

 

 

gale 49B

 

 

gale 49C

 

 

gale 49D

 

 

gale 49F

 

 

Finally there is this photograph of a figurine swamped in mud and debris, with HW's note pencilled on the reverse:

 

 

gale 49G

 

 

gale 49H

 

 

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In the back of HW's copy of L. T. Catchpole's booklet The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway (Oakwood Press, 1949) are some notes he made when he visited Lynmouth in 1950, with a poignant postscript in red at the bottom:

 

 

gale 49I note in back of Lynton railway book

 

 

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Within the archive there is also a copy of A Book of Exmoor by F. J. Snell, published by Methuen in 1903, with 38 leaves of plates containing 65 illustrations. This particular copy was signed in 1903, most floridly (his usual signature!), as the property of Arthur Heinemann. Below is a selection of the illustrations showing the area around Lynmouth.

 

 

gale 53 Lynmouth Lynton Holliday Hill
Lynmouth and Lynton, with Hollerday Hill behind
 
gale 54 Lynmouth Harbour
Lynmouth harbour, tide in
 
gale 57 Lynmouth Harbour
Lynmouth harbour, tide out
 
gale 55 Valley of the Rocks
The Valley of the Rocks
 
gale 56 Castle Rock Lynton
Castle Rock

 

 

 

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Next, four postcards from the mid-1920s:

 

 

gale 58 Coastline looking east from Wooda Bay
The coastline looking east from Wooda Bay
 
gale 59 Countisbury Hill Lynmouth
Lynmouth, and Countisbury Hill beyond
 
gale 61 another view
Exmoor scene

 

 

The following postcard, showing the view from Dunkery Beacon, was sent by the newly-married Ida Loetitia Williamson to her mother-in-law in May 1925:

 

 

gale 60 Exmoor scene

 

 

 

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To finish, this postcard was kept by HW with his photographs of the Lynmouth flood damage. Dating from the early 1900s, it shows the Lynmouth and Lynton funicular lift, today a popular attraction for visitors. Opened in 1890 (financed by the publisher Sir George Newnes, who had built a house on Hollerday Hill), its early use was to carry freight from the port up to Lynton on a flat platform, as seen here – perhaps this motorcar had been unable to climb the steep hill up to Lynton. The platforms were converted into carriages for passengers in 1947. It is the world's steepest operating water-powered cliff railway.

 

 

gale 62 railway

 

 

 

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