from left to right: The Old Bakery, the Dollshouse, Cliff Woodhouse's house, the three cottages and lastly what is now the Cookies Crab shop. The wreckage of their wash houses lies between them and the road. The night before, the water had been up to the ceilings of the first floors. On the edge of the picture, to the right of the Crab Shop, is the house where Mrs Middleton was drowned.

The night of the storm Leslie Cooke and his friend Derek Howlett were shooting on the marshes and they thought they’d better come home. Leslie lived up Grout’s Lane, you could hardly walk against the wind and it was snowing as well.

Derek Howlett lived in the cottage immediately behind the old bakery. He had a new three-piece suite, only two weeks old. They were familiar with floods and they expected no more than a foot of water in Derek’s house, behind the bakery, and so they lifted the heavy couch onto the table. Derek ran upstairs to get his dog and was immediately trapped. Leslie raced home to get an anchor rope, 50 yards long.When he got back the water was so deep that men standing on higher ground above did not want to venture into it, but Kenny Brown appeared, and though they managed to get the rope to Derek, it was far too dangerous for him to use it. The words in the newspaper clipping below do not exaggerate: in deep swirling water and in the darkness Leslie and Ken struggled to help Derek leaning out of a tiny window above. Next morning they discovered that the couch, which had been so difficult to get in through the door, had been swept out onto the bank behind.

Leslie Cooke (left) and
Ken Brown (above) 50 years later!

Derek Howlett's house

On the 2nd February 1953, the Eastern Daily Press reported:

In 30 Minutes Much of Salthouse Was Ravaged

Woman Killed and at Least Thirty Houses Destroyed

Much of the village of Salthouse was devastated in half an hour on Saturday night. A woman 73, was swept through the window of her kitchen and was later found dead in the back garden. At least 30 houses were destroyed and another 20 so severely damaged as to be uninhabitable.

The dead woman was Mrs. Middleton, who had been put on the table in the kitchen by her husband after a fall. The back door was swept in by the sea and both Mr and Mrs Middleton were carried out. Mr Middleton was rescued and later found the body of his wife beside a tree in the garden.

Mr Leslie Cooke waded neck-deep in swirling icy water in the dark to pass a rope to a man on the top floor of another house, and Mr Cliff Woodhouse, trapped in his house, made a hole through the wall of an upstairs room to which he and his wife had gone and crawled through it to safety. (see the picture on the right)

Cliff Woodhouse's house
Old Bakery

Jim Manson, only a boy at the time (see left), who later became landlord of the Dun Cow says:

" Cliff Woodhouse, he escaped by making a hole upstairs in the gable—how he made it I don’t know—you don’t usually keep those sort of tools upstairs, but he escaped that way. So did Brian Holman and Mary, living in the Cley Corner cottage, the one cottage with two gables behind the pub.
He made a hole in the end of the house to get out. They fell in the water when they jumped out, although the ground rises a bit. The water actually came in the bedroom in that house—a bit frightening when the bed starts floating."

left to right (the three nearest to us):
Dick Manson, Doris Holman and Jim Manson
queuing for Red Cross food after the flood


Have a look at Madge and Kath Haylock's accounts of 1953 flood experiences:


Betty Smith (neé Wright) issuing Red Cross sausages


Middleton's house


More 1953

flood aftermath










































     © Val Fiddian 2005