This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Wray flood which destroyed many homes throughout the village, historian David Kenyon looks back on those individuals who lost everything including their livestock and nearly their lives.
On Tuesday August 8 1967 a violent thunderstorm developed over the Roeburndale-Wray area, with two to four inches of rain falling during a half hour period.
The River Roeburn swelled to such an extent that it gouged out a path much wider than its usual course, causing widespread devastation to the village of Wray and surrounding areas.
Backsbottom Farm was the first building in the river’s path as it flowed down the narrow valley towards Wray.
Bill and Alice Brown, the proprietors of the farm, were forced to seek refuge in the end bedroom of their farmhouse.
Although Bill and Alice were later rescued unharmed by Bentham Fire Brigade, the farmhouse, hay barn, shippons, implement sheds and pigsty were damaged beyond repair.
The road and bridge to the farm were washed away along with bridges to Haylott Farm and Mallowdale Farm.
The huge deluge of water continued on its inevitable course towards the village of Wray, ripping trees from woodlands along the way.
These trees, along with relatively large boulders, smashed against the bridge at Bridge End, Wray.
The bridge, although severely damaged, managed to withstand the force of the water.
However, the trees built up a dam to about eight feet above the bridge, and in turn this built up a large volume of water which swept around the bridge, destroying houses built on the riverbanks and damaging many more.
Three houses, a timber merchant’s garage and two small cottages, which were used as workshops at Bridge End, were completely destroyed and washed away.
Eleven other homes were severely damaged and were in a dangerous condition.
Fourteen houses in the village had suffered from flooding but remained structurally sound.
As well as the homes that were damaged, essential utilities were also badly affected.
The footbridge carrying the water main across the river at Wray Mill was destroyed and water supply intakes up the River Roeburn were damaged beyond repair.
The sewage disposal works were rendered completely inoperable and the sewer to the pumping station at Bridge End was also washed away.
As a result Wray Village was left without water, sewerage facilities, telephone communications and electricity.
The electricity supply to habitable homes was, however, quickly restored and the mains in the damaged houses rendered safe.
In response to the flood, emergency plans were quickly put in place to co-ordinate the rescue and clean-up operations.
The police established a control centre with radio communications in the village institute.
Adjoining this Lunesdale Council also set up a control room and made use of the police radio to convey urgent messages.
A feeding centre was established in the school kitchen, enabling hot meals to be served at lunchtime to homeless people and to the numerous relief workers.
By Wednesday, the day after the flood, under the supervision of the police, all the furniture and effects that could be salvaged from the damaged houses were removed by voluntary helpers and placed in various buildings in the village for safe keeping.
Unfortunately, a large proportion of the personal effects were damaged beyond repair.
This work proceeded throughout the day, as did the clearance of debris at Bridge End, so that by nightfall on Wednesday the bridge was accessible for emergency vehicles.
However, this relief work was being hampered by sightseers so passes were issued to all villagers and bona fide workers and no one without a pass was allowed into the village.
The Lune Valley Water Board had arranged for tanks of drinking water to be placed at strategic points around the village.
A council tanker lorry, used for cleaning road gulleys, was filled with river water and stationed in the village.
This enabled people to fill buckets of water to flush toilets.
By the weekend the Water Board had restored a piped supply to the village.
Within a short time all the families affected had vacated their homes and were being looked after by neighbours.
Offers of accommodation were received from Lancaster Corporation, Manchester Corporation Water Works and private property owners.
It was evident that the families without accommodation wished to remain in Wray and it was decided to place seven caravans on the church field.
The families who occupied these remained in them until new houses were built on Wennington Road, Wray.
Mr and Mrs Whittam and Mr and Mrs Bastow rebuilt on their old sites but further away from the Main Street and on higher ground.
The sites of the destroyed houses were paved, landscaped or turned into gardens.
A national flood appeal was established by a local committee.
By the time the appeal closed more than £29,000 had been raised. The administration of this relief fund was carried out by a small executive committee, chaired by John Hallsworth, who was clerk of Lunesdale Rural District Council.
“We’re very proud”, he said, “that every penny we raised but for one pound was paid to the people who needed it. The pound was for stamp duty on the cheques.”
The valiant work carried out by Police Constable Forrest and Police Sergeant Smith, with the willing help of many of the villagers, miraculously ensured that there was no loss of life or anything but minor injuries.
Gerry Forrest was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct for his part in the rescue operation.