Wickford Flood water at Battlesbridge

Early September 1958 - A view of the reasons for the flood

In the late 1950s Wickford was flooded twice.  It was said at the time that the surface water drainage of Basildon New Town was piped from Basildon into the River Crouch at Wickford and that was what caused the flooding.  There may be archives of local newspaper articles outlining this view, I will leave others to do the research.  If my memory is correct there was a lot of local animosity about the New Town taking over Wickford.  It was also said that the flooding occurred because of the expense and problems of piping the water over marshes at Pitsea and Benfleet.  Whether that was true – I don’t know.

At Battlesbridge on the Wickford upstream side of the bridge is a tidal mill pond with a long structure across the river that has a single set of lock gates. These were designed to close automatically as the tide starts to go out, creating a head of water that would have been used to drive the tidal mill on the south bank.   In my opinion this automatic closing of the two single lock gates contributed to Wickford flooding as the excess rain water could not drain away fast enough.  The attached photos back up my opinion and shows what happened when the flood water could not get away quickly enough and poured over the top of the barrier, which was only intended to hold a tidal pond.  I believe the attached photos may be the only ones taken at the time.  This naturally caused the water to back up to Wickford and beyond.

I understand these gates were replaced in 2008.  The new gates, weighing 19 tonnes, were constructed using pine beams and metal sluices and cost £25,000.  The basic work was completed by Roy Hart and his son Justin.  Their new role is to harness the tide again to create a head of water that will power a generator – green energy.


Battlesbridge Wickford Flood Water from the North side
John Fuller ©
Battlesbridge Wickford Flood Water taken from the bridge
John Fuller ©
Flood water at Battlesbridge
© John Fuller

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  • I can imagine how the urbanisation of Basildon, the rapidly growing Wickford together with the tidal gates swinging closed at Battlesbridge were all contributory factors to the big 50’s floods.
    At the time of the “canalisation” of the Crouch through the town, the lower part of the river was also dredged and straightened through the Memorial Park, past Three arches which the Southminster rail line passes over and on to Battlesbridge. This facilitated the tide to flow further upstream. In the 1960’s I’ve witnessed the incoming tide reach the small weir at the end on the concrete stretch located behind Southend Road garage.
    With the river silting up downstream particularly in the Battlesbridge area, I believe the flow of the incoming tide has been checked this century. What this all indicates is that from Wickford to Battlesbridge the elevation could only be dropping a few feet, so the pressure of the flood water holding the Tidal gates shut would have indeed been an ingredient.
    Having spent many hours of my childhood larking about the river both in Wickford and Battlesbridge I found the pictures of the floodwater fascinating – thanks.

    By Philip Merrin (27/03/2018)
  • Yes, you are right the tremendous rainfall that evening couldnt get away that night, because the gates were shut and the in coming high tide was at full height.I walked through 5 ft of water that night to get my girl friend home.

    By BOBCROOT (10/04/2013)

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