150 Years Ago - The New Year of 1873
Queen Victoria was on the throne and Gladstone was Prime Minister. J. S. Fry & Sons were starting work on the UK's first chocolate Easter eggs. In Stoke St Gregory the church was in the hands of a 'Perpetual Curate', the Reverend Richard Wilson Moor (we were yet to get our own vicar). The first of two Samuel Loveridges was landlord of the Royal Oak, although he had missed out on obtaining a full license for the pub a few years earlier. He was only allowed to sell beer and cider (see more HERE). Thomas Skinner Dyer was landlord of the Rose & Crown, which already had a full license (see more HERE), and Stoke House had recently been rebuilt, adding to the original cottage that had suffered a major fire. The original Baptist Church, at the bottom of Griggs Hill had just received permission to solemnise weddings.
More on the minds of villagers were the storms and floods that they were living through. Stoke and the surrounding villages are no strangers to flooding. The picture here depicts the Great Flood of 1607. Described as the worst natural disaster to hit Britain, the flood of 1607 killed 2,000 people. It is estimated that 200 square miles (520 sq km) of land bordering the Bristol Channel were covered by water. Eyewitness accounts of the disaster told of "huge and mighty hills of water" advancing at a speed "faster than a greyhound can run".
Another severe flood occurred in 1872–1873, when over 107 square miles (300 km2) were underwater from October to March. The storms had raged for weeks at the end of 1872, with large trees being uprooted, blocking the road from the village to North Curry. The effects were reported in the Western Gazette of Friday 17 January 1873:
STOKE ST. GREGORY. Houses Washed Down the Flood.—Two cottages the bank of the river, near Athelney Station, occupied by poor families, have been so much damaged by the high floods this season that portions of the walls have fallen down and the roofs sunk in. The occupiers have thus been deprived of "house and home," and have been compelled to take shelter wherever they could find it. There is much distress amongst the labourers in this and adjoining parishes, in consequence of the long continuance the floods. As so much land remains under water, agricultural work is almost at a stand-still, and many men have been out of employ for months past.
No details were given of the houses, apart from the fact that they were near the railway (which then was the broad gauge branch line from Taunton to Yeovil). However, the ones that were partly washed away could well have been the 'Athelney Mud Huts' described by Henry Laver in his paper to the Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society in 1909. See more HERE