Eighty years ago, towns across Gwent were still counting the cost of the Great Storm. Helen Morgan from Abergavenny Local History Society reports
Flood and destruction hit Abergavenny in the storm of May 1931, according to reports from the time. Fierce sheets of lightning and ear-splitting thunder rolled across the sky as incessant torrential rain drummed down on Gwent from about 9.30 pm until well after midnight. The river Gavenny rose up and burst its banks, sweeping across Swan Meadows and Mill Street, leaving a trail of broken windows, smashed doors and piles of mud in its wake.
Lower Monk Street and Mill Street suffered worst. The road bridge across the Gavenny, the gas mains to the mental hospital and No 1 Asylum Terrace in Lower Monk Street were swept away. The walls on the Monmouth Road failed to hold back the water and the flood poured across into Mill Street “like a broken dam”. In those days, Mill Street was crammed with houses and its inhabitants were forced to climb on to their roofs as water up to 8ft deep flooded their houses.
A year later, work on rebuilding roads, pavements and boundary walls was only just beginning. The council, understandably, was looking to the Government for financial help. By March 1932, it had succeeded in obtaining half of the cost of repairing the roads and bridges but was still fighting its corner for funding for a storm water overflow.
By July 1932, the Swan Hotel car park had been repaired and its owners had decided to raise the level of the ground floor to the height of the window sills and install steps at the front entrance – in case of another flood.
Most buildings in Mill Street survived the storm, but not the demolition frenzy of the 1960s. One of the few to escape the post-war bulldozers was the old granary opposite the corn mill. It was later used as a wool store and is currently being restored ready for its next chapter in history as a cafe by the Cibi brook.
“This is a fascinating glimpse of our historic streets,” says Dai Morgan, organiser of Abergavenny Local History Society’s summer walks. “Our route takes us through the centuries. We are really excited to have discovered so much more to offer our audience.”
Town tours start at 2pm from the castle gate every Monday in July and on August 6, 13 and 20. Duration: approximately 1 1/2 hours. For further information, please call Dai Morgan on 01873 737738.