The Great Storm

On the night of the 16th October 1987, high winds swept across Southern England causing huge damage and destruction.  The storm had a devastating effect on the Park.

Elm trees swaying in the wind
A local resident, Simon Maxwell, looked out of his window at midnight and saw: “…great elm trees a hundred feet high, swaying in the wind and then crashing to the ground, flattening cars along the Drive and blocking all roads. When dawn came, the park had lost a hundred mature trees.

A funeral pyre which burned for weeks
There was a fallen tree every ten yards along West Drive and people stood with tears in their eyes. The branches were collected and burned on a huge bonfire below the Clock Tower: it was like a funeral pyre which burned for weeks.

Comments about this page

  • In 1987 I was living around Seven Dials and still do not believe what I saw on the morning after the storm. On the actual night of October 16th I definitely recollect hearing some peculiar whistling noises which, while they suggested that things had got a bit windy, didn’t seem to hint at the actual amount of damage which became apparent the next morning. I was working in Uckfield at the time which meant getting a lift from Preston Circus each morning and, as I left my partner’s flat, I remember noticing that a motorbike had been knocked over. Putting this down to the activities of lager louts. I headed on to Preston Circus where on London Road a row of trees, elms around 60-70 feet tall, were leaning very neatly against the buildings on right of the street. At this point I realised that I probably wasn’t going to work that morning and attempted to phone my employer, only to discover that the payphones weren’t working either. It was at least two days before anyone could leave Brighton by road and much of mid-Sussex was cut off for longer than that. The most unpleasant part of it all were the power cuts, which brought back unwanted memories of the early 70s and sugar rationing, but what I remember most is of visiting a female friend who’d had a full chimney pot fall through her bedroom ceiling and onto her bed, which was at the time vacant, fortunately. Later that weekend in Littlehampton, my partner and I drove along the seafront where every beach hut for miles had been reduced to matchwood. It was all pretty weird, really. The female friend I referred to had I think one of the luckiest escapes I’ve heard of anyone surviving, and it still amazes me how little actual loss of life there was – I didn’t hear of any fatalities in the B&H area – when considering the actual number of trees which fell over.

    By Jon (13/07/2005)
  • In October 1987 I was living not far from Queens Park, in Freshfield Road. The evening of the storm I had been out to the Escape Club on the seafront and noticed that it was getting a bit rainy and windy as I emerged about 1am. I remember being annoyed because my brolly broke! Having got home and gone to bed, I awoke briefly about 3am and peeked out the curtains to see the trees swaying quite violently outside, but thought nothing of it. The following morning, sunny and clear, I awoke not realising anything amiss. My flatmate told me about the hurricane, and I found it hard to believe I had slept through nearly all of it. Only when we went out that morning did I realise the full extent of the damage. One image sticks in my mind: I was waiting outside the Pavillion waiting to cross the road up to Edward Street and next to the zebra crossing was a huge tree totally uprooted. An ambulance came by, its front door open, and one of the crew leant out and took a picture of the tree! The bloke next to me said how it was a hearless thing to do.

    By David Muggleton (21/10/2005)
  • I lived in Islingword Road as a child and remember waking up that morning and couldn’t believe my eyes when I went to the park to see most of the trees uprooted, a very sad day one I will never forget. I have very fond memories of that park even today 24 years later.

    By Paul (19/01/2011)
  • I remember this – not the storm itself (I was three and slept through it) but how weird everything looked in the days after. Any chance of large versions of these pictures? I’m particularly curious to know if I am/recognise the kid in the bottom picture.

    By Kathryn Miller (19/09/2011)

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