The Great Storm: 25 years ago

Dramatic and catastrophic

Anyone who lived in Brighton in October 1987 will remember what came to be known as ‘The Great Storm’.  This Tuesday will mark the 25th anniversary of this dramatic and catastrophic event. The storm passed under the radar of weather forecasters, and gale force winds of over a hundred miles an hour, swept across the Atlantic hitting the south coast in the middle of the night. It is believed that the 1987 storm was the worst to affect southern England since 1703.

Devastation and loss of life

In 1987, the devastation was unequalled in living memory; buildings were destroyed, power lines brought down, roofs from houses were ripped off and cars were overturned as if they were Dinky toys. The Royal Pavilion, which was undergoing renovation at the time, was seriously damaged. One of the minarets crashed through the roof of the Music Room, sadly this had just been restored. There was loss of life and many injuries, but if the storm had hit in the daytime, then casualties would clearly have been greater.

Let us have your memories

We want to hear your stories about where you were, how it affected you; your memories of the day, and any photos you have of the damage where you lived.

Please email me – you can attach your photographs to the email.

Comments about this page

  • I remember this day. I drove down Ditchling Road about 6.30 in the morning on the way to work. It was very quiet – not a sound. As I got near Surrenden Road, I realised something was different. I could see right across to the race course and there was lots of bits of trees on the road, and trees that had blown down on the playing fields

    By Kathleen Catt (14/10/2012)
  • I was in Brighton on the day of the storm. I had to take my mother into the General Hospital that evening and had to return to my house in Windmill Street where I had to take care of my mothers dog. The wind was very strong that evening but we managed to struggle home. That night I was woken by this horrific noise of the wind, the chimney above my room was Knocking loudly as it was moving on its base. There was a TV cable linking my chimney stack to others across the road; the wind was rocking this cable and pulling on the stack. I was petrified by the noise and waiting for the roof to cave in if the chimney stack broke loose. I was extremely happy in the morning to find I had only suffered from minor damage to my roof tiles. I took my mothers dog out early in the morning to Queens Park and it was there that I saw the extent of the damage, trees were down, cars were crushed, the whole area was devastated. I had come to Brighton with my wife, but had left the children back home in north Kent. There were no phones as the lines were dead, there were no trains running so we were trapped. Walking down to the Level and all we could see was an enormous logging camp, not only were they cutting up the trees damaged around the Level but also from other areas; what a sight! what an experience! A week later I managed to return to our children in Kent, together with my mothers dog. I did return to Brighton to lock the house up fully and put it up for sale. My mother came out of hospital 3 months later and moved in with her family. I never returned.

    By Ron Burtenshaw (14/10/2012)
  • The overall average woodland cover in England is 8.4%. However, this hides a large degree of variation. Humberside, for example, has less than 3% woodland cover, while Surrey has 22%. The most wooded region is the South East, which of course includes Surrey and its many leafy suburbs, Hampshire, East Sussex and West Sussex have between 16% and18% woodland cover. Kent has the most preserved ancient woodlands. The South-East has long been the most wooded region of England. The biggest differences occur in the North-East. Northumberland, for example, has increased its woodland from less than 4% to over 15% since the late 1800s. At the other end of the scale the areas of woodland in Lincolnshire and Warwickshire have hardly changed. Principal species of tree found in England are oak, beech, sycamore, ash, birch, pine, spruces, larches and other broad-leaves. The great storm of 1987 occurred 25 years ago during the night of the 16th October. 100mph winds cut a huge swathe across southern England, landscapes changed overnight. Many of Brighton & Hove’s precious elms, were destroyed, Sevenoaks in Kent lost six of its famous old oak trees. Estimates are 15 million+ trees were blown down or destroyed in southern England during that terrible storm. However, the true number of trees lost will never be known. The damaged caused that night took years to repair. Subsequently millions of new trees were planted. Twenty five years on these young trees are now thankfully reaching maturity. Next time you are out walking the dog or visiting the countryside and you come across a lovely old English oak that survived the great storm, pause for a while, give the tree a big hug and say thank you Mother Nature for always sorting things out.

    By Christopher George Wrapson (16/10/2012)
  • I slept through the storm and when I got up to go to work I couldn’t work out why there was no power. Eventually I found an old battery radio and listened to the news. I needed to get from Rowan Avenue, Hove (where I lived at that time) to Hollingdean, where I worked in a care home, and decided that walking would be the only option. I made my way along Old Shoreham Road, past Hove Park, up to Dyke Road and down to Preston Village, up Preston Drove to Fiveways and into Hollingdean. Two or three times I had to clamber through the branches of trees that were blocking the whole road. At a bus stop in Brentwood Road I came across two women standing at the bus stop. I told them no buses were running, whereupon one woman remarked “that’s so typical – any excuse not to run the service”!

    By John Wilkin (16/10/2012)
  • I have special reason to remember the storm, or more specifically, the aftermath. I persuaded my 25 year old son to drive me round the town so that I could get a photographic memorial of the fallen trees. He reluctantly agreed, and I grabbed my Canon AE1 and dived into the passenger seat. He drove slowly past The Level and St Peter’s Church, carefully avoiding fallen trees, while I leaned out the window, a la David Bailey, snapping professionally. I don’t know which of us was more annoyed when I later discovered that there was no film in the camera.

    By Joe Reid (17/10/2012)
  • I was working in Norway when the storm struck Brighton so I only found out about it the following morning when I called my wife at around 08:00. The strange thing is that I got through to her at that time but couldn’t get through again later, after she’d taken our daughters to school. By then all I got was the recorded message; “Sorry, there is a fault on the line”.

    By Alan Phillips (19/10/2012)
  • We were on holiday in Tunisia (Kerkenneh) at the time and as the resort we were at was looked after mainly by Panorama holidays, based in Brighton / South Coast, we only found out when the next batch of tourists arrived, reading newspapers by the pool with “South Coast wiped out by storm!” as the headline. You have never seen so many people jump up from the pool and race to the phone in the hotel lobby. Luckily all our families were OK – but arriving back at Gatwick and then traveling back to Brighton and eventually our home was shocking. The devastation was terrible.

    By Claire Townsend (20/10/2012)

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