History of early storms in Brighton (before 1987)

Reproduced with permission from the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder (1990)

The worst storm in recorded history was probably the 'Great Channel Storm' of 26 November 1703 which is estimated to have killed 8,000 people in England. Over a period of eight hours at Brighton a number of houses were demolished or lost their roofs, the town windmills were flattened, several boats and crews were lost, and the lead was ripped from the roof of the parish church.

Less than two years later a storm of only slightly less intensity, on 11 August 1705, again stripped the church roof and buried the remaining tenements of the Lower Town beneath a bank of shingle.  Other destructive storms have included:

15 December 1806 when much of the Marine Parade cliff top was washed away from Lower Rock Gardens to Royal Crescent.

23 November 1824 when Pool Valley was inundated

29 November 1836 when the Chain Pier was wrecked

5 August 1848 when a whirlwind and water-spout passed over the town, scattering bathing machines and uprooting everything in its path

17 July 1850 when a thunderstorm inundated the Valley Gardens and Pool Valley was flooded to a depth of nearly six feet

18 January 1881 when a snowstorm produced drifts of up to eight feet in the town

4 December 1896 when the Chain Pier and Rottingdean Railway were wrecked

June 1910 when an eight-hour thunderstorm produced a state of shock in many people

8 December 1967 when continuous heavy snow in the morning brought the whole town to a standstill with drifts several feet deep.'

This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
Thanks for helping me with my research!
By Poopa (10/05/2006)

Was there not a storm about 1954/56? I arrived at Brighton station and as we walked towards the front the wind became stronger - so much so that at the corner it was possible to lean into the wind degrees. People were being blown all over the place. The most curious thing was that when you were on the sea side of the front there was no wind and you could stand quite normally and enjoy the chaos on the opposite side of the road. As for the sea, it was a complete picture of white froth, you could not see any normal sea. Can you please let me know which year this actually was. Thanks

By Ted Hughes (28/10/2013)

There was a very bad storm in July or August 1957. We were living at Saltdean and one night heard a helicopter over the noise of the wind. We ran to the beach to see what was happening. A motor yacht with three Dutch people on board had been blown in too close to the shore mistaking the lights of the Ocean Hotel for the safety of Newhaven harbour and was thrown by the storm onto the undercliff there. The helicopter couldn't get close as it would have been blown into the cliffs too. It was an amazing sight; one moment there was a boat there then it was thrown by a huge wave onto the undercliff and 'exploded' into a thousand pieces of split timber. The woman and child were lost but the husband was saved thanks partly to my father who had the foresight to grab the lifebelt as we went down the cliff steps although someone else actually rescued the man who spent some time in hospital before returning to Holland. The next morning after the storm had passed the only thing on the beach was the engine, gearbox, propeller and shaft lying in the sand just where they had dropped out of the bottom of the boat. There wasn't a bit of wood to be seen. This may well be the storm you mention? There were other bad storms in the fifties, after some of these all the television aerials were bent as they were on such long poles to catch the signal from over the Downs before the booster station at Truleigh Hill came on stream.

By Tim Sargeant (30/10/2013)

Hi Ted, Brighton was battered by hurricane force winds on 28/29th July 1956. There were a number of deaths and much destruction of property that resulted from the storm. Regards, Andy

By Andy Grant (30/10/2013)

Don't forget to add  the 1987 Great Storm.

By jenny Chippendale (31/01/2017)

I remember the '56 winds, I tried to ride my bike against the wind in Dyke Road Park and stood still! They talk about climate change now but we had all sorts of bad weather back then too - this happened in July! 

By Terry Hyde (02/02/2017)

A tornado struck Peacehaven on the night of 7 January 1998, and did a great deal of damage (as it had done in Selsey a little earlier). I wasn't in Peacehaven at the time, but was working a night shift at a nursing home in Bear Road Brighton. At about midnight, we looked out of the windows to see Bear Road covered in the biggest hailstones I have ever seen - the size of marbles.

By Janet Beal (02/02/2017)

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