On My Doorstep – Part Fourteen
December 14, 2016
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The Frimley flood of 1926
Close by the site where Tomlinscote School now stands there is a small pond – about 0.6 kilometres in perimeter with a surface area of 1.8 hectares called Tomlin’s Pond – which attracts a motley collection of ducks and geese, the latter quite a nuisance in an area that is now the epitome of English suburbia. In earlier times it seems to have been a more substantial feature of the area. It was a large stretch of water, quite deep, with an island covered in thick rhododendrons which made a pleasing reflection in the water when the sun shone.
On the Frimley side of the lake – it is hard to envisage now – was a high waterfall which replenished the lake throughout the year. In periods following heavy rain the waterfall would be in full flow and the sound of the water rushing down the stone blocks was a familiar backdrop to the soundtrack of daily life in the area. Just above the waterfall was a large penstock or sluice which was used to control the flow of water at times.
After some heavy rainfall in 1926 the penstock gave way with disastrous consequences, whether it just was overwhelmed by the weight of water or was helped on its way by mischievous boys is unclear. Frimley folklore fingers Harry Finch and his brother but whether there is any truth in the story I haven’t been able to determine. Anyway, with a great roar the water poured out.
The water poured through the undergrowth until it met the pond in the grounds of Alphington. That pond could not play host to such a prodigious amount of water for long and soon the excess escaped into the ditches along Field Lane, linked up with another stream near the Grove. It continued its journey under the road past the back of the old Hospital and into the garden of the White Hart public house. By the pub was a deep well-known as “the Dip Hole” which boasted a plentiful supply of that relatively rare commodity, pure clean water, and was used by travellers on their way to and from London to water their nags. The well put up feeble resistance to the spate and the water made its way down the High Street which was flooded by several feet and was made impassable.
On it went flooding some of the cottages along the way whose ground floor rooms were lower than the street and into Station Road. The laws of physics – water can’t travel uphill – stemmed the torrent somewhere just before the railway station. Workmen were soon on the scene lifting manholes trying to coax the aberrant waters underground but it was a long and at times frustrating task. Villagers flocked to watch the fun, perching precariously on any ground dry enough and high enough to offer a grandstand view. It took sometime before village life returned to normal.
Perhaps surprisingly, the waterfall was also repaired and it continued to be an attractive feature of the area until the lure of property developers waving wads of cash to persuade farmers to sell their land for housing sealed its demise.