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Memories of the Great Storm in Bromley 25 years on

PUBLISHED: 13:17 15 October 2012

A car is crushed in Lewes Road, Bromley.

A car is crushed in Lewes Road, Bromley.

Archant

Twenty five years on Bromley residents recount their memories of the Great Storm to Joshua Fowler

Market stalls collapsed into a heap in Market Square.Market stalls collapsed into a heap in Market Square.

In the early hours of October 16, 1987, a storm battered the borough of Bromley unlike any other for almost 300 years.

Famously disregarded by TV weatherman Michael Fish, the hurricane, caused by an unusually strong weather system across the south, uprooted 15 million trees, wrecked homes and killed 18 people across the country. It also caused devastation in northern France.

Few slept through the hammering winds with many witnessing debris flying through the air that included garden sheds and road signs.

Barclays bank remains intact today, despite the brutal winds of the Great Storm.Barclays bank remains intact today, despite the brutal winds of the Great Storm.

Though the noise was “incredible”, a three-month-old baby cradled in his mother’s arms remained asleep amid the chaos.

Jenny Ryan, 60, remembers that night in Martin’s Road, Shortlands, and recalls an eerily calm morning walk among the devastation with her husband Laird, 56, and infant son Calum, now 25.

She said: “The noise was just incredible, but Calum didn’t stir at all. A house near us had been damaged and some cars outside too.

Trees are replanted as the recovery begins.Trees are replanted as the recovery begins.

“The next day there were no trains, so we walked to Chislehurst and saw loads of trees toppled to the ground. We just felt so lucky we had escaped any damage.

“We had seen the weather report but things like that just don’t happen here.”

The clean-up process saw the community pull together and a Thousand Tree Appeal run jointly by The Times and the council achieved double its target – raising £27,000 to plant 2,000 trees.

Though most will never mature during the lifetimes of those who planted them, the people of Bromley ensured future generations would enjoy the fruits of their labour.

HOW IT WAS REPORTED:

The Kentish Times series of newspapers ran picture spreads titled “Hurricane Horror” showing the carnage.

The Chislehurst Times ran the headline “200 Years Lost” after Chislehurst Common conservationists told the paper that damage caused during the hurricane would take two centuries to restore.

They also appealed for the return of owls lost during the storm.

In Orpington, the Times went with “Winds of War” showing fallen trees scattered across streets, having damaged properties in the area.

Inside, the newspapers displayed a host of pictures depicting the destruction caused mainly by windswept trees with headlines such as “When the wind blew”.

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