Raining Again.

The following is an extract from an unpublished book – Six Poor Boys– written by the late Joyce Coley; a well respected teacher and local historian. In this book Joyce explores many aspects of Clent village life from the 1700s to the 1940s.

Wednesday 2ed January 2024 and it is raining again in Clent. We have had a frosty day already and there is talk of snow/ sleet coming this way later next week. Clent had several days of very wet weather earlier this autumn resulting in periods of flooding in Odnall Lane, near the old school and in Church Ave below the bridge. Water ran in rivers from the hills, breaching the mill ponds at Clatterbach, gushing in and around the Vine Inn; rushing along Vine Lane, some of it draining into the stream at Elsie Partington Way which was brim full as it raced further down hill. Fortunately the water levels fell quite quickly, unlike a period of flooding experienced in1827 which had serious implications for the people of this area.

Children cried and adults woke in fear as they felt the buffeting of a great wind and lashing rain which shook their house in 1827. They were terrified that their roofs would blow off or the chimney pots would come down. Hay ricks were torn apart and valuable fodder was strewn across the fields. Animals cried in fear, heavy rain drenched the village and the streams became torrents. It was so noisy that they did not hear the floods as water rushed down the hills. It entered the floors of the old cottages below The Vine. The wind was so wild that men could not fight against it to protect their property.

At last in the early hours of the morning the wind and storm abated. The people awoke to find the village devastated, with everything sodden by the rain. Trees were down blocking lanes. Animals wandered in fear where fences and sheds were blown away. Crops were ruined.

Little Johnny Price and his brother Samuel lived in Rangers cottage. They walked to school past The Four Stones and continued on down the side of the hill. Roads were covered with broken wood and a river rushed along the bottom of the valley , below the Brinks. They looked down in wonder and then rushed to school as fast as they could run.

The old church of St Leonard and the school had suffered little damage. Many children were absent, helping parents to salvage what they could. The Master stood by his desk with the register in his hand looking very tired. Wide eyed and with white faces, Johnny and Samuel ran to him.

“Sir, Sir….the Mill has gone. The big wheel has gone and the bricks are in the water.”

Up the hill, the mill workers climbed on their way to work, only to look down at the place where the mill had stood. The great Scythe Mill with its huge 35foot wheel no longer there. The Mill had gone!The dams which had held back the water had been pounded into mud and washed down the valley. Banks and pools had gone. Now there was only rushing water, tangles of wood and iron from the Mill’s stores, littering the banks. It was the death of Clent’s main industry. Craftsmen would be without work. It would be impossible to repair the damage. More families would go hungry.

The children in the schoolroom listened to Johnny and Samuel. Those whose fathers mad scythes were struck with dread. Knowing that any lessons he gave would not be taken in , the Master said,

“Come on boys, we will go outside and clear up the garden. There may be some windfall apples after that wind.”

In the afternoon two men walked into the schoolroom and asked to see the Master. The children stood when they entered. Some of the big boys recognised the Mill owner and his son. The older man was very pale. They both looked very sad. Chairs were placed for them.

After greeting the Master the old man said, “The Milland the wheel have been washed down the valley. The sheds and stores have all been blown into the water. The men will work, as the water level drops, to save anything they can and to clear away what is left so listen carefully. This is an order -No child must go near the site – There is sharp metal and many blades in the mud around the area. Objects so sharp they could cut off the hands and legs of anyone playing near them.”

“You all heard that.” said the Master. “Anyone seen around there will be severely punished.”

He thanked the visitors for coming to warn the children of the dangers lying in the mud and then the two sadly left the school to return to their workers.

Poor Clent. The talk in The Cross was of finding other work. It seemed as though the country had been suffering ever since the start of the new century. Was it just bad luck? What with the terrible weather, high prices and wars. Where would it all end?

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