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The Great Storm of 1987 in Lancing and Sompting Sussex
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A child scrambles over a fallen tree in Manor Park following the Great Storm  (photo courtesy of Bob Brown)

In the early hours of October 16th 1987, Lancing and Sompting along with most of Southern England, was in the grip of a force of nature that had not been experienced since 1703, a "Great Storm". In a few hours over 15 million trees were felled in Southern England and 16 people were killed.  
photos below Bob Brown  


1. Damage to trees at Lancing Ring

2. Many of the trees were shallow rooted and had little resistance to the extreme weather

3. The Local Authority decided to burn much of the fallen wood at Burning Sites such as this one near Worthing

4. Another burning site

5. The once majestic canopy of trees at Lancing Ring destroyed within a few hours

6. A natural disaster but a great place to play as at Lancing Manor


Local eyewitness  

Heather shares her memories :

My parents-in-law had only just moved from the New Forest into their newly-built home in Lancing.  Part of their new fence went down and their newly-erected TV aerial but everything else was fine.

We awoke to hear the door bell ring very early but by the time that we put some clothes on to answer the door the person had gone.  We started getting up and then we heard the bell again.  This time it was one of our next door neighbours to ask if we were ok.  We said that we were and  wondered why they had asked.  Then the other next door neighbour came round asking the same question saying that had been round previously.  We wondered what the concern was and then they told us.  All five of us (including our dog) had slept through it.  The only evidence was that the hatch to our roof space had been blown open.  I sent the children to school at The Willows and Irene Avenue Middle School but they soon came back as the schools were closed and the field between them was covered with trees which had been blown down.  Apparently the then Head Mistress of Irene was thinking of renaming the School The Poplars but only one Poplar was left.  It was later renamed Oakfield because the might oaks remained.

Hazel provided these excellent photos which were scanned into digital format by UE  

All the beauty has gone

I do not believe it

No way through

They came tumbling down


What caused the storm?  
At around noon on 15th October 1987, a storm was being formed off western France in a sea area. called the Bay of Biscay. There was nothing originally to suggest what was to happen later, the storm was what might be expected at the time of year. A storm but nothing dramatic. The Met office gave a warning of impending high winds.

At around 18.00 hrs, for reasons not understood even today, the storm began to intensify dramatically as it approached Southern Britain. The storm was predicted to move along the English Channel and then onwards to Scandinavia. The prediction proved wrong, the storm came inland over Cornwall and Devon and tracked across the south of the country during the early hours of October 16th.

Local eyewitness  

Denis recounts this story ........

Hello Andy, Your request for articles prompts me to repeat this one from that day and I swear it's true....

When I eventually managed to report for duty on that fateful day and after getting the mundane tasks sorted many of us started nattering  about the trials and tribulations we had suffered and witnessed. One of the lads who lived at the top of the hill behind Lewes Prison - a particularly exposed to the elements spot was asked "well how did you get on then Jonah, much damage ?". After a considerable pause for thought Jonah gave his answer. "Well" says Jonah, "the old greenhouse at bottom of garden didn't come out of it too well --------- but then again when I went to bed last night I didn't even own a flippin greenhouse!!!!!". 


These two photographs vividly illustrate the damage that the storm caused to Lancing Ring. The first photo shows the trees as they looked up until October 16th 1987. The second photo shows trees damaged and fallen to the ground  photos Bob Brown  
What damage was caused?  
When the storm hit Lancing and Sompting it was at it's worst it terms of the speed of the gusts. The strongest gust recorded for the entire storm anywhere in the country was measured at Shoreham by Sea as being 115 mph. Our area was subjected to four hours of wind speed continually being over 81 mph. The winds were from a southerly direction.

Nine people in Southern England died as a result of the storm. The only saving grace about this is that this tragic number might well have been higher had the storm struck in daylight hours. Trees were decimated with over 15 millions being felled. The number of fallen trees were high due to the fact they were still in leaf and therefore presented more wind resistance. The previous week had seen much higher rainfall than the average, loosening the roots of trees.

Bad as it was, the storm was actually more severe elsewhere, Pointe du Raz in Normandy, France recorded a wind speed of 135 mph!



  Lancing College Chapel    

  Manor Park North Lancing


above and below Images from Pauline Burton


    Manor Road North Lancing   

 Near The Moorings North Lancing

Local eyewitness  
Jean shares a memory

I can remember the "Great Storm" in Lancing. I remember the noise of the wind blowing in the dark, very frightening. Telephones were not working, electricity was off.

The flat roof of a block of flats in Penstone Park was taken off, similarly opposite Brooklands Pleasure Park.

Trees blocked Manor Road and Mill Road, beautiful trees were smashed on Manor Park.

My own photos  

1. The scene on the morning of 16th October 1987, the top of McIntyre's Field above Lancing Manor

2. My wife, Dru standing before a row of trees downed at the Manor Park

3. Yours truly scrambling under a fallen tree in Manor Road

After the storm  
 The scene on the morning of 16th October 1987 was extraordinary, few houses or gardens escaped without any damage. Broken glass, loose tiles, trees down, damage caused by flying debris all merged to produce a collective insurance claim of 1.5 billion, one in six householders in the South East made a claim for storm damage.

Using that old saying "it is an ill wind that blows some good" the builders, roofers, repair men and the like had an absolute bonanza. Everything was fixed eventually but in the wild it was a different story.

Decisions were taken that with hindsight must be questioned. Large number of fallen trees were cut up and burnt even in local woodland. Regeneration was not allowed to take place. Habitat for owls and bats simply disappeared.

page created 09/12/11