Eighth century: Possibly the earlier reference to a great Ouse flood is the story by the chronicler Matthew Paris that a rising of the river swept away the tomb of King Offa. The date is not known but Offa died towards the end of the eighth century.
1254: On the 20th November a great flood swept away part of Bedford and drowned many people, even children in their cradles (Annals of Dunstable)
1256: In August a huge flood carried away six houses by the river Ouse in Bedford (Matthew Paris)
1281: A hard frost ended in a great flood and at Biddenham Bridge the ice broke under a woman and floated her down to Bedford bridge but nobody could help her and she was seen no more (Annals of Dunstable)
1607: An old pamphlet entitled "A true report of certain wonderful overflowings of water" relates that at Bedford on the 5th October, the water overflowed so much that men forsook their beds and one woman was drowned. Many animals were lost
1672: A pamphlet entitled "A true relation of what hap'ned at Bedford, on Munday last, Aug. 19 instant, while thundering, lightning, and tempestuous winds tore up trees by the roots, etc" tells how the gales carried a great tree from the river right over St. Paul's steeple as if it had been a bundle of feathers
1823: The River Ouse rose 16ft above its normal level at Oakley Bridge. Many animals were drowned. The same flood rose to a height of 2ft in the nave of St. Paul's Church, Bedford
1895: The Luton Reporter (30th March) gave details of a disruptive gale in Barton "During the gale which passed over this village on Sunday no casualties occurred to man or beast. The most serious damage that was done occurred at the Wesleyan Chapel to a stained glass window, which was blown out. A tiled roof was blown off a shed and several thatched buildings suffered more or less severely, while chimney tops, ridge tiles and slates were carried into the street by the fury of the storm. Several trees were blown down."
1896: The Bedfordshire Times (8th May) reported "There was a fine display of this phenomenon (the Aurora Borealis) on Saturday night, and on Sunday night it was also visible though less brilliant."
1907: Leighton Buzzard floods and great swathes of the countryside disappear under water. The river was reported to "have the appearance of an open sea" (Bedford Mercury, 4th January)
1907: Sandy Floods and the town is cut off from many of the surrounding areas
1947: The River Ouse in Bedford rises 6ft above the normal level at the Town Bridge causing floods through much of the town
1950: On May 21st 1950 a tornado and its two subsidiaries caused devastation over south-eastern and eastern England. Damage was heaviest in the Buckinghamshire town of Linslade where some 50 houses were un-roofed and a brick built bakery demolished. Old Road and New Road were particularly effected. In Bedford, Harrowden Road was struck and tiles were lifted from the roofs, apple trees uprooted and garden walls overturned. The maximum force of the storm was felt at Fenlake where large willow trees were carried across the River Ouse causing it to become blocked
1963: In the third week of January there was a blizzard that completely cut off Leighton and Linslade. This was followed by a 43 degrees frost when temperatures fell to eleven degrees below zero fahrenheit making Leighton the coldest place in Britain (Leighton Buzzard Observer, 15th November 2005, p19)
1966: During a thunderstorm over Stevington a meteorite lands in a farmer's field
1968: A very wet summer caused water logging in the fields making life difficult for the farmers and on the 15th of September severe flooding occurred in many parts of the county. Police closed South Street, Leighton Buzzard when it was feared that the supports of the bridge were being washed away (Beds. Mag. Vol. 11, no. 87, p.292)
1968: A miniature whirlwind struck Harold on the 1st September causing many slates and lengths of guttering to litter the streets (Beds. Mag. Vol. 11, no. 87, p.292)
1976: Storms with speeds of up to 96mph rip through Bedfordshire. Many roads are closed and at Toddington the storm destroys two large sections of the parapet of St. George's Church
1980: A violent storm caused havoc in the county. Barton was worst hit with water nearly 2ft deep in places. Residents in Manor Road and Stuart Road were flooded.
1981: The River Ouse freezes over in Bedford for the first time since 1963
1987: In one of the worst gales recorded severe storms hit Bedfordshire leaving many people without power. High winds destroyed many trees
1998: The Easter Floods. The River Ouse in Bedford burst its banks on the afternoon of Saturday 11th April and swelled to proportions not seen since 1947. Many homes in the North of Bedfordshire and Bedford were flooded and more than 500 homes in Bedford were plunged into darkness as electricity supplies went down.
- Great Bedford floods in the Bedfordshire Times, 6th January 1928 (cutting 112)
- Newspaper cuttings from the Local Studies Collection in Bedford Central Library
Page last updated: 4th February 2014