Essex Record Office and the 1953 Essex Flood

Essex Record Office wanted to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1953 Essex flood, a disaster which claimed 120 lives. They worked collaboratively with community groups, the Environment Agency and National Coastwatch to create public events which were attended by 1700 participants.

The challenge

To involve so many different groups in commemorating the event.

The solution

Essex Record Office (ERO) commemorated the 70th anniversary of the 1953 Essex flood, a disaster which claimed 120 lives. 

This collaborative effort involved community groups, the Environment Agency and National Coastwatch. Public events at Canvey Island Library and Harwich Museum invited people to view displays of maps detailing the extent of the damage, as well as audio and video content, including a video montage of contemporary footage. Local primary schools were invited to attend these events and talk with the community archives team to learn more, while teaching packs were also sent to local schools. Visitors even included people who had experienced the flood first-hand as young children, bringing authentic original accounts of the disaster to the events. In total, around 1,700 people were engaged in the commemoration.

The impact

A large range of organisations were successfully brought together to commemorate the event and over 1700 people participated.

How is the new approach being sustained?

ERO were able to work with a range of partners to commission and create a set of educational resources that can be downloaded from the Essex Record Office website. These focused on the areas of Canvey Island, Harwich and Dovercourt, and Jaywick; communities badly impacted by the floods. The packs are aimed at pupils at KS1 and KS2, and include powerpoint presentations, teachers notes, photographs and oral history recordings, and suggestions for classroom activities.

Lessons learned

ERO staff were struck by the strong community response to the project. Many participants mentioned how much they appreciated the effort that the ERO team had made to mark the occasion, which still has significance to long-term local residents.


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