Floods in London 1880

In the 19th century, a constant hazard of living in London, and in the East End of London in particular, was the heavy flooding that could follow a prolonged downpour of rain.

The summer of 1888, for example, was one of the wettest and most miserable on record, and you can’t help thinking that the dreadful conditions were almost a harbinger of what was to come in the autumn with the onset of the Jack the Ripper atrocities.

A sketch showing people in boats in the flooded streets of London in August 1888.
From Punch, August 11th, 1888


But flooding was not an infrequent occurrence of the people of Victorian London, and, as can be seen from the following article, which appeared in The Globe on Monday the 13th of September 1880, consequences of heavy showers could cause havoc, damage and chaos in many parts of London:-

“The metropolis was visited on Saturday afternoon and evening by a heavy and continuous downpour of rain which caused a repetition of the floods that have been latterly the subject of so much comment in connection with the main drainage and the provision for carrying off storm water.

Many of the lower roads and streets in Hackney and Bow were partly under water and some inconvenience was felt by pedestrians in getting about from place to place.


The cuttings on the North London line, especially that at Dalston Junction, where it dips under the Kingsland Road were full of water, which ran down the inclines at a rapid rate, necessitating caution on the part of the drivers of trains, who were apprehensive lest the water should put out their tires.

The Lea river was swollen, and in many places the banks were overflown, and large patches of the marsh lands extending along the Lea Valley were under water.

The Hackney Marshes yesterday had the appearance of small inland sea.


The rain caused great damage property in South London, Brixton and the neighbourhood especially suffering.

Warned by previous visitations, inhabitants of the parts liable to flooding had taken precautions to prevent the incoming of any great body of water; but despite their preparations many tradesmen have suffered considerable loss through the entry of sewage and surface water.

The greatest amount of damage has been done in premises in the Brixton Road, near the White Horse. Here some new relief sewage works have been in progress, with a view to prevent these recurring inundations; but the connection with the main-drainage system has not yet been made.

Where the works have been filled in the heavy rainfall, saturating the rubbish of which the roadway is made up, caused a subsidence of the ground, and, in consequence, several accidents occurred.


Early yesterday forenoon an omnibus belonging to Messrs. Balls was being drawn up at the corner of Robert Street when the ground gave way and the vehicle capsized. The driver, Robert Dacourt, was thrown from his box and sustained severe shaking, but fortunately the passengers escaped without injury.

At Grove Road the pathway fell in, completely blocking the works and causing great loss to the contractor.

In many places in the main road great holes were formed, some six feet deep, and the services of a large body of police were required to direct the traffic.


In Stockwell the water penetrated a great number of houses, one gentleman having his furniture and effects damaged to the extent of over £200.

In Gateley Road the pathway subsided some inches.

At Loughborough Junction the gullies on the Milkwood Estate were insufficient to carry off the excessive fall, and as the estate lies high the streets resembled mountain torrents, the water pouring into the valley below and inundating the basements and cellars of the houses.”