Stills from Bernard Bothams films of Gorleston andYarmouth after the 1953 floods. A rescue in Southtown Road. Stills courtesy of East Anglian Film Archive

Video: Gorleston filmmaker’s videos show devastation of ‘53 floods

Thursday, January 24, 2013
4.49 PM

When hurricane force winds brought flood waters gushing into Great Yarmouth and Gorleston in January 1953 several plucky residents headed out with cameras to record the devastation for generations to come.

But some were able to take more than still images and captured the immediate aftermath of the destructive floods, which claimed the lives of nine people, on video.

Among the amateur film makers was Bernard Bothams who logged the scenes of devastation the day after the waters hit.

And now - as the borough prepares to mark the 60th anniversary of floods - his films can be viewed by the public as part of Archive Alive, an online heritage project.

The Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART), working with the East Anglian Film Archive, has unearthed two of Mr Bothams’ videos that now form part of a moving timeline charting major events in Norfolk’s history.

His footage shows men in waders salvaging what belongings they can from homes in Pier Plain, boats rowing through Gorleston’s streets and residents being rescued from their underwater homes.

A local man, Mr Bothams had been showing films at the Boys Brigade hall in Yarmouth on January 31 - the night the floods struck.

Unable to get home, he stayed overnight and returned to Gorleston the following afternoon. He immediately started filming and continued to shoot footage over the next few days as the waters began to subside.

Jane Jarvis, digital heritage project manager at HEART, said: “They’re quite dramatic films where people are having to be rescued by boats. He also went and filmed the aftermath and some of devastation on Yarmouth’s seafront in colour.

“There’s some brilliant amateur film. People realised the importance of it and recorded it for us all these years later. They didn’t have regional new cameras so all these films are a tremendous record.”

● To watch Mr Bothams videos, and more from the heritage timeline, visit

An exhibition to mark the 60th anniversary of the floods is running at Great Yarmouth Minster from January 29 - February 5 from 10am - 4pm daily.

For more pictures see the 12 page floods supplement in tomorrow’s Great Yarmouth Mercury. The EDP is also running a series of specials about the floods, staring next week.