Norwich floods centenary: How a nation rallied to Norwich in its hour of need

Derek James looks back at the floods of 1912 – and how the city tried to get back on its feet.

On August 31, the Lord Mayor of Norwich, Henry John Copeman, wrote the following letter to all the leading newspapers in the land: 'May I be permitted to address an appeal to those of your readers whose sympathy may be aroused with the City of Norwich on behalf of the fund which has been opened for the relief of the victims of this week's disastrous floods.

'The citizens are responding nobly to the call that has been made upon them. Their Majesties, The King and Queen, have most promptly shown their sympathy with the sufferers in a practical way.

'Generous donations have been received from total strangers to the city, but despite what has already been done, the situation demands that the fund should be built up on the broadest possible basis.

'Following a rainfall unprecedented in the records of the Meteorological Office, whole streets in the low-lying part of the city have been flooded, houses rendered desolate, the furniture and bedding destroyed, and their occupants homeless and resourceless.

'No fund, however generously supported by local contributions, can adequately cope with so great an emergency. It is for this reason that I am constrained to bring the plight of Norwich under the notice of the wider public reached by the circulation that from some of it may elicit a response. If so, subscriptions should be addressed to the secretary, Lord Mayor's Fund, Guildhall, Norwich.'

Before long, news of the Norwich disaster had spread across the country and the world and people dug deep into their pockets to help.

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Members of the Royal Family donated �300, the King and Queen of Norway gave �21, but the biggest donation of all came from J & J Colman Ltd., – the sum of �1,000 – an enormous amount of money a century ago. The total amount of money given to the people of Norwich amounted to �24,579 14s 7d and a report outlining how every penny was spent was published.