There is nothing new in Thames floods. Over 120 years ago (although from reading Kate Frye’s diary it seems like yesterday) the Thames overtopped the banks at Bourne End and flooded the garden of the Fryes’ home. Luckily the water did not enter the house, which is slightly raised from the lawn.
As Kate, then 13 years-old, noted –Saturday Oct 24th 1891. Woke to find the lawn flooded all over, right up to the bank. From ten until one we were on the water – which is quite deep – in canoes.
There was another flood in June 1903, when this photograph of Agnes (on the left) and Kate was taken. The image was used by Mr and Mrs Frye for their 1903 Christmas card.
On 18 June 1903 Kate wrote in her diary: ‘Our lawn was covered and patches of water went nearly to the pigeon house. It came to the gate. It was so exciting. Agnes and I went to get to [Arthur] Wootten to get a canoe from Townsend’s for us – and we forthwith started. it was splendid sport – we were out all morning. Mrs Bird came along – then rushed back for her camera and photographed us – then Gilbert [Gilbey] arrived and did likewise – and then Plummers the photographer from Maidenhead who we had telegraphed for arrived and took several views.
The water is right in the Quarry Hotel now and up to the centre of the door at Bridge Bungalow. A day like this it is most picturesque but what a disastrous June. We have had to put off our Ascot party – the river won’t be in a fit state for weeks.’
Sunday 21 June 1903 ‘We went across to Cock Marsh in the afternoon and we had great fun. It was wonderful going down stream – we simply tore and going through the Bridge was like shooting the rapids. We had to go down to Mill House before we could get on to Cock Marsh.’
You can discover much more about Kate Frye’s life in Bourne End (and, later, in the nearby hamlet of Berghers Hill) in The Great War: The People’s Story – Kate Parry Frye: the long life of an Edwardian actress and suffragette. This is an e-book published by ITV as a tie-in with the new series The Great War: The People’s Story. Kate Frye, played by Romola Garai, appears in episode 2 – to be shown on ITV at 9pm on 17 August. Download the e-book – £4.99 – from iTunes – : http://bit.ly/PSeBKPFITVal. or £5. 14 from Amazon.