Today marks the centenary of the merciless storm that overwhelmed Old Hallsands, the tiny South Devon fishing village which once stood precariously on cliffs close to Start Point.
A combination of ferocious easterly gales and exceptionally high tides breached the village’s sea defences and destroyed most of its houses. The next morning, the villagers returned to a scene of utter devastation and a sea strewn with timber. Said one eye-witness reporting to the local Gazette:
“It had been blowing hard from the South East all day, and in the afternoon, the seas came tumbling in, shaking everything all to pieces. We became greatly alarmed.”
Government dredging was later blamed for the disaster, and the villagers were eventually compensated and new homes were built just north of the ruins.
By the end of 1917, only one house in Old Hallsands remained habitable. John Prettyjohn and his sister Elizabeth Prettyjohn became the village’s sole population, both of them captured in this Pathe News newsreel from the 1940s:
Today, a series of commemorative events will be taking place, organized by The Hallsands Centenary Commemoration Committee, to help remember that fateful night. Find out more on their Facebook page, here.