Kew Villa, Kilnsea; "My Turning Point"

by Robina Herrington

I was lucky to discover Spurn and Kilnsea quite by chance in 1988, when I was looking for an affordable property to restart my life at the age of 58. Looking back at those early years here, they were a voyage of discovery as I had moved here from the New Forest area in Hampshire.

Kew Villa, is, I was led to believe, an old army hut dating from the first World War. It had been updated when I bought it, but compared with anything I had lived in before it was very primitive and ‘quaint’. I purchased it from Mr. and Mrs. Ernie Norwood. I was looking for a paddock, and Kew Villa is situated on almost one acre of land. I am an avid gardener and I spent ten happy years there constructing a lovely garden and a small Caravan Club certificated location. My reason for mentioning the paddock in this article is that it is a ‘ridge and furrow’ field, and although it is not complete now, you can still see the ridges and furrows quite clearly in places. Unfortunately the best field of this nature in Kilnsea, at Southfield Farm, was ploughed up in the nineties.

Kew Villa has no foundations, I even had ‘indoor plants’ (Convolvulus), climbing up the inside walls which amused me. When I moved in there on September 14th 1988 the weather was very stormy, I was living on my own, and was very concerned at a banging noise, only to discover the walls hitting the settee, which I moved, then the carpet was flying up and down! All very disconcerting. The cottage boasted a coal fire, the first I had for years. I went outside to chop some sticks for tinder when I noticed that my ‘patio’ was made up of grave stones! I realised then that I was living in a very unusual house and in an even more interesting area. Since that discovery SKEALS have managed to raise the stones and are doing ‘detective’ work on them at the moment

The Crown and Anchor with flooded car park
The Crown and Anchor with flooded car park. The railway sleeper 'bridge' I made as a short cut to the Crown. The architects for the new car park adopted the idea into their plans (Photograph R.Herrington)

In March 1990 the weather was very stormy again, with an unusual westerly gale and a high tide. The police knocked on my door and said I had to evacuate to the Crown & Anchor, as they had a first floor where we could shelter from the high tide. I placed my most valuable possessions (my photo albums) on top of the wardrobe in case I was flooded, and did as I was told. It was a very jolly group there, until the river became really rough and was breaking over the windows, which in those days were just one big pane of glass. They looked as though they would give way any second. We took it in turns to mop up the water that was seeping under the front door. The noise was really very frightening. The waves were racing along the side of the pub into the car park, which was a field, and was lower than the road. This filled with water and stayed there for several days. However, it was also the saving grace for my cottage, as it stopped the water from reaching it.

Looking across the flooded car park to Kew Villa field
Looking across the flooded car park to Kew Villa field (Photograph R.Herrington)

When the tide turned I was able to paddle round to see my cottage which thankfully was fine. However, the road around and past the Crown had been eroded under the asphalt, and looking like a shelf sticking out was impassable for motor traffic. Holderness Borough Council were up the same day with heavy machinery and lorry loads of rocks repairing the damage, as the road is a life line for the Humber Pilots, and for the Life Boat at Spurn. Later that day I had a call from my daughter in the New Forest to say she had seen me in my pub on the TV!

Looking across the flooded car park to Kew Villa and St.Helen's Church in the background
Looking across the flooded car park to Kew Villa and St.Helen's Church in the background (Photograph R.Herrington)

A newspaper extract from that time:


Hull Daily Mail, 28th February 1990

Tides put village under siege

Two Kilnsea residents were today escorted back to their flood-threatened homes, after rising tides forced them to spend the entire night in the nearby pub. Police and firemen helped householders clear up and prepare for possible further onslaughts, after last night’s high tide poured over the town’s defensive walls. Rising water levels meant 12 people had to be evacuated from their homes at 6.30 p.m. yesterday, as the flood reached a height of three feet above the normal high tide. The evacuees gathered at the village’s Crown and Anchor pub, which had itself taken measures to combat the rising flood water with sand bags. As the tide ebbed most of the evacuees were allowed to return home, but two of the refugees were forced to shelter for the night in the pub, as they had no means of getting home. … “It was total chaos. It was like a home for everybody but we took everything in our stride,” said Mr. Wilkin, who has been landlord for three years. “Everybody was in good spirits and pulled together, though I’ve never seen anything as bad as this”, he said. He added that even today the waters were still posing a problem and that some other homes had been flooded out in last night’s tide. “I have still got a foot of water outside the front door, and the car park is still under water – but the tide is up again and it hasn’t come over this time. Last night it was coming up so fast we thought it was never going to stop”.

One evacuee, Mrs Margaret Hebblethwaite, agreed that she had not seen anything like the floods of the evening for a long time. “The last time it was like this was in 1984 and before that in 1953. I can’t get round the corner to go home. I’m going to try, but I don’t think I’ll be able to”, she said. Mrs Hebblethwaite was visited in her home by the police at 6.30 p.m. “They told us to get out in 10 minutes” she said. … Later in the evening reports were coming in that the flood levels were dropping.