A letter from the Canvey floods

Frederick & Dorothy Taylor

Grandad Frederick Charles Taylor

On the early morning of Febuary 1st 1953 the great flood hit Canvey Island causing devastation and taking many lives. Stella Donoghue has kindly sent in this letter written by her Grandfather describing this horrific night.

Stella’s Grandfather was Frederick Charles Taylor and is pictured above (then older in the photo). The lady he is writing about is his wife, Stella’s Grandmother, Dorothy Esther Minnie Taylor (she didn’t like the name Minnie). They were married on 21st July 1945 (her second) and lived in 21 Herman Road, Canvey Island. Her wedding photo is below.

Grandmother Dorothy Esther Minnie Taylor

The photo below is of four generations. The old lady on the top left is Stella’s Great Grandmother, Mrs Harriet Coates who sadly died in the floods with her son William Coates who also died. The lady top right is her daughter, Stella’s Grandmother, bottom left is Stella’s Mother Ivy Villiers. Bottom right is Stella.

Great Grandmother Mrs Harriet Coates, Grandmother Dorothy, Mother Ivy Villiers and Stella

Great Grandmother Mrs Harriet Coates, Grandmother Dorothy, Mother Ivy Villiers and Stella

Stella said that her Grandad Freddy would have been so proud to have his letter read by other people, click on the images below to read it for yourself. Click on each image for a larger size. I am hoping in the future to add a typed transcript of the letter.

Click on the audio below to hear the letter read out by the children from Kents Hill Junior School Radio Club.

Comments about this page

  • Thank you Stella for sharing this with us. Such a moving letter.

    By Janet Penn (02/08/2010)
  • How lucky we are to have sight of such a moving description of what happened to one couple on that dreadful night. Mr Tayler’s very personal and powerful description of the flood should never be lost. It not only reminds us of how people suffered, but also of the courage and tenacity of ordinary folk faced with undreammed – of devastating circumstances. Thanks for sharing it.

    By Pat Smith (19/01/2011)
  • This letter must be one of the most moving letters anyone has ever written. What brave people the folk on Canvey were, maybe this is why we still that sense of community on the Island. Thank you Stella for sharing this with us, you must be so proud of your Grandparents. Yet another reason for the continued work of the Archive without it this letter would never have been seen outside the family.

    By Barbara Roycroft (05/02/2011)
  • It was a nice surprise to hear the children of Kents Hill School reading the letter that my Grandfather wrote about the floods at Canvey They read it beautifully Stella Donoghue

    By Mrs Stella Donoghue (01/04/2013)
  • I just found this site today. Will Coates was my step-uncle, Harriett my step-grandmother. My mother’s parents Ernest and Daisy Deith lived nearby and were also drowned. We lived in London, I was 12. It was a terrible time for us all. None of my relations was found for 3 days. I would appreciate it if Stella Donoghue would get in touch with me. I have been doing a Coates family tree and would not only enjoy talking to her again, but would like to pass it on to her and share news of our families. Val Wright, Canada.

    By Val Wright (11/08/2013)

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