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The Martinstown storm 60 years on


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  • Location: Camborne
  • Location: Camborne

i really cannot remember whether this has been posted before but not to worry it's now 60 years on.


Colin Clark
Charldon Hill Research Station,
Bruton, Somerset


Fifty years ago on Monday 18 July 1955, the largest official one-day rainfall for the UK took place at Martinstown in Dorset, England, namely 279mm (11 in). Figure 1 shows the location of this event and other places mentioned in the text. This storm has remained a national record. While Bleasdale (1956) and Paxman (1956) provided descriptions of the event, a rainfall profile was described, (NERC 1975) and Ching and Currie (2000) showed photographs taken at
Martinstown, there is no overall hydrometeorological description of the event which is easily accessible. Furthermore,
techniques of analysis which have come into common use since 1955 have yet to be applied. This omission is important since, in terms of engineering design, the potential effects of a similar storm elsewhere should be assessed. For example what magnitude of flood would have taken place had the storm occurred over a wet clay catchment? The storm itself came after a hot dry spell; the local geology was mainly chalk – a fact which alone explains why there was not more dramatic flooding.


Recently the author was given a copy of unpublished correspondence between Ian Forbes, Engineer to the Dorchester Rural District Council in 1955, and Binnie and Partners. This appears to be the source of the unofficial rainfall depth of 355mm (14 in) quoted in Rodda, Downing, and Law (1976). Study of this and other sources, together with an analysis of the storm rarity, maximization and transposition, has prompted the writing of this paper.



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