Posts Tagged ‘Great Storm’

The Great Storm of ’87

On 16 October 1987, one of the worst night of storms in most peoples memories hit the south of England. Coastguards on the Isle of Wight said the winds were too strong to be measured on their instruments. The storm hit the Island at about 2am, and Shanklin Pier nearly a century old, disintegrated into a pile of wood overnight. It was broken into three pieces as a result of huge waves. Plans to rebuild the pier were abandoned, and the rest of the pier was demolished. A monument now stands in front of what used to be the pier entrance.

I had gone to the Court Jester Night Club in Sandown and driving home just after 2am we found that roads were already blocked by fallen trees but we were still unaware of the full power of the storm and the damage it would cause during the night. When I woke the next morning I was already late for work as my alarm hadn’t gone off because of a power cut. I threw on my clothes and set off for work at HW Morey’s in Newport. There were slates and tiles all over the roads and pavements and when I got to the Morey’s gates I saw that a house opposite had most of its’ gable wall littered all over the road. As you can imagine it was very busy at Moreys’ that day with firemen and builders rushing in the get materials but all I could think of that there must be some awesome waves somewhere on the Island.

On the Saturday I managed to get a lift to the beach with Steve Williams and we headed straight for Shanklin, by this time the swell had dropped and was very messy but the devastation we witnessed was something I will never forget. Shanklin beach was littered with driftwood, fruit machines bits of metal and the remains of the pier. At Compton the Isle of Wight Surf Club hut had been completely demolished and the surfboards were to be found in farm fields all along the Military Road (Where did those boards end up?).


The Club Hut – by Keith Williams

The Club Hut – part 3 by Keith Williams

As mentioned in part 2 ‘The Surf Club is Formed’, the club was lucky enough to be able to rent one of the wooden ‘Bungalows’ at Compton from the National Trust for a very modest fee. In fact, I believe it was free, but we made a donation towards the upkeep of the car park each year.

The Surf Club Hut at Compton with John Ainsworth reading the National Trust notice board

In addition, parking in the car park was also free, provided you displayed your club membership card in the windscreen. I remember in the early days, the Hut was in quite good nick & you could ‘book’ the place to stay in over the weekend.

As is usual with communally owned property, it all went down hill, doors being forced, stuff broken and, horror of horrors, boards stolen. Gradually, the cliff edge got closer & closer to the hut; it was originally the inland end of a 3 hut ‘terrace’, but over time the two huts nearest the sea had been demolished as the cliff encroached.

Eventually, the time came when either our hut was demolished as well or it was moved or rebuilt back from the edge. At that time Sid worked for Cheek Brothers & was able to persuade their mobile crane driver to go out to Compton on a Saturday morning & lift the whole thing back to a new position away from the edge.

There was a lot of preparation to do making up a lifting sling arrangement, but the job was a good ‘un, despite the hut door never opening properly again! Eventually, the lease on all the bungalows in the compound ran out (they’d been there since the 1920s) & the National Trust wanted the structures removed to return the area to its natural state. After much lobbying the NT agreed that we could erect a new hut in the corner of the site near the toilet block. That meant that we had to raise the funds to have a new, custom made hut. It took a couple of years with jumble sales, film shows etc, but we eventually got our new hut in October 87.

As it was being installed on site, I said to the supplier, ‘It gets pretty windy here, how are you going to secure it to stop it blowing away?’ He replied rather off handedly that he wasn’t going to do anything about it.

The installation wasn’t complete in one day & he said he would come back the following weekend & finish off. Some of you may remember the Great Storm in Oct 87, mayhem all along the south coast, but one item that never made the news was the fact that the Isle of Wight Surf Club’s new hut had blown clean away & been smashed into a thousand pieces spread all along the Military Road!

There was quite an argument that followed. We refused to pay as we’d not received the goods & the supplier tried to take us to court, but legal opinion was in our favour as the keys to the building had not been handed over & therefore ownership had not passed from the supplier to the Surf Club. A new hut was ordered & constructed & eventually erected on site. By this time though, the club had gone into a bit of a decline, no-one wanted to leave an expensive board in the hut, & many surfers had acquired vans by this time, so few people used the hut for changing. Eventually the hut disappeared, but I had lost connection with the club by this time & I don’t know the reasons why or where it went.