Breach Lane, RM9

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This a reminder of the River Thames flood of 1707, in which 1,000 acres of the Dagenham Levels, between the Beam River and Gores Brook, were under water after a tide burst a sluice drain. The area was known for its flooding, causing widespread disruption to farmland. In the 17thCentury Dutch engineers were called in to build flood defences but an exceptionally high tide in October 1707 swept away 14 feet of embankment allowing the water to pour in. The land remained inundated until the 1720s, when the breach was repaired. Daniel Defoe visited the area noting: “We saw, passing from Barking to Dagenham, the famous breach, made by an inundation of the Thames, which was so great as that it laid near 5,000 acres of land under water, but which after near ten years lying under water, and being several times blown up, has been at last effectually stopped by the application of Captain Perry, the gentleman who, for several years, had been employed in the Czar of Muscovy’s works, at Veronitza, on the River Don. This breach appeared now effectually made up, and they assured us that the new work, where the breach was, is by much esteemed the strongest of all the sea walls in that level.” His estimates of the affected area are thought to be an exaggeration. Even more serious then the loss of farmland was the danger to shipping, since the breach widened over time to a width of 400 feet, allowing the river to strip the top layer of marsh clay from the flood plain and deposit it as a mud bank in the River Thames. Despite various remedies, the breach was not securely filled and a further flood occurred in 1718 after which, under an act of parliament, over £40,000 of public money was spent on successfully closing the breach roughly at the location of Dagenham Dock. Even today there is a reminder of that disaster a 7.9 hectare lake called the Dagenham Breach continues to provide flood storage for the River Beam, it is much smaller than the original breach having been gradually filled in due to development needs in the early 20thCentury.

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