The final storm
That was until the 26th January 1917. The fishermen, expecting worsening gales, storms and a high tide, hauled the boats high up in to the village street and battened them down. The children were evacuated to the Mildmay Cottages.
At 8pm spring tides brought huge waves which crashed into the houses at roof height and destroyed the buildings behind the sea walls from above. The houses built on the empty chasms in the ledge collapsed and those on the rocks were battered by wind, waves and stones. The villagers feared for their lives.
By midnight, four houses were totally demolished and none survived intact. Amazingly, all 79 villagers survived and scrambled to safety during a lull in the storm at low tide. Dawn on 27th January revealed a devastating picture, the sea was strewn with timber and broken furniture.
The sea walls had held, otherwise many more houses, and possibly lives, would have been lost. It was likely that the next high tide would destroy all that remained so with the wind still raging, villagers worked to salvage what they could.
On 28th January 1917, with the next high tide, the walls broke and the village was destroyed. Only one house remained in any way habitable, the highest in the village, that of the Prettyjohn family.
The Kingsbridge Gazette that day led with the headline ‘The beach went to Devonport and the cottages went to the sea’.
Various offers of compensation were made and some new houses were built. The story continued to be uncovered as recently as 2002 when a local journalist uncovered reports at Kew record office from the enquiry.