Extreme Weather

As climate change continues, natural disasters are becoming more frequent. We can use the Museum collection to look back on how extreme weather has affected people in the past, and learn about how we can better prevent it today. The questions that students addressed in this section were:

How can extreme weather affect people’s lives locally, and what can we do to prevent this in future?

Deep Freeze

By studying historic images of winter in the borough, it is evident that temperatures are gradually increasing as the years progress. Snowfall has become less frequent and the Thames now rarely freezes over.


Watercolour of 'Mrs. Cole's Cottage', Hersham. The dark picture shows the cottage with a tree in the front garden, both covered in snow. A woman is standing in the doorway.


Arthur Read (far left), Joseph Sassoon Sassoon (3rd left) and Louise Sassoon (4th left), skating on a frozen lake in winter. The location is unknown, but it is possibly the lake at Ashley Park, where the Sassoons lived, or the Broadwater in Weybridge.

How can we tell from this photo that it was a particularly cold winter?


A postcard of eight boys playing in deep snowfall in Pratts Lane, Hersham.


A postcard of the Broadwater in Weybridge, which is frozen over. Numerous people are pictured on the ice, including staff and patients of New Zealand Military Hospital at Mount Felix, Walton.


Marney’s Pond at Weston Green in winter, with 12 people on the ice and some on the bank. 'The Old Red House', a listed building which still stands today, is visible in the background.


Marney's Pond at Weston Green in winter, with people on the frozen water playing hockey. The Alma Arms and Jubilee Terrace are visible in the background.


Mallards and one swan walking on the frozen River Thames near Riverhouse Gardens, Walton.

What can this photo tell us about how changing weather conditions affect animal habitats?


Photograph of the River Thames near Walton Bridge, taken whilst the river was frozen.


Mr. Thorn and his brother-in-law, Mr. Mays, sitting on the ice in the middle of the River Thames above Shepperton Weir, both on folding wooden chairs.

From this and the previous image, we can work out that the Thames froze in both 1954 and 1962 – only 8 years apart.


Snow covering the platform and tracks at Claygate Station in winter, looking up the line north towards London.

What can this photograph tell us about the disruption that extreme weather can cause?



Elm Road, Claygate, in the snow.

What does this photo tell us about how extreme weather affects our daily lives and travel?



The Hare and Hounds pub, Claygate, in the snow.

Abi 'Climate Change Affects Habitats: Stop littering, floods and storms, nowhere for animals to live, extreme weather.'

Olly 'We only have one planet so save it. Every year our planet gets hotter and it is getting uncontrollable. So save our planet, we only have 1.'

Phoebe 'Help COP26! Fact: Rain is good for the environment because it helps the trees grow. The sun makes global warming. Make sure you put your rubbish in the bin!'

Will 'I think climate change matters for the animals'.

Lucas 'The animals are getting hurt from our actions.'

James 'We only have one world, so take care of it.'

"Plan of part of the River Thames between Walton upon Thames in Surrey and Shepperton in Middlesex", c.1600s.


Storms and natural disasters have always posed a threat to humans, however, since the advent of climate change they have become more common and more severe.

We can date this plan to the 1600s, as the key refers to Samuel Dicker, who formerly owned the Mount Felix estate and built the first Walton Bridge. Fields surround the River Thames in the map, rather than the roads and houses of today which allow rainfall to run straight into the river rather than absorbing into more permeable ground.

When comparing this undeveloped floodplain to the built-up riverbanks of today, the plan helps us to understand why parts of Elmbridge are now so susceptible to flooding. The key questions students discussed here were:

How does climate change relate to storms and flooding?

What are the main reasons that storms and flooding might affect people’s lives, and why do we need to stop them happening so often?

Watercolour of Walton Bridge, 1859. The central arches have been destroyed by a storm.Watercolour of Walton Bridge, 1859. The central arches have been destroyed by a storm.

Natural Disasters

Storms and natural disasters have always posed a threat to humans, as demonstrated by this watercolour painting. It depicts Walton Bridge in 1859, after its central arches had been destroyed by a storm.

Since the advent of climate change, however, images such as this have become more common. In this section, students explored the flood events and natural disasters in Elmbridge’s history to find out how storm damage can affect local people’s lives, both in the past and in the future.

The Great Flood of 1968

July 1968 had seen flooding across much of South West England, but the Great Flood that was to follow that September would have a far greater impact as one of the largest floods of the century. After heavy rainfall and storms in mid-September, many towns in South East England experiences severe flooding, including Elmbridge. Below are a selection of photographs taken during the Great Flood. The students used them to investigate the effects of flooding as it becomes a more common phenomenon.

To find out more about the Great Flood of 1968 through a primary account, head to our Historic High Streets online exhibition.

Thames Ditton

Pedestrians in flood water in the Village High Street.

West Molesey

A mother and daughter holding hands outside an end-of-terrace house in Weston Avenue, with flood water in the street.

East Molesey

The number 206 Claygate bus, in flood water in Hampton Court Way. It was diverted from its normal route due to the road being impassable.

East Molesey

Vehicles in flood water on the junction of Hampton Court Way and Summer Road.


A row of shops in Walton Road with flood
water several inches high. Four children are
walking by the shops on the left.


Children playing in a flooded road.


Onlookers surrounding a flooded road.


Cars driving through floodwaters.


Children playing in floodwater in Hersham Road.


A person cycling through deep flood water on the road.


Pedestrians watching floodwater rise from a bridge over the river.


Fencing destroyed by rising floodwaters.


Flooding at Number 3 Brooklands Road, taken when the floodwater was still rising.

Minhay 'Climate change matters because of the affect it makes to our environment. Global warming has increased the chance of flooding by melting icebergs. Houses built near oceans / rivers have a high chance of flooding.'

Anya 'Climate Change. Preserve our planet. Our world matters. Our actions can harm.'

Miles 'More floods are coming. The water level is high. We won't get snow. We need to save our planet. Climate change is making the sea warmer and melting ice-bergs.'


Cassie 'We need to act now before our world is gone. Ice caps are melting! Water levels are rising!'


Rhys 'When houses are built at the banks of rivers, it increases the risk of the destruction of the houses. Climate change can cause storms, floods, and destruction. Climate change can cause extreme weather. Stop climate change!'


Elsie 'Our animals are dying. When houses are built near rivers it increases the chance of floods. Storms can damage buildings and bridges. We need to save our planet!'

Freddie 'What's happening: Factories - Polar ice caps melt - Floods happen. What we want: Trees absorb it - Polar ice caps don't melt - Floods don't happen.'

Laurence 'Climate change increases the amount of floods in the world, the floods usually happen if you live next to a river or any source of water that comes from the sea. Causes extreme weather. Climate change can freeze habitats. Homes near rivers have a higher chance of flooding.'



Anon 'Everything changes. Stop this - houses are destroyed, people's lives ruined.'

Alex 'This is what it was - This is now.'

The Great Storm, 1987

  • Effects in Elmbridge
  • Estelle
  • Araleya
  • Rosalita & Demi
  • Livvy
  • Saskia
  • Daisy
  • Mohamed

Effects in Elmbridge

On the evening of the 15th-16th October 1987, the Great Storm saw hurricane-force winds of up to 120km/h hit the UK, leaving a trail of destruction and killing 18 people.

Many trees were blown down, which caused widespread damage to homes, transport links, and phone lines. Part of the reason for the severe damage was that the population was not prepared for the storm. They had been told by the Met Office that the evening would be windy, but that the full force of the storm would pass the UK by.

As climate change continues to produce extreme weather, natural disasters are becoming more widespread. In this section, students compared photos of the Great Storm to more recent natural disasters around the world to consider the effects of climate change.

View from Downside Bridge, Cobham, the morning after the great storm on 16th October 1987 - looking south-west and showing the flooded fields.

View from Downside Bridge, Cobham, the morning after the great storm on 16th October 1987 – looking south-west and showing the flooded fields.


The Hurst Park Estate, East Molesey, after the Great Storm of October 1987.

The Hurst Park Estate, East Molesey, after the Great Storm of October 1987.


Fallen trees on the Hurst Park Estate, East Molesey, after the Great Storm of October 1987.

Fallen trees on the Hurst Park Estate, East Molesey, after the Great Storm of October 1987.

Crowds looking at a fallen cedar tree in Templemere, Weybridge, after the Great Storm of 1987.

Crowds looking at a fallen cedar tree in Templemere, Weybridge, after the Great Storm of 1987.


‘Summer: Some animals aren’t used to hot climates. In summer, the weather gets really hot due to climate change. Ice caps melt!

Winter: If climate change continues, winters will get colder. There will be more floods and storms!

How can we help? We can help by doing simple things like: Savnig electricity; not littering.’


‘Floods! Frozen Lands. Littering! Extreme weather.’

Rosalita & Demi



‘We can’t just stand here and watch our world crumble.’


‘Save our planet, there is no planet B! We are destroying our planet. We need to act now!’


‘Stop climate change! Live in a pollution free world.’


‘Help change us and the earth! Stop climate change! Global warming is a key but deathly thing to experience. It destroys our planet which will make a big imapact. Save the planet.’

Continue exploring...

Climate Change Year 6 at Hinchley Wood Primary School have used items in Elmbridge Museum’s collection to learn about how our historic local environment differs from today. The result is 83 fantastic posters, which answer the key question: “Why does climate change matter?”

read more
Transport How does climate change relate to transport, and how have our local transport habits changed over time?

read more
Green Spaces How have nature and green spaces in our local area changed over time, and what can we do to conserve them?

read more

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