Lynmouth

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Lynmouth.rivermeeting.arp.750pix.jpg
The meeting of the Lynmouth rivers. The river seen here is the East Lyn river, the West Lyn River joins it at the white bridge.
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Lynmouth.railway.arp.750pix.jpg
A car of the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway. Opened in 1890, the railway is a water-operated funicular, 862 feet (263 metres) long, operating on a 1 in 1.75 gradient track. One car descends, while the other ascends, on a conterbalance system. The water is piped from the East Lyn river

Lynmouth is a village in Devon, England. It is located on the northern edge of Exmoor, at the confluence of the West Lyn and East Lyn rivers. It was described by Thomas Gainsborough, who honeymooned there with his 16 year old bride Harriet Westbrook, as:

"the most delightful place for a landscape painter this country can boast".

The Lynmouth Disaster

On 15 and 16 August 1952, a storm of tropical intensity broke over south-west England, depositing 229 mm of rain within 24 hours on an already waterlogged Exmoor. Debris-laden floodwaters cascaded down the northern escarpment of the moor, converging upon the village of Lynmouth. A guest at the Lyndale Hotel described the night:

"From seven o'clock last night the waters rose rapidly and at nine o'clock it was just like an avalanche coming through our hotel, bringing down boulders from the hills and breaking down walls, doors and windows. Within half an hour the guests had evacuated the ground floor. In another ten minutes the second floor was covered, and then we made for the top floor where we spent the night."

Overnight, over 100 buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged along with 29 bridges, and 38 cars were washed out to sea. In total, 34 people died, with a further 420 made homeless.

Similar events had previously been recorded at Lynmouth in 1607 and 1796. After the 1952 disaster, the village was rebuilt, with major efforts made to ensure that the catastrophe would not be repeated. These included the diversion of the river around the village.

In 2001, a BBC Radio 4 documentary featured suggestions that the events of 1952 were connected to government cloud seeding experiments being conducted in southern England at the time. There does not presently seem to be any direct evidence to support such allegations, but conspiracy theories have been fuelled by rumours of missing or destroyed government documents relating to the experiments.

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