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Remembering the Great Storm that battered Kent 28 years ago today

It may have been drab and dark when you got out of bed this morning, but it was nothing compared with what Kent residents woke up to 28 years ago.

The Great Storm of 1987 battered the county, flattening trees and ripping tiles from roofs.

The 130pmh winds caused widespread damage, leaving some areas without power for three weeks. 

An over-turned vehicle in Maidstone
An over-turned vehicle in Maidstone

Most of the damage occurred between 2am and 6am on the morning of October 16.

It was the worst storm to hit England since 1903 and was responsible for the deaths of 18 people across England.

The storm gathered pace on the evening of October 15, it battered parts of the South of England before causing damage in parts of mainland Europe.

How the Gazette reported the aftermath of the Great Storm
How the Gazette reported the aftermath of the Great Storm

Four of those were killed in Kent. 

Richard Ashlin, a 38-year-old father-of-three from Staplehurst, died when he fell 15ft from his roof while trying to repair a dislodged tile. He was a former head of geography at Maplesden Noakes School, Maidstone.

Tree surgeon Bob Homewood, 59, from Biddenden, was crushed to death when chimneys collapsed and buried him in his home.

Beacon Hill Farm, Biddenden where Bob Homewood was killed when his roof fell in
Beacon Hill Farm, Biddenden where Bob Homewood was killed when his roof fell in

Sosamma “Susie” Shilling, 55, from Walderslade, died when a tree crashed through her roof and British Rail worker Tony Telfer from Gravesend died when a tree plunged down an embankment.


At a glance

Sevenoaks: Six out of the seven trees at The Vine cricket ground, said to have given the town its name, came down. Later seven new ones were planted.

Jill Davidson, a junior councillor at the time, said: "There was an awful amount of damage - a massive amount. It was quite impossible to get around - you had to cut your way through.

Spot the car... This picture was taken in Maidstone
Spot the car... This picture was taken in Maidstone

"We've been known around the world now as Oneoak because of the iconic picture of Sevenoaks' one remaining tree meant we'd change our name overnight... until we put the new ones in."

Strood: The roof of a block of flats blew right off. Photos emerged of people standing in the remains of their living rooms and bedrooms.

Rochester: High winds make the Medway bridge on the M2 dangerous, and several lorries overturned.

The storm didn't stop shoppers in Chatham
The storm didn't stop shoppers in Chatham

Dover: Passenger ferry The Hengist washed slipped its moorings and beached ashore. Two crew members of the 1,500-tonne cargo vessel Sumnia died when she lost power and struck the southern breakwater just outside of the harbour.

Chartwell: Thousands of trees at Sir Winston Churchill’s former home were uprooted. Owned by the National Trust, the organisation’s land at Emmetts Garden and Toys Hill, in Kent, was also badly damaged.

The trust’s Storm Disaster Appeal raised more than £3million in six weeks after the storm.

Damage to woodland at the Great Storm in Knole, Sevenoaks. Pic: National Trust
Damage to woodland at the Great Storm in Knole, Sevenoaks. Pic: National Trust

Sandwich: TV footage showed the roof at a new building on the Pfizer complex lift off and then settle back down in the same place.


One man keen to forget the iconic storm is BBC weather forecaster Michael Fish. The 71-year-old meteorologist suggested people had nothing to be worried about. 

In an interview with Kent Online he said: "My remarks referred to Flordia and were a link to a news story about devastation in the Caribbean that had just been broadcast.

"The phone call was a member of staff reassuring his mother just before she set off there on holiday.

"I wish I had a penny for each time that clip has been broadcast, I'd be a millionaire!"

Fifteen million trees were brought down by the storm. 

Many residents cowered in their beds as the heavy winds battered their homes. 

Some of the damage caused in Ashford
Some of the damage caused in Ashford

Fifteen million trees were brought down by the storm and many railway lines had to be closed because of wrecked power lines.

Repairs cost billions of pounds and took years to complete. 


You've been sharing your memories on our Facebook page:

Diane Baseden said: “I was pregnant with my son at the time, I remember it well. Hard to believe it was 28 years ago!”

Christina Rowbottom shared her memories: “We saw caravans being lifted and toppled over. I remember watching a static caravan inch closer and closer to a brand new Pronton car, we watched in total disbelief as that too toppled over, and landed onto the car…”

Stephanie Sootarsing’s sister comforted her: “My sister woke me up to tell me not to worry it was only a storm. We all had to go and sleep with our parents, I think we nearly had a tree through the roof. The power was out for three days and my dad went out to clear the road. Wow, 28 years.”

Beth Frost added: “I was only 10 so all I was concerned about was having the day off school.”

Maureen Shepherd from Gillingham said: “My memories were waking up with two young children to no electricity, no heating, no water and no way of making a hot drink. We were told to stay inside as it was too dangerous to go out.”

Read more on our Facebook page.

What are your memories of the Great Storm? Leave your comments below.

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