Mr and Mrs Jack Tye

Memories of the 1987 storm in Sevenoaks

Interviewed by Wendy Ferguson in 1988

Stonemason and plasterer Jack Tye and his wife Betty were interviewed in January 1988, a few months after the great storm of October 1987. They were Knole Estate staff and residents of a cottage in Godden Green. Their memories were very vivid as they recalled the devastation the storm caused in Knole Park and surrounding areas.

Trees down after the storm, no electricity

Jack Tye: “There was two beeches, a chestnut and a sycamore and a hawthorn which had come down right across the road, just one great mass of timber and crashed all over the top of her [Mrs Rice’s] gate and knocked half the fence down and that completely blocked it.  There was a tree down just beyond it about 150 yards across the road, down the road by the cottages there was two or three big limes and a couple of horse chestnuts across the road and they … 

Betty Tye:  “…the oak, top of an oak.” 

Jack: “…the top of one of those oaks and then an oak tree down further by …” 

Betty:  “… the pond, that was right across the road.” 

Jack:  “… what used to be the pond, it’s all been filled in now.  That was, I knew it was impossible to get to work that morning because it would have taken all day to get to Knole like and I spent the rest of the day, well seven or eight hours … “ 

Betty: “Eight hours.” 

Jack: ” …clearing the road as best we could, like. I had only got a small chain saw but I overworked that until I mucked it up! [Laughing]  It took us all day Friday, best part of Saturday because it poured down with rain on the Saturday afternoon. I think it was, and Sunday morning. 

We cleared this lot up here and down the road.  The biggest of the trunks I couldn’t get through, the JCB just pushed that round and off the road eventually.  The Bow Petts telephone was down, it always is up here so the phones were out about 17 days.” 

Betty: ” 17 days we never had a phone.” 

Jack:  “And no electricity for 10 days.  Of course, all the deep freeze stuff we had to dump about two hundredweight of stuff out of the deep freeze  

 Betty: “All our beans and everything.” 

How trees were cleared, and their wood burnt

Jack Tye: “On Sunday, I went out to the wood here, well I’ve known this wood here for over 40 years and I knew where every tree was more or less but then if I didn’t go and lose myself at the back of the school over here!  It was just one great mass of trees laying down.  If you get a clump of hollies, when they fall over, well it looks a great mass of green kind of.  You go round that and then you see another one next to that and you keep going round and round and then you lose your sense of direction; and I finished out on the Playing Fields.  I don’t know, it will take years to clear these woods.” 

Betty Tye: “Well Bow Petts was absolutely blocked, wasn’t it?” 

Jack: “Oh yes, they had to tunnel underneath the trees here to get down to them because it’s on a bit of a bank and the road goes round and there was that big, birch tree there, I suppose about 5 foot 3 at the bottom, well over 100 ft high, that had crashed sideways across the road, and they couldn’t go over it, so they had to tunnel underneath.  That was the only way they could get through.”    

Betty: “But they burnt all of that wood.” 

Jack: “They did make a mess.”  

Betty: “”All the top end of the Playing Fields, there were trees and that and they burnt the lot, the trunks and all!”  

 Jack: “There’s a hell of a lot of cord wood which could be used for fire and that, they were just downright … Well, we had to do a lot of storm repairing on the Estate farms so Alan [Grubb] and I had to walk over on the next Friday evening. They had got a fire down there as big as bungalow!  Blazing away it was!”   

Betty: “Well, they had to fetch the fire engine out, didn’t they for the one outside of School House?  And that was right on the side of the road; they burnt all the trunk and everything down there.”  

Jack: “There was two big cedars which came down, well they didn’t come down, they were in such a dangerous position they had to fetch them down.  But other than sort of make some use of the trunks and that, they just downright burnt it all.”   

Betty: “Well they just come down the road with this big JCB, didn’t they, clearing the side of the road and they were just pushing it into the side of the road.  And he got a load and we’ve got an electric transformer over the road. And I said to one of the Council chaps that was there with him, ‘For God’s sake, stop him, he’s going to push that into that transformer.’ And he was!  And he stopped him in time.

But I mean we, they cleared it in the end, but we put everything tidy you know, so that it could have been just packed up and burnt, the tops and everything.  But they didn’t, they just shovelled it up, earth and all and shoved it right up.  And across from the crossroads up to Bitchet, there was 90 trees down right across the road.”   

Jack: “And they were probably all birch trees.” 


No structural damage to Knole itself

Betty Tye: “Well, Knole was very, very lucky.”  

Jack Tye: “The House itself got away pretty well.  It was only a bit of work like.”   

Betty: “There was no structural damage, was there?  Jack said he went to work on the Monday, and he said they looked across and they could see Stake Farm from Knole!”  

Jack: “You couldn’t before.”  

Betty: “No, you couldn’t before, no.  I mean all, well … and yet the funniest part of it is that the old tree that stands on the cricket pitch is still there.”  

Jack: “Those what you think will come down first or thought would come down first, were still standing there.  It was just – it’s a shame really to see the new trees they were planting in the park about 20-25 years ago, just trees with trunks big like that about 30-40 ft high, they were just over.”  

Betty: “Tell [Interviewer] Wendy about the woman that shocked everybody.”  

Jack: “Yes, she said “Isn’t it possible to push them back upright again and strut them up?”  Good God! ”

This page was added by Veronica Walker-Smith on 31/10/2022.

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