THE Horse and Groom in Rochford was hit by devastating flooding AGAIN, the Echo revealed last week.
Fire crews were called to the historic former inn, in Southend Road, on Thursday – which is temporarily closed due to the pandemic – after it became immersed in water when the Rochford Reservoir burst its banks.
The pub has been serving pints to punters since the 1700s and throughout its history it has been plagued by flooding, down to it being located four metres below river level.
Originally there was an earlier inn on the same site but that was moved ten yards south in order to help with the flooding problem. But still it persisted.
In 1882 the ground floor and cellar of the pub were completely flooded due to an unusually high tide.
But if we look back at the pub’s history we find that this was not the first natural disaster to strike the pub.
In September 1880 something so bizarre happened you’d be hard pressed to believe it – you could say it was a one in a million occurrence.
The dramatic event happened one afternoon in the midst of a terrible thunderstorm.
As the storm passed over Rochford, a bolt of lightning struck through an open window of the the Horse and Groom, just as the landlord William Oliver was standing in the bar area, handing over change to a customer.
The lightning hit a mirror at the back of the bar where Mr Oliver was standing. It then ricocheted off the steel watch chain that the unfortunate publican was wearing at the time.
The electric current then surged up towards his head, singeing his beard off and then hitting his eyes – rendering him blind on the spot.
His eyes immediately fused together and he couldn’t open them at all.
The Southend Standard newspaper described the aftermath of the scene: “His first sensation when he recovered consciousness was as though he had been badly struck by a violent blow to the head. He was in immense pain.
“Medical aid was at once sent for, and on a doctor arriving he ordered that Mr Oliver be placed in bed. A blister was then applied to the back of the head and kept there for 12 hours.
“The sufferer still lies in a helpless condition, and experiences severe pains in his head.”
A couple of days later and Mr Oliver was still in a bad way, but he could begin to see faintly and lift one of his eyelids.
The newspaper described: “His medical attendant is hopeful that the sight will eventually be completely restored, but it must necessarily be some considerable time before this result is attained. Much sympathy is felt for Mr Oliver in his affliction.”
Just a month later the pub was flooded yet again after heavy rainfalls led to swollen streams in the Rochford area.
Whether Mr Oliver did recover his sight completely is unclear, but it does appear that his injuries were so debilitating that he could no longer carry on running the pub and within three months of the accident, the licence of the pub had been transferred to a new landlord, Joseph Bryatt.
To this day the chances of being struck by lightning are about one in 1.2 million.
In recent years the pub has been flooded a number of times.
Another flood – this time in 2014. Landlord of the Horse and Groom, Danny Murley cleans up the flooded pub’s function room
In August 2013 it had to be shut for three months for repairs to be carried out following terrible floods in the area. It flooded again in 2014.
But despite Mother Nature’s attacks, the pub has endured for 300 years and will most likely do so for many more years to come.