OUR photograph this week shows a worrying situation at the County Hotel, now The King’s Head, in 1960.

Alarmed guests were woken and told, “Get your cars out as soon as possible – the river is undermining the driveway!” The normally placid Avon had been swollen by 24 hours rain, causing it to sweep away part of a brick-lined culvert beneath the drive, leaving heavy steel girders sagging.

Workmen toiled in waist deep water to try to assess the damage, and for several hours there were fears that the hotel itself might become undermined.

A dam erected across most of the river by contractors working on the new Fisherton Bridge was hastily pulled down, while the small arch which had borne the brunt of the flood was blocked in an attempt to ease the flow.

The depth of the water – nearly two feet above normal – hampered attempts to shore up the damaged culvert, and Deputy Salisbury City Engineer Mr AJ Goldfinch described the situation as very serious indeed.

The manager of the hotel, Mr RL Pearcy, said that he had felt ‘anxiety’ about the damage, because he was not sure how deep were the foundations of the 180 year old building. Had the water found its way beneath the walls there might have been a partial collapse.

The damage beneath the drive prevented access to the hotel’s car park by 12 visiting car owners, but other accommodation was found for their cars in other Salisbury garages. Police permission was given for the use of a side entrance for loading and unloading trade vehicles and the drive was made safe two weeks later.

In 1961, Fisherton Bridge was strengthened to break its 12-ton weight limit. The city council also took the opportunity to increase the bridge’s width by 13 ft to 60 ft on the upstream side, to allow for future development.

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