Nowadays, the B1166 road near Crowland, alongside the lake, is a scenic route with mature willow trees by the waterside, surrounded by arable fields. In previous centuries, this flat land, known as Crowland wash, regularly flooded in winter and travellers used a gravel causeway, separated from the lake by a “cradge” or bank.
On 28th December, 1868 the floods were deeper than usual, when three Deeping men started their journey home after sunset. There was a strong wind and it was snowing. Thomas Garford was driving a horse and cart, with his fellow plumber William Jibb and stone mason John Crowson as passengers. They had all been working on a new Wesleyan chapel near Crowland.
As they drove across the submerged gravel in semi-darkness, they met five men in a rowing boat, heading towards them. Their horse shied and wheeled round, upsetting the boat into several feet of water. It then backed the cart and its occupants into the lake. The men from the boat scrambled to safety on the cradge. John Crowson either fell from the cart or jumped before it became submerged, but both his companions and the horse were drowned.
Thomas Garford (aged 23) was buried in his home village of Maxey. He had worked for John Wyles, a plumber and painter in Market Deeping, for over 7 years and played cricket for the Deeping Morning Star team.
William Jibb, who lived in Church Street, Market Deeping, left a widow and 7 children, including two sets of young twins “in the deepest distress without means of support”. He was also employed by Mr Wyles, and described as a steady and industrious father. Many people from the surrounding area gave donations to a trust fund, to help clothe the children until they were old enough to earn their living. Friends also helped Mrs Jibb to start a small haberdashery shop at her home.
A few days after the tragedy, veterinary surgeons in Crowland asked farmers and graziers of Deeping St James and St Nicholas to call out vets from Spalding, until the inundation of Crowland Wash was less dangerous to cross.
John Crowson suffered from the shock and exposure, but eventually recovered at his home in Deeping St James. In 1876 he was appointed by the Will of Miss Mary Ann Scotney, to build her almshouses in Market Deeping.