In December 2015, northern England experienced two major flooding events with extreme, even in some locations unprecedented, rainfalls and flooding. New 24-, 36-, and 48-hour UK rainfall records were created of 341.4, 401.4, and 405.2 mm, respectively. Three river-flow gauging stations, with flows of around 1,700 m3/s exceeded the previous peak flow record for England and Wales. There was widespread flooding, including major towns and cities, some of which had recent flood alleviation schemes. In Cumbria, the flood events in 2005, 2009 and 2015 compared with previous and historical events raise questions about the stationarity of the flood data and flood-producing mechanisms. These possible effects are less apparent elsewhere in northern England. This paper discusses whether present methods of estimating flood risk are able to cope with such extreme events and suggests topics for future research. In the meantime, for studies where flood estimates are important, practical hydrologists are faced with the difficult task of producing design flood estimates which fit with our understanding of these events.