Jump to content

Thunderstorms in history.

Jane Louise

Recommended Posts

  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms :D
  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos

    The Great Thunderstorm, Widecombe

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The tower of Widecombe church.

    The Great Thunderstorm of Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Dartmoor, took place on Sunday, 21 October 1638, when the church of St Pancras was apparently struck by ball lightning during a severe thunderstorm. An afternoon service was taking place at the time, and the building was packed with approximately 300 worshippers. Four of them were killed, around 60 injured, and the building severely damaged.

    Eyewitness accounts

    Written accounts by eyewitnesses, apparently published within months of the catastrophe[1], tell of a strange darkness, powerful thunder, and “a great ball of fire” ripping through a window and tearing part of the roof open. It is said to have rebounded through the church, killing some members of the congregation and burning many others. This is considered by some to be one of the earliest recorded instances of ball lightning.

    The priest, George Lyde, was unhurt, but his wife ”had her ruff and the linen next her body, and her body, burnt in a very pitiful manner”. The head of local warrener Robert Mead struck a pillar so hard that it left an indentation; his skull was shattered, and his brain hurled to the ground. A "one Master Hill a Gentleman of good account in the Parish" was thrown violently against a wall and died "that night". His son, sitting next to him, was unhurt.

    Some are said to have suffered burns to their bodies, but not their clothes. A dog is reported to have run out of the door, been hurled around as if by a small tornado, and fallen dead to the ground.

    The village schoolmaster of the time, a gentleman called Roger Hill, and brother of the deceased "Master Hill", recorded the incident in a rhyming testament which is still displayed on boards (originals replaced in 1786) in the church.

    The legend

    According to local legend, the thunderstorm was the result of a visit by the devil who had made a pact with a local card player and gambler called Jan Reynolds[2] (or Bobby Read, according the tale recorded at the Tavistock Inn, Poundsgate). The deal was that if the devil ever found him asleep in church, he could have his soul. Jan was said to have nodded off during the service that day, with his pack of cards in his hand. Another version of the legend states that the Devil arrived to collect the souls of four people playing cards during the church service.

    The devil headed for Widecombe via the Tavistock Inn, in nearby Poundsgate, where he stopped for directions and refreshment. The landlady reported a visit by a man in black with cloven feet riding a jet black horse. The stranger ordered a mug of ale, and it hissed as it went down his throat. He finished his drink, put the mug down on the bar where it left a scorch mark, and left some money. As the stranger rode away, the landlady found that the coins had turned to dried leaves in her hand.

    The devil tethered his horse to one of the pinnacles at Widecombe Church, captured the sleeping Jan Reynolds, and rode away into the storm. As they flew over nearby Birch Tor, the four aces from Jan's pack of cards fell to the ground, and today, if you stand at Warren House Inn, you can still see four ancient field enclosures, each shaped like the symbols from a pack of cards.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    • Replies 4
    • Created
    • Last Reply
  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms :D
  • Location: Cheltenham,Glos

    Lightning and the lightning rod: a violent history

    Thunder and lightning have always been phenomena that have filled people with fear and awe. In Dutch history, there are a large number of examples that indicate the violent nature of lightning.

    A list of damaged structures

    In the 9th and 10th century, bell towers were first introduced, often next to church buildings. In the architecture of the late Middle Ages, the gothic period, the tower signifies the direction towards heaven. A raised finger that reminds the people of what is really important: the after-life. In that era, many towers were erected in the Low Lands. It is obvious that towers shorten the path of electric discharges to the ground. A quick enumeration of large buildings in the Netherlands that were heavily damages or even destroyed by lightning exemplifies this fact.

    * Lange Jan - Middelburg (1712)

    * Sint Jacobstoren - 's-Gravenhage (1539)

    * Dom - Utrecht (1254 and 1674)

    * Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren - Amersfoort (1547, 1651 and 1804)

    * Nieuwekerktoren - Delft (1536 and 1872)

    * Sint Jans catedral - 's-Hertogenbosch (1584)

    * Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk - Breda (1694)

    * Sint Willibrorduskerk - Hulst (1663)

    * Hervormde Kerk - Dwingeloo (1631)

    * Martinikerk - Groningen (1465)

    * Sint Maartenkerk - Zaltbommel (1538 and 1696)

    * Onze Lieve Vrouw Hemelvaart - Zwolle (1815)

    * Hervormde Kerk - IJsselstein (1568 and 1911)

    * Eusebiuskerk - Arnhem (1663)

    Lightning protection

    In the late eigthteenth century, lightning rods were introduced at the top of buildings. When in 1836 a serious thunderstorm left a number of towers that were protected by rods undamaged while others were destroyed, it became clear that lightning protection was more than useful.

    Lightning rods and superstition

    In the Middle Ages, many people believed that thunder and lightning could be thwarted by ringing sacred church bells. When lightning protection was first implemented, people objected very much. In 1781, Kurfurst Karl Theodor had lightning protection devices (bases on designs by Benjamin Franklin) installed on all public buildings in Dusseldorf. The people regarded this as an intervention into the power of God. A mob of angry people tore down the lightning rods. When soldiers restored order in the city, several people were wounded. Because of the Dusseldorf riot, the government decided to teach people about the purpose and benefits of lightning rods. A physics professor wrote a paper in which any possible objection against lightning rods was refuted. Peace and quiet seemed to be restored. However, in 1783 a forceful thunderstorm raged over Dusseldorf. Lightning struck in a number of places and set houses on fire. Buildings that were protected by lightning rods were spared. Again, an uprising started. The thunderstorm was regarded as God's punishment for the presence of lightning rods. As a result, lightning rods were torn down again and only by deploying the city's garisson the uprising could be contained. After that, lightning rods were guarded to prevent people taking them down.

    The first electrotechnical installation

    Is may not sound plausible, but a lightning rod installation can be considered as the first electrotechnical device. When it comes to the concept of protection and choice of materials, little has changed since Benjamin Franklin proved how a discharge of lightning can be safely tranported to earth. The biggest change in the concept of protection is that fact that nowadays external lightning protection is not sufficient. The ever growing amount of electric devices in our homes require an internal lightning protection installation.


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

  • Location: Eastbourne, East Sussex (work in Mid Sussex)
  • Location: Eastbourne, East Sussex (work in Mid Sussex)

    The Essex Storm of 1897

    The following is an extract from the book ‘Black Thursday: The Essex Storm of 1897’

    Although some may have heard of the Colchester Earthquake of 1884, fewer may know about the devastating hail storm which swept Essex in 1897.

    Thursday 24th June 1897 was a hot day with temperatures reaching 31C (86F) in Chelmsford by 2.00pm. In the fields of Essex, there was the prospect of a good harvest. The greenhouses of nurserymen in the Chelmsford area were filling with ripening fruit and vegetables. Labourers were out in the fields across the county, cursing the heat, hay making or pea picking.

    Soon after 2.00pm the weather changed dramatically. A cold front had arrived accompanied by dark clouds “with lurid lights”. The day became known as “Black Thursday” or “the Essex tornado”.

    Reginald Becket later (1901) described the scene: “Ingatestone … was the centre of the hundred square miles of Essex which was devastated in a quarter of an hour by a hailstorm on that black Midsummer Day. When I passed through it at harvest-time in that same year, the crops seemed to have been cut off a few inches above the ground, though no harvest had been reaped”.

    The Mill Green area of Ingatestone bore the brunt of the storm. Mrs Wilde (1913) records, “the force of the wind was so immense that great trees bowed almost flat before it. … A stack of chimneys at Lightoaks had come down without the inmates being aware of its fall, so great was the noise of the storm”. The Times reported that all down one side of Ingatestone High Street, window fronts “were smashed to atoms”. It comments that the only cheerful men must have been glaziers.

    Hailstones fell as big as hens’ eggs. At Ingatestone one, “picked up by Mr S Horsenell of Ingatestone Post-office”, measured 5½ inches (14cms) in circumference and weighed 3½ ounces (almost 100g).

    “Never within living memory had so much damage been caused within so short space of time”, wrote Rev E H L Reeve of Stondon Massey (1900). “Some of the hail stones were swept up the following morning, so large and solid had they been”.

    The storm tracked from west to east: from Epping, through Ongar and Chelmsford, finally dying our near Colchester.

    At Quince Hall in Blackmore, the whole crop, about 22 acres, was ruined and eight chickens killed. A barn was blown over at Spriggs Farm. “A man was mowing grass at Blackmore, his horses ran away and smashed the mowing machine, one of the knives of which entered the man’s chest and arms. If the knife had caught him lower down death would have been inevitable”. Dozens of labourers were seen standing in their own gardens sobbing at the devastation that has occurred: “The case of the labourers is an exceedingly sad one”.

    George Woods, of Cooksmill Green, wrote to The Essex Herald: “The workmen have no harvest, and women no gleaning, little pea-picking and all their garden fruit destroyed. Threshing machines are idle, and there will be no employment for many during the winter months. I only know of a few who have their seed corn left”.

    A meeting was called at the Shire Hall in Chelmsford on the afternoon of Friday 2nd July. Over 600 people attended. Speakers included Lord Rayleigh, who presided at the meeting, and Thomas Usborne, MP for the Mid Essex Division. A Committee was formed to administer The Essex Storm Relief Fund and all eight Essex MP’s supported calls to the Lord Mayor of London to open a Fund. Over £3,000 was promised that afternoon.

    The Mansion House Fund was opened by the Lord Mayor on 5th July. The Editor of The Essex Herald reflected: “We must also express a hope … that in any distribution which is made, the case of the labouring classes will be well remembered. They have been accustomed to look to the harvest as a time wherein to earn extra money for the payment of their cottage rents, for the purchase of fuel for the winter, and for setting themselves up in clothing and boots. For such as will be unable to get harvest work this autumn the outlook must be extremely dismal”.

    In the House of Commons on Tuesday 6th July a spokesman said: “Competent observers have stated that the loss would not be covered by £200,000 … I do not think that the Government could safely intervene even in the most unfortunate circumstances of this particular case”.

    It was decided to cancel the Ingatestone and Fryerning Horticultural Society show. Ongar was a similar casualty of the storm and “the show usually held in November may likewise be abandoned because so many chrysanthemums were ruined”. The shooting season would be badly affected by the number of killed birds.

    The work of the Committee, the correspondence, visits and distribution of money is unfortunately not preserved. This would have shed light on the plight of individuals. The Essex Review reported in July 1898 that “[the Essex Tornado Relief Fund] account shows receipts amounting to £45,753.15s.4., and the sums granted in relief reached a total of £45,147.4s.4d.”.

    Other Outstanding British Hailstorms (courtesy of the TORRO publication - Convection)

    10 May 1697 Two letters in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions have enabled the course of this storm to be plotted over 85 km of north-east Wales and north-west England. Tiled and thatched roofs were damaged, west-facing glass was destroyed, the ground “ploughed up”, and several people suffered serious injuries (intensity H7).

    15 May 1697 This is the only H8 hailstorm known for Britain. There was at least one human fatality (at Offley, Hertfordshire),

    while “great oak trees” were split, and the ground torn up (intensity H8).

    19 August 1763 Hailstones up to about 80 mm diameter fell in the Wateringbury area of mid-Kent. Tiles and windows were

    broken into pieces, bark was removed from trees, and walls were battered (intensity H7, swath length 65km).

    19 August 1800 Some of the largest hailstones ever reported in Britain (70-90 mm diameter) fell in this storm. During the peak period of the storm, on the Buckinghamshire/Bedfordshire border, there was extensive damage to lead roofs, leaded window framework was broken, and the ground was indented to a depth of 6 cm (intensity H7, swath length 60km).

    15 July 1808 This was, perhaps, the most intense hailstorm ever recorded in the south-west of England, although, fortuitously, the core of the hail swath passed between the cities of Bath and Bristol. Hail up to 70 mm across fell close to these cities, while further south, even larger pieces of ice fell around Wincanton(reported as over 100 mm diameter at Batcombe) and “bark was entirely stripped or loosened from trees” (intensity H6-7, swath length 95km).

    24 July 1818 This event is remarkable in its northerly location (the Orkney Islands), relatively remote from continental

    influences. Hailstones, reported as of goose egg size, and reported as weighing up to 8 ounces (230 grams), severely injured cattle, and buried themselves 1 cm into the ground (intensity H7, swath length 32km).

    9 August 1843 Taking into account the length and width of the hail swath, and the mean and peak intensity, this was probably Britain’s most destructive recorded single hailstorm. Near Enstone (Oxfordshire), Welsh and Stonesfield roofing slates were “pounded to pieces”. The city of Cambridge experienced widespread destruction of glass, chimney pots, and slates. The hail and wind storm caused massive destruction to trees and window glass in the vicinities of Biggleswade (Bedfordshire), Thetford (where “the hail and hurricane broke every window which faced the onslaught”), and Norwich (intensity H7, swath length 255km).

    2-3 August 1879 This was probably London’s most intense hailstorm on record (although the storm of 1 August 1846 caused

    severe damage nearer the city centre). In Twickenham, Richmond, and Brentford, “many hailstones were as big as

    teacups”. Tiled roofs were “holed like bullets” (intensity H6-7, swath length 30km).

    8 July 1893 This was the most severe of a series of hailstorms which were probably the most damaging ever recorded in the

    north of England. In Richmond (North Yorkshire), 200,000 panes of glass were broken, some with such violence that glass was flung across rooms, and in one instance over 20 m down a corridor (intensity H6-7, swath length 30km).

    24 June 1897 (as above) This ferocious hail and wind storm was at its peak in the Chelmsford area of Essex. Windows were shattered, blinds shredded, and roof tiles “broken like a hammer” by hailstones 50-60 mm across, and weighing 3-5 ounces (85-140 grams). Many chimneys were blown down and trees uprooted. On the windward side of some buildings, every window was broken and, locally, even the entire half of tiled roofs demolished (intensity H7, swath length 115km).

    4 July 1915 This was another fierce wind-blown hailstorm. In the Chew Valley, North Somerset, violent winds snapped or

    uprooted many trees, and hail smashed or riddled most exposed windows. Along the Gloucestershire/Wiltshire border, 50 mm diameter hailstones split tree bark, pierced metal roofing, twisted lead window frames into “fantastic” shapes, and holed windows like bullets (intensity H6-7, swath length 165km).

    22 September 1935 This is the only British hailstorm with a recorded track extending for over 300 km. Even this

    underestimates the track, as the storm came ashore from the Bristol Channel into Gwent, and later moved out over the North Sea from Norfolk. The most intense phase of the storm crossed Northamptonshire and northwest Cambridgeshire, with hailstones up to at least 70 mm diameter. There was extensive damage to glass, tiled and thatched roofs, aerials, and telegraph wires (intensity H6, swath length 335km).

    5 September 1958 This hailstorm was at its peak in the Horsham area of Sussex, where hailstones of 70-80 mm diameter

    were measured. One was weighed at 190 grams, the largest confirmed hailstone in Britain, although larger, but unweighed or unverified, hailstones almost certainly fell in this and other hailstorms. An airliner approaching Gatwick airport was severely dented in flight, while at ground level many roofing tiles and windows were broken violently, tree bark was split, and the ground pitted 5 cm deep (intensity H6-7, swath length 150km).

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    • 1 month later...
    • 7 months later...
  • Location: United Kingdom
  • Location: United Kingdom

    A good read on some great weather events in the UK I myself have never experienced anything like some of the great nature events that have been posted here it's always nice to learn about what the country was like before you was born. Thanks

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites


    This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

    • Create New...