Natural Catastrophes

26-29 November 1703   On Friday night, the 26 instant, happened as violent a storm of wind as was ever known in England; it began about 11, and continued till about 7 the next morning, blowing down a multitude of chimnys, houses, and tops of houses, whereby many people were kill’d on their beds, and several wounded: It would be almost endless to enumerate the mischief occasioned thereby in and about this City; as the blowing down of trees in St. James’s Park, the Inns of Court, Moor-Fields, and divers other places, abundance being torn up by the roots, and others of a great bigness broken off in the middle; A great many spires and weathercocks were blown off the steeples of churches and other places, and ’tis said, about 40 barges, and other vessels laden with corn, were lost in the Thames, and several boats staved to pieces, and an outward-bound East-India ship lost; And no doubt the damage done in the country was very great, of which we may expect to hear dismal accounts every day: Yet it pleased God, that some persons were almost miraculously preserved, particularly two young men at a drugsters, near Cheapside, the chamber in which they lay being broke down by the fall of a stack of chimnys from an house adjoining, which, with the weight, instantly broke through 2 floors more, and caried them down in their bed alseep to the shop, and they were taken out from under the rubbish without any considerable harm. Another person lying over a stable at the Bell Savage Inn, on Ludgate-hill, the floor sunk, and he in his bed fell into the stable without receiving any hurt; others happily escaped by running out of their beds and houses, the chimnys and roofs falling in soon after their removal. But we hear that 2 persons were found dead in their beds, without having any wounds or other visible causes of their death, which is therefore imputed to the sudden fear wherewith they were seized at the noise of the Wind, and the fall of houses and Chimneys thereby. [English Post] [Subsequent issues give lists of ships missing at sea and reports of large numbers of sailors drowned, as well as reports of damage on the Continent.]

19 June 1725   We have terrible accounts from most parts of the Kingdom, of the mischief that has been done by the rains and floods, particularly in Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Shropshire, where a great deal of hay is carried away by the waters, cattle drowned, &c. — At Stony-Stratford, in Buckinghamshire, several families are obliged to live in upper roms. — In Cambridgeshire, several hundred of sheep drowned in their Fenns. — In Northamptonshire, and other Northern Counties, the waggons can’t travel, some horses drowned in the road. [Mist’s Weekly Journal]

31 July 1725   Burlington Key in Yorkshire, July 25. Last Night a strange Phænomena appear’d here, viz. a Fire, computed to be more than a League off at Sea, taken by many Hundreds of People for some Ship on fire; many Boats went from the Shore to give what Assistance they could; but tho’ the Boats went pretty far off, the Fire seem’d still at the same Distance; nor could they by all their Endeavours discover what it was: Some here are of Opinion it may prove the first Appearance of a Comet, it gradually decreasing as the Boats rowed towards it, till it was entirely lost about two a Clock this Morning: Whatever it was, all our Neighbourhood are much surprized at it. [Mist's Weekly Journal]

11 September 1725   On Wednesday night between eleven and twelve a-clock a fire broke out at a haberdasher of hats on the bridge foot in Southwark, which burnt on both sides of the way with great violence for four or five hours. We hear that about 60 houses are consumed, some upon the first and second arch of the bridge; and had it not been for the stone gate which stopp’d the fire very much, the rest of the houses on the bridge had in all likelyhood been burnt down. The bridge for some time was, by the fall of the timber and rubbish, render’d impassable for coaches, waggons, and carts, which were obliged to cross over at Lambeth ferry. The damage amounts to many thousand of pounds, but no just computation can yet be made of it. [Mist’s Weekly Journal]

11 December 1725   On Tuesday last, between 9 and 10 a-clock, there happen’d here [in London] a violent hurricane of wind and rain, accompany’d with thunder and lightning; it was but short, but during that time several chimneys were blown down, and trees tore up by the roots. Some barges and boats were sunk in the river. One wherry, in coming up from Billingsgate to Hungerford with oyster-women and their baskets of fish, lost over against Essex-Stairs: Another wherry lost in coming through bridge: Four or five drowned persons have been taken up above bridge, some others are not yet found. A lighter sunk off the Temple, with 100 quarters of oats in it. A loaded hay-cart, on the road between Tottenham and London, was overturn’d in the hurricane, and falling upon the driver that rode on a little horse by the side of it, the horse was kill’d, and the man’s thigh bone broke. [Mist’s Weekly Journal]

11 June 1726   They write from Exeter, that they have had the most dreadful Thunder and Lightning there, that ever was known in the Memory of Man; and from Chimleigh in the same County of Devon, that they had Hail-Stones bigger than a Man could grasp, whereby three Men were kill’d as they were going home. [Weekly Journal, or British Gazetteer]

17 December 1726
Bristol, Dec. 10.   We have this week several melancholy accounts of people being lost in the snow: Prichard, the Tedbury Carrier’s son-in-law, perish’d on the road in going from hence to Tedbury. A man was found dead in the snow, on Mendip-Common, near Wells: He was discovered by a man coming that way; who at first saw nothing but his hat, till stirring the snow with his stick, he found him dead. Several others were missing. The London Post, which used to come in here every Thursday morning, did not arrive till Friday noon. Abundance of sheep are lost in the snow.
          Bath, Dec. 10.   Last Monday the coach was set fast in the snow, and forc’d to stay all night on the Downs beyond Marlborough; the horses were taken out at Malrborough, and the poor passengers obliged to make the best of themselves in the coach all night. – The same night two men and a boy perish’d in the snow on the Downs, and the bodies of them brought hither next day. (Mist’s Weekly Journal)

5 November 1730   Charterhouse, Oct. 26. Between 6 and 7 in the afternoon last Friday, a low Dutch dancing-master, as he was exercising his faculties for his diversion, as usual, cut a high Dutch caper, with such mercurial force as brought down great part of a large pent-house, three or four rooms in length, and dislocated the rest in so terrible a manner as surprized and endangered many of the gentlemen-pensioners, and it was forced to be taken down the next day. [Grub-street Journal]

Saturday, 22 September 1739   Norwich, Sept. 8. On Monday night last we had a very terrible tempest of lightning and thunder, which held about ten hours; and we hear that a farmer at Raveningham in Norfolk, who had that day finish’d his harvest, and just got his last load of corn in, had his barn set on fire by the lightning, and all the corn consum’d, with a loaded cart that stood in the barn.
         We hear that a house at Ashfield, and three or four houses at Cavendish in Suffolk, were burnt down by the lightning, together with a barn and stack of corn at Ardley near Colchester. And that at Ufford, the house of Mr. William Brooks received a great deal of damage. Part of the chimney, and a large quantity of tiles were thrown down; the barrel of a gun that stood in the kitchen was melted; and some tow was set on fire in the same room, but soon extinguished: And in the chamber over the kitchen, two men, a boy, and a young child being in bed together the man who lay nearest the window where the lightening [sic] entered, was thrown over the rest to the opposite side of the room. (Read’s Weekly Journal, or, British-Gazetteer)

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "Natural Catastrophes", 11 April 2002, updated 28 February 2007 <>

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