Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton


21-24 March 1719
To the Author of the WHITE-HALL EVENING-POST.

Calne, March 21.
On the 19th instant, about eight or ten minutes after eight of the clock in the evening, the air being very serene, and the moon shing very bright, there was seen in these Western parts of the Kingdom; namely, at the Devizes, Calne, Laycock, Chippenham, and Bath, a very surprizing meteor or appearance in the air, which to those who were within their houses gave so great a light as made it seem as if the sun had been above the horizon. I saw the light within the chamber, where I then was, but its duration was too short to afford me an opportunity of viewing its figure in the open air; for it lasted not above one quarter of a minute from the beginning to the end: But I have had a pretty good description of it from three or four persons who saw its first appearance in the open air; and they agree that it first darted out between the north and east points, with a small reddish streak of light, which terminated in a spherical or rather spheroidal figure, of a very bright, but pale colour, the line of its direction pointing downwards from the north east to the western parts; so that it seemed somewhat like a Granado with its fuse. The diameter of this phaenomenon (as it is described here by those that saw it) was equal to that of the full moon.
          I am, &c.

Hedingham Sible, March 19.
About a quarter past eight at night we were wonderuflly surpriz’d with a strange phenomenon in the air. A large flash or bright flame broke from the horizon full west, which darted its rays full north. The first appearnace was astonishing. Plainly was distinguish’d a beam of flame. As it struck nearer it resembled a long spire of fire, and at extinction was red and very terrible. The lights in our room of candles and fire were much diminish’d, and seem’d extinguishing. Upon its nearer approach, and beating upon our house and trees adjoining, a russling or hissing like that of an iron quench’d in water was heard; and I verily thought to have found in the morning a fizzy matter under our walls like the exhalations frequently drop’d from the clouds in the night, but upon examination was deceiv’d.
          After the consternation of our family was a little abated, I went to the place where we fancied the noise, but all was vanish’d and gone, no smell of sulphur was left, and the sky was sereen and clear. The whole continued about the space of numbering ten.
          H. S.

Plymouth, March 20.
Last night about eight a clock, the moon shining very bright a small red cloud appear’d in the north west, from whence run a long stream of fire to the south east, causing a very great light for the space of three or four seconds of time, which astonished every beholder. About three or four minutes after, such a crack was heard as could not be equall’d by the largest cannon. The stream of fire lasted near a quarter of an hour; but appear’d less and less, and was carried off to sea: At first ’twas just over this town, and so was the crack. our philosophers look upon it to be some exhalation from the earth, that took fire in the air at a prodigious height.
          A master of a vessel coming from Hamburgh saw this phaenomenon 100 leagues north at sea.
          Yours, &c.
(White-hall Evening-Post)

28 March 1719   Wrexham, March 21. Last Thursday between seven and eight at night, the sky, on the south-west part of the moon was observed on a sudden to be of diverse colours, red, green, yellow, &c. Soon after, a large fiery ball appeared in the clouds, so very bright that the people of the town thought all their houses were on fire, and ran out into the streets, where they saw the ball burst and fall to the earth, exactly like a sky-rocket, with a long train of fire. It continued but a minute after the ball was seen.
          Mildenhall in Suffolk, March 21. On Thursday last between eight and nine at night, a very terrible light was seen here. It appear’d to be like what we call the falling of a star, but as thousand times as big, and lasted about half a minute. Some persons who saw it in the fields, say, they felt the heat, and that their hair was singed. I just now hear, the same kind of light was seen at twelve, as terrible as before, and that several felt the heat. (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, "Comets", 8 April 2007 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/comets.htm>

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