Reports of seismic activity in 18th century England

As our regular readers will, by now be aware, we blog about everything and anything from Georgian times so, with that in mind, we have ventured, somewhat bizarrely, into the realms of seismology (the study of earthquakes) and thought we would take a look at some we came across in the newspapers of the day.  There appear to have been quite a few major earthquakes around the world during that time, the largest taking place in Lisbon in 1755, but we’re going to take a look at a few closer to home in the United Kingdom.

Aertbeevinge tot Jedo (Earthquake at Jedo). © The Trustees of the British Museum
Aertbeevinge tot Jedo (Earthquake at Jedo).
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Oct 10, 1731. At Aynhoe, Northamptonshire.

Oct 25, 1734. At Arundel and Shoreham

Dec 10, 1738. At Hallifax [sic] and Huddersfield, Yorkshire

June 15, 1745. In Somersetshire

Feb 14, 1749. At Leadhills in Scotland when the people were so frightened that they left their houses.

Aug 23, 1750. A smart shock in Nottinghamshire.

Sept 30, 1750. In Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Leicester and Derby. At Kelmarsh an old woman was thrown out of her chair and people ran out of the church. At Barton Overy, a child was shaken out of a chair into the fire. According to the General Advertiser:

The letters which give accounts of the late earthquakes felt in Lincolnshire in the latter end of last month seem to confirm the notion advanced of rains falling after very hot weather being the nearest cause of them and that they are immediately occasioned a real ‘convulsion in the bowels of the earth‘.

Feb 8, 1750.

In London and Westminster and many of the adjacent towns and villages. The gentlemen of the long robe in Westminster Hall were so alarmed, that they expected the building to fall, several chimnies and part of a house were thrown down.

March 8, 1750.

Another quake, still more violent than the former, was felt in London and its environs. The people ran from their houses and beds almost naked. A maid servant in Charter-House square was thrown out of bed by the shock and broke her arm. A lady in Piccadilly, a curios collector of old china which she piled in stands, had it thrown down and broken.

So strong an impression did the two shocks of the earthquake that they were felt at London on the 8th of February and 8th of March, 1750, make on the credulous in that populous city, that a life-guardsman having predicted another and more fatal one on the 5th of April, an incredible number of people left their houses and walked in the fields or lay in boats that night. Many people of fashion sat in their coaches in the neighbouring villages till day break. Others went to a greater distance, so that the roads were never more thronged and lodgings were hardly to be procured at Windsor.

Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

April 2, 1750. At Liverpool and the country adjacent, for about 40 miles N. and S. and thirty leagues E. and W.

Gazetteer and London Daily Advertiser, Tuesday, January 13, 1756:

On Wednesday, December 31, 1755 betwixt one and two o’clock in the morning, a small shock of an earthquake was felt at Greenock and several places in that neighbourhood, as well as at Dumbarton, Inchinnan and Glasgow; the truth of this, as it seems confirmed by the concurring reports of numbers of people in all those places, we cannot doubt of.

Extract of a letter from the parish of Kilmacolm (about ten miles west of Glasgow), dated Jan 1.

Yesterday about one o’clock in the morning, being awake in bed, I felt about seven or eight shocks of an earthquake, all succeeding one another. The whole shocks were over in the space of half a minute. The second shock was the greatest and so violent, that it fairly lifted me off the bed, jolted me to the head of it, and in a moment down again to where I lay before. I believe three or four such shocks would have laid this house (tho’ a very strong one) in ruins. The second shock jostled a large chest with such violent along the side of the wall in another room, that it wakened a gentleman who was sleeping there.

Extract from a letter by someone living at Sandwich, Kent, February 18 1756, was reported in the Public Advertiser of February 27, 1756 which stated that:

… a shock of an earthquake was perceived in this town about a quarter before eight this morning it was just heard, that it was slightly felt by two or three persons at Margate. Its direction seem’d to be East or West.

June 8, 1753. At Manchester, and several other places in the North West of England.

April 19, 1754. In several parts of Yorkshire.

July 31, 1755. In Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire. At Frodingham it shook the walls of several houses so much, that most of them fell.

Copper engraving showing the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. Via Wikimedia.
Copper engraving showing the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and ensuing tsunami.
Via Wikimedia.

Nov 1, 1755.

The dreadful earthquake at Lisbon happened, by which above 70,000 persons lost their lives. On the 3rd of this month a violent agitation was perceived on the sea shore in many parts of England. And on the 5th of the month the tide was so high in the river Carron, in Scotland, that it overflowed its banks and broke down a dam-head which had never before given way in the memory of man.

June 24, 1756. At Ashford in Kent and neighbouring villages.

Nov 18, 1756. in Argyleshire and Rothesay.

Jan 11 1757. At Norwich and Yarmouth.

June 9, 1761. In Somersetshire and Dorsetshire

According to a letter dated May 21, 1768 from Newcastle sent to Lloyd’s Evening Post:

On Sunday afternoon last, a little after four o’clock, two slight shocks of an earthquake at about half a minute’s distance of time from each other, were felt in this town, and we have accounts of their being felt, at the same time, in different parts of the country; particular at Kendal, where they had one shock which lasted nearly two seconds and happened during the time of a divine service, which greatly terrified the people in church. At Middleton, near Lancaster it was also felt at the same time.

And finally,  this would have been quite a shocker!!

The Middlesex Journal or Chronicle of Liberty, January 9, 1772

A Welsh lady, not far from Abingdon Buildings, on Monday morning was so much alarmed at what she thought an earthquake, that she jumped out of bed, flew downstairs, ran across the street and knocked at a neighbour’s door, with her shirt on only, which she tacked around her waist in fright.

Header image: Vue de la Ville de Regio dil Messinae et ces alentour detruite par le terrible tremblement de Terre arrivée le Cinq Fevrier de l’annee 1783, Gallica – Bibliothèque nationale de France


7 thoughts on “Reports of seismic activity in 18th century England

  1. They certainly seem to have had more earthquakes then than we do now; I wonder if there was a period of extreme seismic disturbance which was connected also with the massive volcanic eruptions in the 1780s which caused the Regency weather to be, on the whole, colder than it had previously been, and subsequently with the notorious eruption of Mt Tambora in Borneo in 1815 causing the Summer that never was the following year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Whewell’s Gazette: Year 2, Vol. #39 | Whewell's Ghost

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