The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

For occasional articles, snippets and announcements by the Resident Historians.These articles are presented in date order, but if you explore the back-catalogue, you may find much of interest. Historical information doesn't really go out of date! Any member of the F&DLHS may add an entry or make a comment to an existing entry once they have got their userID and password from the Webmaster.

If you'd like to publish any interesting material about the history of East Anglia on the site, then please send an email to the Resident Historians at and we'll add it.

Family Historians have their own area on the site, so look there if your main interest is in tracing your family history.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Great Colchester Earthquake

On hearing the horrifying details of the Sumatra Earthquake, one is comforted only by the thought that it cannot happen here. True, but we have had our own earthquake, known as the Great Colchester Earthquake

On the 22nd April 1884, at 9.18, we suffered an earthquake of 6.9 on the Richter scale. Its epicentre was just to the south east of Colchester near Wivenhow. Shock waves travelled across England, Belgium and France. It destroyed 1,200 buildings, including the entire villages of Wivenhoe and Abberton. The churches of Breton, Marney, Wivenhoe, Peldon and De La Haye were damaged and Langenhoe church was virtually destroyed.

The Essex County Standard reported

Everything was peaceful and quiet early in the morning, no fresh atmospherical change from the last few days with the exception of a slight elevation of temperature, being experienced to indicate in any way the approach of a visitation of this nature, from which England happily has been very free, and has had little or no cause to anticipate anything of the kind either in years gone by or at this more immediate period.
The awful event came without the slightest warning and lasted from five to ten seconds but in that short period of time, an amount of damage was done to property which it will take weeks to set right, and in some cases destruction is irreparable.
From one end of the town to the other the ground was convulsed, and if a spectator could have taken a bird's eye view of the Borough, the effect would have been much the same as a sea wave, the ground upheaving and lowering by means of that gigantic power pent up beneath the earth's crust. The general impression appears to be that the ground and the houses with it was lifted up, shaken two or three times in a manner that made the stoutest heart quake, and the bravest to cow with fear, and then subside, disappearing with a kind of final shake or jerk, and then it was all over."

Giant waves in the sea destryed many light craft, they rolled 'like floating corks' and the quay at Wivenhoe was 'on the move as if going right down'.

Many old buildings bear cracks due to the earthquake. Around here, Melford Hall suffered, and repairs had to be made to several churches

The worst affected from the earthquake was Langenhoe where

..."The scene in this parish of 230 souls is spoken of by eye witnesses as most painful in the extreme - women and children rushed out of their houses in the greatest terror, many of them shrieking in the roads, whole men were also startled. How many of the poor people whose houses have thus been wrecked, are to find shelter for themselves and their families for some little time, is more than we can say."


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