The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

A fearful and terrible noise

In 'Alborow', in Suffolk (methinks Aldeburgh), according to a pamphlet of 1642, a strange event occurred. for ninety minutes in the afternoon, from around four o'clock people heard the sounds of battle. There was Cannon-fire, several rounds of shot and the beating of drums. Then the noise abruptly stopped and an eight-inch stone fell to earth. This stone was gathered up by Master Thompson and Captain Johnson, and put on display in the town square. It was seen as a dire warning from God, and a sign of great spiritual importance, and there was much discussion as to its meaning.

Some commentators have suggested that this strange stone was discharged ordnance: a canon or something, and the sounds merely the sounds of a nearby battle. The event happened during the first Civil War. Suffolk was pretty solidly Parliamentarian at the time, Aldeburgh particularly so, raising a foot company for Parliament. The only excitement in Suffolk during the entire war of 1642-1646 was the 'siege' of Lowestoft, a dull occasion that happened a year later. The sounds, and the cannon-shot would have had to have come a long way.

The Pamphleteers of the time were quite capable of making up exciting events out of nothing. However, one suspects that if they had felt themselves free to conjure something exciting from whole cloth, they'd have come up with something better than this. Certainly the description of the sounds is rather close to those of a meteorite, but the stone would have scarely have lain on the surface. Explanation anyone?
The story is told in a contemporary pamphlet as follows
A signe from Heaven, or a fearfull and Terrible Noise, heard in the Ayre at Alborow, in the county of Suffolke
On Thursday, the 4th day of August, at 5 of the clock in the afternoone. Wherein was heard the beating of Drums, the discharging of Muskets and great ordnance for the space of an houre and more, as will be attested by many men of good worth, and exhibited to some cheife members of the Honorable House of Commons. With a stone that fell from the sky in that Storme, or Noise rather, which is here to be seene in Towne, being of a great weight.
--Aug. 12. London : Printed by T. Fawcet, 1642.

Upon Thursday, the 4th day of this instant August, about the hour of foure or five o'clocke in the aftemoone, there was a wonderful noyse heard in the ayre, as of a Drum beating most fiercely, which after a while was seconded with a long peale of small shot, and after that a discharging as it were, of great ordnance in a pitcht-field. This continued with some vicissitudes of small shot and great ordnance for the space of one hour and an halfe, and then making a mighty and violent report altogether; at the ceasingthereof there was observed to fall down out of the skie a stone of about foure pounds weight, which was taken up by them who saw it fall, and being both strange for the forme of it, and somewhat miraculous for the manner of it, was by the same parties who are ready to attest this Truth brought up and shewed to a worthy member of the House of Commons, upon whose ground it was taken up, and by him to divers friends who have both seen and handled the same. Now the manner of finding of this stone was on this wise : one Captaine Johnson and one Master Thompson, men well knowne in that part of Suffolke, were that day at Woodbridge about the lanching of a ship that was newly builded there, who hearing this marvellous noise towards Alborow, verily supposed that some enemy was landed, and some sudden onset made upon the Towne of Alborow. This occasioned them to take Horse and hasten homewards, the rather because they heard the noise of the battel grow lowder. And being at that instant when that greatest cracke and report was made in conclusion, on their way upon an heath betwixt the two Townes, Woodbridge and Alborow, they observed the fall of this stone, which grazing in the fall of it along upon the heath, some 6 or 7 yards, had out run their observation where it rested, had not a dog which was in their company followed it by the scent as was hot, and brought them where it lay covered over with grasse and earth, that the violence of its course had contracted about it. This is the true relation of the finding of this stone, which is 8 inches long and 5 inches broad, and 2 inches thick.

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