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The Storm: 1 - of the Damages in the City of London, and Parts Adjacent

Indeed the city was a strange spectacle, the morning after the storm, as soon as the people could put their heads out of doors; though I believe, everybody expected the destruction was bad enough; yet I question very much, if anybody believed the hundredth part of what they saw.

The streets lay so covered with tiles and slates, from the tops of the houses, especially in the out-parts, that the quantity is incredible; and the houses were so universally stript, that all the tiles in fifty miles round would be able to repair but a small part of it.

Something may be guessed at on this head, from the sudden rise of the price of tiles; which rose from 21s. per thousand to 6l. for plain tiles; and from 50s. per thousand for pantilesS-shaped roofing tiles, to 10l, and bricklayers’ labour to 5s. per day; and though after the first hurry the prices fell again, it was not that the quantity was supplied; but because,

1st. The charge was so extravagant, that an universal neglect of themselves, appeared both in landlord and tenant; an incredible number of houses remained all the winter uncovered, and exposed to all the inconveniences of wet and cold; and are so even at the writing of this chapter.

2. Those people who found it absolutely necessary to cover their houses, but were unwilling to go to the extravagant price of tiles; changed their covering to that of wood, as a present expedient, till the season for making of tiles should come on; and the first hurry being over, the prices abate: and it is on this score, that we see, to this day, whole ranks of buildings, as in Christ Church Hospital, the Temple, Ask’s Hospital, Old street, Hogsden squares, and infinite other places, covered entirely with deal boards; and are like to continue so, perhaps a year or two longer, for want of tiles.

These two reasons reduced the tile merchants to sell at a more moderate price: but it is not an irrational suggestion, that all the tiles which shall be made this whole summer, will not repair the damage in the covering of houses within the circumference of the city, and ten miles round.

The next article in our street damage was, the fall of chimnies; and as the chimnies in the city buildings are built in large stacks, the houses being so high, the fall of them had the more power, by their own weight, to demolish the houses they fell upon.

It is not possible to give a distinct account of the number, or particular stacks of chimnies, which fell in this fatal night; but the reader may guess by this particular, that in Cambray house, commonly so called, a great house near Islington, belonging to the family of the Comptons, Earls of Northampton, but now let out into tenements, the collector of these remarks counted eleven or thirteen stacks of chimnies, either wholly thrown in, or the greatest parts of them, at least, what was exposed to the wind, blown off. I have heard persons, who pretended to observe the desolation of that terrible night very nicely; and who, by what they had seen and inquired into, thought themselves capable of making some calculations, affirm, they could give an account of above two thousand stacks of chimnies blown down in and about London; besides gable ends of houses, some, whole roofs and sixteen or twenty whole houses in the out-parts.

Injury and loss of life.

Under the disaster of this article, it seems most proper to place the loss of the people’s lives, who fell in this calamityDisaster; since most of those, who had the misfortune to be killed, were buried, or beaten to pieces with the rubble of the several stacks of chimnies that fell.

Of these, our weekly bills of mortality gave us an account of twenty-one; besides such as were drowned in the river, and never found: and besides above two hundred people very much wounded and maimed.

One woman was killed by the fall of a chimney in or near the palace of St. James’s, and a stack of chimnies falling in the new unfinished building there, and carried away a piece of the coin of the house.

Nine soldiers were hurt, with the fall of the roof of the guard house at Whitehall, but none of them died.

A distiller in Duke street, with his wife and maid servant, were all buried in the rubbish of a stack of chimnies, which forced all the floors, and broke down to the bottom of the house; the wife was taken out alive, though very much bruised, but her husband and the maid lost their lives.

One Mr. Dyer, a plasterer in Fetter lane, finding the danger he was in by the shaking of the house, jumped out of bed to save himself; and had, in all probability, time enough to have got out of the house, but staying to strike a light, a stack of chimnies fell in upon him, lulled him and wounded his wife.

Two boys, at one Mr. Purefoy's, in Cross street, Hatton garden, were both killed, and buried in the rubbish of a stack of chimnies; and a third very much wounded.

A woman in Jewin street, and two persons more near Aldersgate street, were killed; the first, as it is reported, by venturing to run out of the house into the street; and the other two by the fall of a house.

In Threadneedle street, one Mr. Simpson, a scrivener, being in bed and fast asleep, heard nothing of the storm; but the rest of the family being more sensible of danger, some of them went up and woke him; and telling him their own apprehensions, pressed him to rise; but he too fatally slept, and consequently unconcerned at the danger, told them he did not apprehend anything; and so, notwithstanding all their persuasions, could not be prevailed with to rise: they had not been gone many minutes out of his chamber, before the chimnies fell in, broke through the roof over him, and killed him in his bed.

A carpenter in Whitecross street was killed almost in the same manner, by a stack of chimnies of the Swan Tavern, which fell into his house; it was reported, that his wife earnestly desired him not to go to bed; and had prevailed upon to sit up till near two o’clock, but then finding himself very heavy, he would go to bed against all his wife’s entreaties; after which, she waked him, and desired him to rise, which he refused, being something angry for being disturbed, and going to sleep again, was killed in his bed: and his wife, who would not go to bed, escaped.

In this manner, our weekly bills gave us an account of twenty-one persons kilted in the city of London, and parts adjacent.

Some of our printed accounts give us larger and plainer accounts of the loss of lives, than I will venture to affirm for truth; as of several houses near Moorfields levelled with the ground: fourteen people drowned in a wherry going to Gravesend, and five in a wherry from Chelsea. Not that it is not very probable to be true; but as I resolve not to hand anything to posterity, but what comes very well attested, I omit such relations as I have not extraordinary assurance as to the fact.

The fall of brick walls, by the fury of this tempest, in and about London, would make a little book of itself; and as this affects the out-parts chiefly, where the gardens and yards are walled in, 30 few such have escaped: at St. Jaipes’s a considerable part of the garden wall; at Greenwich park there are several pieces of the wall down for an hundred rods in a place; and some much more, at Battersea, Chelsea, Putney, at Clapham, at Deptford, at Hackney, Islington, Hogsden, Woods close by St, John street, and on every side the city, the walls of the gardens have generally felt the shock, and lie flat on the ground twenty, thirty rod of walling in a place.

Churches destroyed.

The public edifices of the city come next under our consideration; and these have had their share in the fury of this terrible night.

A part of her Majesty’s palace, as is before observed, with a stack of chimnies in the centre of the new buildings, then not quite finished, fell with such a terrible noise as very much alarmed the whole household.

The roof of the guard house at Whitehall, as is also observed before, was quite blown off; and the great vane, or weathercock at Whitehall, blown down.

The lead, on the tops of the churches and other buildings, was in many places rolled up like a roll of parchment, and blown in some places clear off from the buildings; as at Westminster Abbey, St. Andrews, Holborn, Christ Church Hospital, and abundance of other places.

Two of the new built turrets, on the top of St. Mary Aldermary church, were blown off, whereof one fell upon the roof of the church; of eight pinnacles on the top of St. Albans, Wood street, five of them were blown down; part of one of the spires of St. Mary Overies blown off; four pinnacles on the steeple of St. Michael, Crooked lane, blown quite off: the vanes and spindles of the weathercocks in many places, bent quite down; as on St. Michael, Cornhill, St. Sepulchres’, the tower, and divers other places.

It was very remarkable, that the bridge over the Thames received but little damage, and not in proportion to what in common reason might be expected; since the buildings there stand high, and are not sheltered, as they are in the streets, one by another.

If I may be allowed to give this philosophical account of it, I hope it may not be absurd; that the indraft of the arches underneath the houses giving vent to the air, it passed there with a more than common current; and consequently relieved the buildings, by diverting the force of the storm: I ask pardon of the ingenious reader for this opinion, if it be not regular, and only present it to the world for want of a better; if those better furnished that way will supply us with a truer account, I shall withdraw mine, and submit to theirs. The fact however is certain, that the houses on bridge did not suffer in proportion to the other places; though all must allow, they do not seem to be stronger built, than other streets of the same sort.

Another observation I cannot but make; to which, as I have hundreds of instances, so I have many more witnesses to the truth of fact, and the uncommon experiment has made it the more observed.

The wind blew, during the whole storm, between the points of S.W. and N.W., not that I mean it blew at all these points, but I take a latitude of eight points to avoid exceptions, and to confirm my argument; since what I am insisting upon, could not be a natural cause from the winds blowing in any of those particular points.

If a building stood north and south, it must be a consequence that the east side slope of the roof must be the lee-side, lie out of the wind, be weathered by the ridge, and consequently receive no damage in a direct line.

But against this rational way of arguing, we are convinced by demonstration and experiment, after which argument must be silent. It was not in one place or two, but in many places; that where a building stood ranging north and south the sides or slopes of the roof to the east and west, the east side of the roof would be stript and untiled by the violence of the wind; and the west side, which lay open to the wind, be sound and untouched.

This, I conceive, must happen either where the building had some open part, as windows or doors to receive in the wind in the inside, which being pushed forward by the succeeding particles of the air, must force its way forward, and so lift off the tiling on the leeward side of the building; or it must happen from the position of such building near some other higher place or building, where the wind being repulsed, must be forced back again in eddies; and consequently taking the tiles from the lower side of the roof, rip them up with the more ease.

However it was, it appeared in many places, the windward side of the roof would be whole, and the leeward side, or the side from the wind, be untiled; in other places, a high building next the wind has been not much hurt, and a lower building on the leeward side of the high one clean ript, and hardly a tile left upon it: this is plain in the building of Christ Church Hospital in London, where the building on the west and south side of the cloister was at least twenty five foot higher than the east side, and yet the roof of the lower side on the east was quite untiled by the storm; and remains at the writing of this, covered with deal boards above an hundred feet in length.

Trees blown down.

The blowing down of trees may come in for another article in this part; of which, in proportion to the quantity, here was as much as in any part of England: some printed accounts tell us of seventy trees in Moorfields blown down, which may be true; but that some of them were three yards about, as is affirmed by the authors, I cannot allow; above a hundred elms in St. James’s Park, some whereof were of such growth, as they tell us they were planted by Cardinal Wolsey; whether that part of it be true or not, is little to the matter, but only to imply that they were very great trees; about Baums, commonly called Whitmore house, there were above two hundred trees blown down, and some of them of extraordinary size broken off in the middle.

And it was observed, that in the morning after the storm was abated, it blew so hard, the women, who usually go for milk to the cowkeepers in the villages round the city, were not able to go along with their pails on their heads; and one that was more hardy than the rest, was blown away by the fury of the storm, and forced into a pond, but by struggling hard, got out, and avoided being drowned; and some that ventured out with milk the evening after, had their pails and milk blown off from their heads.

It is impossible to innumerate the particulars of the damage suffered, and of the accidents which happened under these several heads, in and about the city of London; the houses looked like skeletons, and an universal air of horror seemed to sit on the countenances of the people; all business seemed to be laid aside for the time, and people were generally intent upon getting help to repair their habitations.

It pleased God so to direct things, that there fell no rain in any considerable quantity, except what fell the same night or the ensuing day, for near three weeks after the storm, though it was a time of the year that is generally dripping. Had a wet rainy season followed the storm, the damage which would have been suffered in and about this city to household goods, furniture and merchandise, would have been incredible, and might have equalled all the rest of the calamity: but the weather proved fair and temperate for near a month after the storm, which gave people a great deal of leisure in providing themselves shelter, and fortifying their houses against the accidents of weather by deal boards, old tiles, pieces of sail cloth, tarpaulin, and the like.