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The Storm: of the Earthquake

Though this was some time after the storm, yet as the accounts of the storm bring it with them in the following letters, we cannot omit it.

The two following letters are from the respective ministers of Boston and Hull, and relate to the account of the earthquake, which was felt over most part of the county of Lincoln and the East Riding of Yorkshire.

The letter from Hull, from the Reverend Mr. Banks, minister of the place, is very particular, and deserves entire credit, both from the extraordinary character of the worthy gentleman who writes it, and from its exact correspondence with other accounts.

Sir, — I received yours, wherein you acquaint me with a Design that, (I doubt not) will meet with that applause and acceptance from the world which it deserves; but am in no capacity to be in any way serviceable to it my self, the late hurricane having more frighted than hurt us in these parts. I doubt not but your intelligence in general from the northern parts of the nation supplies you with as little matter as what you have from these hereabouts, it having been less violent and mischievous that way. Some stacks of chimneys were over-turn’d here, and from one of them a little child of my own was (thanks be to God) almost miraculously preserv’d, with a maid that lay in the room with him. I hear of none else this way that was so much as in danger, the storm beginning here later than I perceive it did in some other places, its greatest violence being betwixt 7 and 8 in the morning, when most people were stirring.

The earthquake, which the publick accounts mention to have happened at Hull and Lincoln upon the 28th ult., was felt here by some people about 6 in the evening, at the same time that people there, as well as at Grantham and other places, perceived it. We have some flying stories about it which look like fabulous, whose credit therefore I wou’d not be answerable for; as that upon Lincoln Heath the ground was seen to open, and flashes of fire to issue out of the chasm.

I doubt this account will hardly be thought worth the charge of passage: had there been any thing else of note, you had been very readily serv’d by, Sir, your humble servant,

E. K

Boston, Jan. 8, 1703.

Sir, — I am afraid that you will believe me very rude, that yours, which I received the 12th of April, has not sooner received such an answer as you expect and desire, and truly I think deserve; for, a design so generous, as to undertake to transmit to posterity a memorial of the dreadful effects of the late terrible tempest (that when God’s judgments are in the world, they may be made so publick as to ingage the inhabitants of the earth to learn righteousness) ought to receive all possible encouragement.

But the true reason why I writ no sooner was, because, by the most diligent enquiries I cou’d make, I cou’d not learn what harm that dreadful tempest did in the Humber, neither indeed can I yet give you any exact account of it; for the great mischief was done in the night, which was so pitch-dark that of above 80 ships that then rid in the Humber, about Grimsby Road, very few escaped some loss or other, and none of ’em were able to give a relation of any body but themselves.

The best account of the effects of the storm in the Humber, that I have yet met with, I received but yesterday, from Mr. Peter Walls, who is master of that watch-tower, call’d the Spurn Light, at the Humber Mouth, and was present there on the night of the 26th of November, the fatal night of the storm.

He did verily believe that his Pharos (which is above 20 yards high) wou’d have been blown down; and the tempest made the fire in it burn so vehemently, that it melted down the iron bars on which it laid, like lead; so that they were forced, when the fire was by this means almost extinguished, to put in new bars, and kindle the fire a-fresh, which they kept in till the morning light appeared: and then Peter Walls observed about six or seven and twenty sail of ships, all driving about the Spurn Head, some having cut, others broke their cables, but all disabled, and render’d helpless. These were a part of the two fleets that then lay in the Humber, being put in there by stress of weather a day or two before, some from Russia, and the rest of ’em colliers, to and from Newcastle. Of these, three were driven upon an island, call’d the Den, within the Spurn, in the mouth of the Humber.

The first of these no sooner touch’d ground, but she over-set, and turned up her bottom; out of which, only one of six (the number of that ship’s company) was lost, being in the shrowds: the other five were taken up by the second ship, who had sav’d their boat. In this boat were saved all the men of the three ships aforementioned (except as before excepted) and came to Mr. Walls’s house, at the Spurn Head, who got them good fires, and all accommodations necessary for them in such a distress. The second ship, having no body aboard, was driven to sea with the violence of the tempest, and never seen or heard of more. The third, which was then a-ground, was (as he supposes) broken up and driven; for nothing, but some coals that were in her, was to be seen the next morning.

Another ship, the day after, viz., the 27th of November, was riding in Grimsby Road, and the ship’s company (ex cept two boys) being gone a-shore, the ship, with the two lads in her, drive directly out of Humber, and was lost, tho’ ’tis verily believ’d the two boys were saved by one of the Russia ships, or convoys.

The same day, in the morning, one John Baines, a Yarmouth master, was in his ship, riding in Grimsby Road, and by the violence of the storm, some other ships coming foul upon him, part of his ship was broken down, and was driven towards sea; whereupon he anchored under Eilnsey Land, and vdth his crew came safe a-shore, in his boat, but the ship was never seen more.

The remainder of the six or seven and twenty sail aforesaid, being (as was before observed) driven out of the Humber, very few, if any of ’em, were ever heard of; and ’tis rationally believ’d that all, or the most of them, perished. And indeed, altho’ the storm was not so violent here as it was about Portsmouth, Yarmouth Roads, and the southern coast, yet the crews of the three ships abovementioned declare, that they were never out in so dismal a night as that was of the 26th of November, in which the considerable fleet aforesaid rid in Grimsby Road in the Humber; for most of the 80 sail broke from their anchors, and run foul one upon another; but by reason of the darkness of the night, they cou’d see very little of the mischief that was done.

This is the best account I can give you at present of the effects of the tempest in the Humber; whereas, had the enquiry been made immediately after the storm was over, a great many more of remarkable particulars might have been discover’d.

As to the earthquake here, tho’ I perceiv’d it not myself, (being then walking to visit a sick parishioner) yet it was so sensibly felt by so many hundreds, that I cannot in the least question the truth and certainty of it.

It happened here, and in these parts, upon Innocent’s Day, the 28th of December, being Tuesday, about five of the clock in the evening, or thereabout. Soon after I gave as particular account as I cou’d learn of it, to that ingenious antiquary, Mr. Thoresby, of Leeds, in Yorkshire, but had no time to keep a copy of my letter to him, nor have I leisure to transcribe a copy of this to you, having so constant a fatigue of parochial business to attend; nor will my memory serve me to recollect all the circumstances of that earthquake, as I sent them to Mr. Thoresby; and possibly he may have communicated that letter to you, or will upon your least intimation, being a generous person, who loves to communicate any thing that may be serviceable to the publick.

However, lest I shou’d seem to decline the gratifying your request, I will recollect, and here set down, such of the circumstances of that earthquake as do at present occur to my memory.

It came with a noise like that of a coach in the streets, and mightily shak’d both the glass windows, pewter, China pots and dishes, and in some places threw them down off the shelves on which they stood. It did very little mischief in this town, except the throwing down a piece of one chimney.

Several persons thought that a great dog was got under the chair they sat upon; and others fell from their seats, for fear of falling. It frighted several persons, and caus’d ’em lor a while to break off their reading, or writing, or what they were doing.

They felt but one shake here: but a gentleman in Nottinghamshire told me, that being then lame upon his bed, he felt three shakes, like the three rocks of a cradle, to and again.

At Laceby, in Lincolnshire, and in several other parts of that county, as well as of the counties of York and Nottingham, the earthquake was felt very sensibly.; and particularly at Laceby aforesaid. There happened this remarkable story.

On Innocent’s Day, in the afternoon, several morrice-dancers came thither from Grimsby; and after they had danc’d and play’d their tricks, they went towards Alesby, a little town not far off: and as they were going about five a-clock, they felt two such terrible shocks of the earth, that they had much ado to hold their feet, and thought the ground was ready to open, and swallow ’em up. Whereupon thinking that God was angry at ’em for playing the fool, they return’d immediately to Laceby in a great fright, and the next day home, not daring to pursue their intended circuit and dancing.

I think ’tis the observation of Dr. Willis, that upon an earthquake the earth sends forth noisome vapours which infect the air, as the air does our bodies: and accordingly it has prov’d here, where we have ever since had a most sickly time, and the greatest mortality that has been in this place for 15 years last past: and so I believe it has been over the greatest part of England. This, Sir, is the best account I can give you of the earthquake, which had com’d sooner, but that I was desirous to get likewise the best account I cou’d of the effects of the storm in the Humber. My humble service to the undertakers: and if in any thing I am capable to serve them or you, pleases freely to command. Sir, your most humble servant,

Ro. Banks.

We have a farther account of this in two letters from Mr. Thoresby, F.R.S., and written to the publisher of the Philosophical Transactions, and printed in their Monthly Collection, No. 289, as follows, which is the same mentioned by Mr. Banks.

Part of two Letters from Mr. Thoresby, F.R.S., to the Publisher, concerning an Earthquake, which happened in some places of the North of England, the 28th of December, 1708.

You have heard, no doubt, of the late earthquake that affected some part of the north, as the dreadful storm did the south. It being most observable at Hull, I was desirous of an account from thence that might be depended upon; and therefore writ to the very obliging Mr. Banks, prebendary of York, who, being vicar of Hull, was the most suitable person I knew to address my self unto: and he being pleased to favour me with a judicious account of it, I will venture to communicate it to you, with his pious reflection thereupon: As to the earthquake you mention, it was felt here on Tuesday, the 28th of the last month, which was Childermas Day, about three or four minutes after five in the evening. I confess I did not feel it my self; for I was at that moment walking to visit a sick gentleman, and the noise in the streets, and my quick motion, made it impossible, I believe, for me to feel it: but it was so almost universally felt, that there can be no manner of doubt of the truth of it.

Mr. Peers, my reader (who is an ingenious good man), was then at his study, and writing; but the heaving up of his chair and his desk, the shake of his chamber, and the rattling of his windows, did so amaze him, that he was really affrighted, and was forced for a while to give over his work: and there are twenty such instances amongst tradesmen, too tedious to repeat. My wife was then in her doset, and thought her china would have come about her ears, and my £Eimily felt the chairs mov’d, in which they were sitting by the kitchen fire-side, and heard such a rattle of the pewter and windows as almost affrighted them. A gentlewoman not far off, said, her chair lifted so high, that she thought the great dog had got under it, and to save herself from falling, slipt off her chair. I sent to a house where part of a chimney was shak’d down, to enquire of the particulars; they kept ale, and being pretty full of company that they were merry, they did not perceive the shock, only heard the pewter and glass-windows dance; but the landlady’s mother, who was in a chamber by herself, felt the shock so violent, that she verily believed the house to be coming down (as part of the chimney afore-mentioned did at the same moment) and cried out in a fright, and had fallen, but that she catched hold of a table. It came and went suddenly, and was attended with a noise like the wind, though there was then a perfect calm.

From other hands I have an account that it was felt in Beverly, and other places; at South Dalton particularly, where the parson’s wife (my own sister) being alone in her chamber, was sadly frighted with the heaving up of the chair she sat in, and the very sensible shake of the room, especially the windows, &c. A relation of mine, who is a minister, near Lincoln, being then at a gentleman’s house in the neighbourhood, was amazed at the moving of the chairs they sat upon, which was so violent, he writes, every limb of him was shaken; I am told also from a true hand, that so nigh us as Selby, where Mr. Travers, a minister, being in his study writing, was interrupted much as Mr. Peers above-mentioned, which minds me of worthy Mr. Bank’s serious conclusion. And now I hope you will not think it unbecoming my character to make this reflection upon it, viz., that famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, are joyned by our Blessed Saviour, as portending future calamities, and particularly the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish State, if not the end of the world, St. Matth. xxiv. 7. And if, as philosophers observe, those gentler convulsions within the bowels of the earth, which give the inhabitants but an easie jog, do usually portend the approach of some more dreadful earth-quake, then surely we have reason to fear the worst, because I fear we so well deserve it, and pray God of his infinite mercy to avert his future judgments.

Since my former account of the earthquake at Hull, my cousin Cookson has procured to me the following account from his brother, who is a clergyman, near Lincoln, viz., That he, being about five in the evening, December the 20th past, set with a neighbouring minister at his house about a mile from Navenby, they were surprised with a sudden noise, as if it had been of two or three coaches driven furiously down the yard, whereupon the servant was sent to the door, in expectation of some strangers; but they quickly perceived what it was, by the shaking of the chairs they sat upon; they could perceive the very stones move: the greatest damage was to the gentlewoman of the house, who was put into such a fright, that she miscarried two days after. He writes, they were put into a greater fright upon the Fast-day, when there was so violent a storm, they verily thought the church would have fallen upon them. We had also at Leedes a much greater storm the night preceding the Fast, and a stronger wind that day, than when the fatal storm was in the south, but a good ProvidenceGod or another spiritual entity's protective care and direction. timed this well, to quicken our too cold devotions.