The Earthquake of 1884
The most destructive earthquake known in Britain for over 500 years happened at 9.18am on April 22nd 1884.
The earthquake only lasted for up to ten seconds, but in that time Colchester and the surrounding area was reduced to chaos. Walls buckled and cracked & windows shattered. In some areas, gaping fissures opened up in the ground with some reported to be over 100 yards in length.
Seconds after the earthquake, frightened women and children rushed screaming into the streets for safety, not sure what had happened. In Colchester some said that the gas works had blown up, others that there had been a dreadful accident in the garrison. Everybody feared considerable loss of life, but surprisingly no one was killed or seriously injured.
The epicentre was about four miles south of Colchester around the villages of Abberton, Peldon & Wivenhoe. Mersea Island was especially badly affected with old poorly maintained properties were hit the hardest.
Info from the www.thecolchesterarchaeologist.co.uk
A more detailed report from 1885 from the Essex Field Club includes personal experiences and sketches of some of the damage, in the report the published figures for damage were:
Location Population No. of buildings repaired No. of owners receiving contributions to repairs
West Mersea 1,082 58 15
East Mersea 280 7 4
There was far more structural damage caused in West Mersea than East Mersea, but this was largely due to it being more populated than East Mersea.
Proceeding along the road towards East Mersea, several cottages near Barrow Farm were observed to have lost their chimneys. In one case, two outside flues running up the opposite ends of a cottage were both completely detached from the end walls and thrown down.
The church tower in East Mersea was considerably shaken and part of the battlements at the north west corner thrown down.
East Mersea got off lightly from damage compared to surrounding areas.
In West Mersea it was reported that ‘A man hoeing in a field near the White Hart felt the twisting motion of the earth and had the hoe jerked up in his hand.’
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