The floods and storms of winter 1734-5

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The heavy rain and storms which brought flooding to a very large area of Britain in the winter of 1734-5 are well known to climatologists, but little noticed in history books. News reports show that they were very significant to a great many people at the time, so here's another page of reports from the Newcastle Courant newspaper, similar to the one I prepared a couple of years ago on the 1736 storm surge.

PRELUDE: The winter of 1733-34
From a quick glance at news reports, it seems the winter of 1733-4 was much quieter than 1734-5....

They write from the Vale of Ailesbury in Buckinghamshire, that they wanted Water there for their Cattel for these several Weeks past, as much as they used to do in a dry Summer, the Ponds and Ditches being all dry. And Letters from Oxfordshire mention the same.

[I really don't know quite what to make of this story]
Hornsea, near Hull, Jan. 7. Here hath happen'd a dreadful Storm, attended with an Earthquake, which has laid great Part of the Town level with the Ground: It happened the Sunday Night before Christmas Day [23 Dec], between 10 and 11 at Night; in a few minutes we were like to be swallowed up in Destruction, but it pleased God in all these Ruins there were only two killed, but several Hurt.

LONDON, Feb. 16. Yesterday the Wind being excessive high, several Chimnies, &c. were blown down, and many Houses damaged: Three Boats were cast away on the River Thames, viz. two in Chelsea-Reach, where three Passengers were drowned. the Ferry-Boat at the Horse-Ferry at Lambeth, endeavouring to carry over a Waggon loaded with Wood, was with the Hurricane drove down beyond Somerset-House, and was saved with great Difficulty.

THE MAIN EVENTS: The winter of 1734-5

From WYE's Letter, &c. [London] Dec. 19.
Accounts from the Country mention that very great Floods are out; those from Edmonton, about 7 miles from this City, advise, that the Person who keeps Cook's Ferry is obliged to come in a Boat near a mile, to get Provisions for his Family, who now live in the upper Rooms.

[This first item is almost certainly utterly irrelevant, but interesting in its own right:]
Ratisbon, Dec. 13. On Thursday Morning we had a strange Phoenomenon in the Air coming from the Northwards; but it dwindled and soon disappeared upon an explosion, with a terrible Noise. Abundance of People saw it; but the Circumstances are differently related: Some say it was a Comet; others take it for a fiery Dragon with a long Tail; and others again will have it, that the Elector of Bavaria's Powder magazine at Landshut or at Ingolstat, is blown up.

From WYE's Letter, &c. [London] Dec. 31.
The late heavy Rains have laid most Part of the low Lands in this Kingdom under Water; and in some Places the Floods are so great, that there is no travelling for Man or Beast: Especially from Staffordshire they write (a County abounding with Rivers) that their Meadow-Lands are covered with Water for several Miles about. It is thought this will very much incommode many of the Members now on the Point of setting out for London to attend the Service of Parliament, especially those in Scotland and the remote Parts of England, where we hear it is impossible to travel without great Hazard of their Lives.

We have an Account from Liverpoole, that among other Damages done by the late tempestuous Weather, a Windmill adjacent to that Town was blown down; and it is supposed the Fire in the Grate being thrown about by the Shock, immediately set Fire to the Mill, which was soon consumed, and with it the Miller himself; there being found among the Ruins only his Skull and a few other Bones.

We have this day an Account from the Downs, (where lay 80 Sail of outward-bound Ships) of a very hard Storm which began on Sunday in the Afternoon, and at Two next Morning was at the Height, when several Ships, being forced from their Anchors, ran foul of each other, and great Damage was done; the Neptune, for Madera, was forced to cut down her Masts; and we hear of divers Men being washed overboard and lost: the Night-hawk, from Newfoundland, run on the Rocks of Scilly, but the Cargo being Casks of Oil, saved the Ship from sinking; however, her Boats and 3 Men were forced overboard by the Surges of the Sea and lost.

The Deal Boats, which went out after the Neptune, Capt. Park, who parted with her Anchors and drove to Sea, brought ashore the Captain and all the Men except two, who being intoxicated with Liquor, would not leave the Ship, which was soon after lost and the Men both drowned.

Letters from Newark say, that the River Trent was so vastly swelled, that the Quantity of Water had broke down the Bridge there, which had rendered it impassable, so that People must pass by the Way of Nottingham from the North for London; and that the Waters were vastly out between Grantham and that Town, which made it very dangerous, if possible to travel.

Letters from Boston in Lincolnshire say, that they had but the Shadow of a Market for near a Month past, the waters being so much out, the Country People can't come to it.

Letters from Barcelona, the 24th [? month illegible] N.S. [i.e. 13th by the UK calendar] say, that they had an Account of 17 Ships having been forced on shore between that Port and Alicant, in a Storm which happen'd 15 Days before; and from Alicant, the 15th [i.e. 4th], they write, that in the same Storm, which was more terrible than they had ever seen before, only two Ships were forced on Shore there, viz. the Six Brothers, Ellis Bennet, from Newfoundland, and the George, John Bibbe, from Ireland. At denia three Ships were lost with Fruit in them, viz. _____ John Abbot, _____Joseph Raven; the third is not mentioned. In Candia Bay two Engllish and a French Ship were lost, one the Iceland, James Friend.

The 9th and 10th past, N.S. [i.e. 30 November?, UK style] Capt. Tiddiman, and 3 more Ships, whose Names are not known, were forced ashore on the Coast of Valencia: Capt. Tiddiman's Men were all saved, except the Cook. Several other Ships were cast away.

The Britannia, Capt. Capell, bound from Seville to London, was lost near Ushant, on the Coast of France, the 18th past. [not specified whether N.S. date or UK style]

From WYE's Letter, &c. [London] Jan. 7.
We have still accounts of excessive Floods in the Country, and some Instances of the fatal Effects of them, particularly in Lincolnshire, where the Fenns being over-flow'd 40 Miles in Length, and 10 in Breadth, a great many Cattle and Sheep have been drown'd, before the Owners could remove them to the Up-lands, which they are forc'd to do in some Places, several Miles distant.

Newcastle, Jan. 11. The North-Post from London did not come in till about 5-o'Clock this Afternoon, being detained by the Waters at Ferry-Bridge, Yorkshire.

Boston, Jan. 4. This Country was never known in so lamentable a Condition as at present, all our Drains, which used to carry off the Water, are entirely useless and stopt up, by the Dryness of the last 3 or 4 Years; nor can the Waters be got off till new Gates are built and Drains are made, which at soonest cannot be before March or April.
The Waters are so much out about Hull, Stone, Newark, Tucksford, &c. that Travellers hardly ever went in more Danger of their Lives.

From several LONDON PRINTS Jan. 9.
By Tuesday's [i.e. arrived 7 Jan] French Mail we learnt the following Paticulars, viz. In the Bay of Valencia, were lost the William and Mary, Capt. Porter, from Dartmouth; and a Sloop belonging to Plymouth, the Master named Roberts, who with his Crew were drowned. At Denia, were lost the Polly of Pool, Capt. Abbott; the Isabella of London, Capt. Goatley; and the Dolphin of London, Capt. Raven. And on Cape Palos, the Joseph of Dartmouth, Capt. Newcomen.
The Mary-Ann, Capt. Harris, was lately lost near Rochelle: As was the Joseph, Capt. Howard, bound from Cadiz to Bilboa, near Bilboa, and about 30 Sail more, chiefly French.

Yesterday Morning the Wind being at W. and W.S.W. it blew hard; and in the Afternoon we had one of the strongest Storms that has been known for many Years, in which several Lighters and Boats in the River were sunk, and others dashed to Pieces; but all the Ships in the River rode out with Safety. On Shore, great Damage was done in the Houses, by ripping off the Tiles, blowing down Stacks of Chimneys, &c. and many People were killed and wounded; particularly, Five Houses were blown down in St. Giles's Parish, and another in Hartshorn Lane in the Strand, by which two Persons lost their Lives. A Stack of Chimneys fell upon a Footman near Gray's-Inn, and killed him. A House in the Broad-Way, Westminster, was blown down, and a Man and Boy killed. And Mr. Lancashire, a Carpenter in Two-Swan-Yard near Bishopsgate, was blown from the Top of a Twelve-Foot Ladder, by which he fractured his Skull, and died on the Spot.
It likewise blew up by the Roots several large Trees in St. James's Park, and did incredible Damage to a great many Houses, in all Parts of the Cities of London and Westminster.

From Tunbridge-Wells we have an Account that the Land-Floods came down upon them so suddenly, that all the Bridges upon the Brook which runs by the Walks, were carried away by the Torrent, and great Damages done besides, so that the like has not been known before in any one's Memory.

They write from [illegible] Abbey in Yorkshire that [several words illegible] happened such a Storm as had not been known in the Memory of Man; tho' it lasted no longer than three quarters of an Hour, yet four Houses were blown down, and several others damaged, and a great Number of large Trees were either broken or blown up by the Roots.

Moulsey in Surrey, Jan. 9. The River Thames is now rising here, and yet it is already so high, we are forced to live above Stairs; and when the Land Waters come down from the Hills in the West-Country, God knows the Consequence: The Thames rose between 5 and 12 this Morning, very near a Foot in Height.

Tidmarsh in Berkshire, Jan. 10. On the 8th Instant there were near 100 Elm Trees (and other Sorts) blown up by the Roots in this Parish during the violent Storm, all fine tall Sticks, and of a load of Timber in a Stick one with another; which will afford the Navy a fine Opportunity of furnishing the Stores in his Majesty's Dockyard this Year.

Extract of a Letter from Dover, dated Jan. 10. Our Accounts from Deal yesterday bring that 40 Sail were missing, that there is scarce a Ship but has met with Damage, and most people think the Gale of Wind little inferior to the November Storm, and lasted longer.

From several LONDON PRINTS Jan. 11.
We have received further Accounts of the Misfortunes occasioned by the terrible Storm on Wednesday last: It was observed to be at the highest at 12 o'Clock, about which Time a Stack of Chimnies fell upon a Coachman near Golden-Square, and fractured his Skull: At Barnet, and the Villages adjacent, they perceived three loud Claps of Thunder, accompanied by Lightning; several Barns were blown down in that Neighbourhood; and in several of the Roads near London, the Trees lie in the Highway in such manner, that it is difficult to pass: The Seat was blow from the Mount in Kensington Gardens. At all Parts of the Town are seen Houses untiled, stript of their Lead, and the Chimnies demolish'd.
The Kitchen Chimney of the Lord Bruce was blown down, which broke thro' the Stables of his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, and did very considerable Damage, some of the Servants narrowly escaping with their Lives.
36 Trees were broke down, and tore up by the Roots, in St. James's Park, particularly the large Tree entering the Mall, from St. James's Palace, under which stood a Centry-Box, which was blown down at the same Time, with the Soldier in it, who narrowly escaped with his Life.
About 300 Weight of Lead was blown off the House of _____ Arundel, Esq; in Burlington Gardens, Surveyor of his Majesty's Roads.
About 500 Wt. of Lead was ript off the Parish Church of St. Laurence Jewry, by Guild-Hall.
At the Marquis de Montandre's House in Brook-street, a large Stack of Chimnies was blown down, which demolished an Office in the back Part of the House, dashing in Pieces a Table at which 9 Servants were to dine a quarter of an Hour after.
At Riskins, the seat of the Lord Bathurst in Buckinghamshire, above 40 large Trees in his Lordship's Grounds were blown down.
At Fulham 2 or 3 Houses were blown down, and a Barn belonging to Mr. Gray, a Farmer.
A great many Wallnut-trees in the Park of _____ Tryon, Esq; at Mickleham, were destroyed. We hear he has made above 300£. per Annum of the Wallnuts which the said Trees produced.
The same Day, as a Servant of Messieurs Frame and Berkley was going along the North Side of St. Paul's, he was thrown down by the Violence of the Winds, at which time his Letter-Case fell from his Side, and the Wind blew his Notes about; all which he found again, except one of 300£. one of 139£. 16s one of 40£. and one of 25£. for which Notes a Reward is offered.

From WYE's and other Written Letters, [London] Jan. 11.
We have dismal Accounts from the Ports of Damages done to the Shipping by the Storm last Wednesday [8 Jan.], which lasted from 6 in the Morning till 8 at Night: In particular, from Portsmouth, that 4 of the King's Ships of War broke from their Moorings, and all the Merchant-ships drove or parted Cables; five of them came ashore at the Platform and South-Sea Castle, 4 to the Eastward of that, 2 on the Spit, and 1 near the Sally-Port; the Mary, Capt Leatherhead, with Wheat, from London, was lost on the Horse, and Capt. Warren, bound to Jamaica with Bale-Goods, was lost at South-Sea Castle, but the Goods of the latter were saved.
- From Deal, that the Wiltshire, Naylor, for Lisbon, run on the Querns, and was lost; the chief Mate was washed overboard, the second Mate died on the Deck, the Carpenter and three Men were drowned, but all the rest saved: the Susannah and Martha was wrecked on the Shoal near Ramsgate, and the Dolphin on Sandwich Flats; the St. Laurence, Hooper, from Dantzick for Spain, drove shore near Ramsgate; the People were all saved, but the Ship afterwards drove away: the Richard and Mary, for Gibraltar, drove away, and is not heard of; the Hungerford, for Lisbon, sunk under Capt. Tower's Bow, 11 Men got on board Capt. Tower's, the rest were drowned; the George and Mary, with Logwood, for Falmouth, cut away her Masts, and drove on the Nassau for India, and sunk under her Bow, but the People were saved on board the Nassau, which received some Damage; the rest of the India Ships, being 8 in number, ride safe, as also the Tigress, for Turkey, and the 4 Jamaica Ships, Towers, Bowers, Turner, and Wheatle.
It is feared there is a sad Account behind from the Northern and Western Ports, but expecially from Cowes in the Isle of Wight, in which Port is supposed to be many Outward-bound Ships, as the Winds have stood for near 6 Weeks past.
A young Gentleman who was on board a Ship at the Nore, for Gibraltar, writes, that the Sea was in such Agitation, and beat over them to such a degree, that they had next to Darkness from 8 on Wednesday Morning till 9 next Morning, being scarce able to see one another on the Deck.

The Account of Damages on land by Houses, Barns, Ricks of Hay and Corn being blown down, as also the Roofs of some Gentlemen's Houses, &c. besides a great number of Trees, (which in many Places lie cross the Roads, and hinder the Posts, Coaches, and Waggons passing) are judged to equalize, if not exceed, those that were given of the high Wind in November 1703.
And the Floods prevent the Cattle coming to Market, so that the Price of Provisions begins to rise.

We hear from Rochester, that on Wednesday last the People were so much surprized by the Storm, (which was accomanied by loud Claps of Thunder, Lightning, and Rain, the like having not been known at this Time of Year) that they shut up their Shops at Noon-Day.

Dunkirk, Jan. 13. [U.K. Style?] We hear of many Wrecks on the English Coast, and Casks and other Things floating on this. The Hull of a Ship was seen floating between Blackness Point and Calais and Ambleteuse; and the same Day a Fishing-Boat towed into Boulogne a large Head of a Ship, being a Lion fresh painted, supposed by the Figure to belong to an English Ship of 3 or 400 Tons: The Hull was supposed to be English too, by several Things that floated out of her. The Day before 89 Soldiers and about 11 Officers of the French Troopps taken at Dantzick, were cast away at Graveling, to their great Content and Satisfaction, to get upon French ground again; that is, the Ship was stranded, but the People got on Shore the 11th at Night, at least we don't hear that any are drowned.

From WYE's Letter, &c. [London] Jan. 14.
Many of the Members of both Houses of Parliament met with very hard and difficult Travelling on the Roads, having in several Places been obliged to swim their Horses, particularly those from Scotland; and 'tis said, that some of the Ships that had on Board part of the Baggage and Servants belonging to the Latter, were cast away, in the Storm of the 8th Instant.

Our Merchants had yesterday more dismal Accounts of the Loss and damage done thereby at Sea; particularly, the Industry of Hull was lost on Sandwich Flats, and many much damaged.

'Tis written from Bourdeaux, of the 14th Inst. [i.e. probably 3 Jan. UK style] that they have had such violent Storms, that most of the Ships in their River, and along the Coast, were either lost or stranded.


The late Storms, which have done so much Mischief in other Parts, have proved very much to the Advantage of the Town of Wisbech in the Isle of Ely; the Banks thereabouts having all stood firm, the River is deepened by the Freshes to above 15 Foot Water, so that Ships come up to the Town, which will save the Charge of Lighterage, and be of great Benefit to the Trade and Merchandize of that Port.

We hear from Orchard-Wyndham in Somersetshire, the Seat of Sir William Wyndham, Bart. that the late hig Wind had tore up 127 of his Trees by the Roots, some of them so large that they were valued at near 30£. each.

The Prosperous, Capt. Friend, bound to Oporto, was lately lost on the Coast of Holland, and but one Man saved.
The Prince of Wales, Capt. Raillet, bound from Dunkirk to Marseilles, was lately lost on the Coast of Flanders.

It is computed that the Damage done to the Shipping at Amsterdam only, by the late storm, amounts to 2 Millions of Florins.

Two Days after the late Hurricane, half a Mile from Thorney Fen and 4 Miles below Peterborough, a Gentleman had 15 Sheep upon a bank in the Flood 6 Yards wide, the Water being 15 Foot deep on both Sides, he agreed with a Man to fetch them off in a Boat, who brought 6 with his safe to Land the first Time, but in the next Voyage he overloaded the Boat, and finding himself sinking catch'd hold of 2 of the Sheep's Backs, one in each Hand, who towed him about 100 Yards safe to Land; the loud Bleating of the 6 first causing these two to swim to them, while the others were driven away with the Flood.

Extract of a letter from Calais, Jan. 30 [i.e. 19 Jan. UK style]. A small Vessel of between 40 and 60 Ton, thought to be a Brigantine, was drove ashore on this Coast, and split in 5 Pieces, all the Men being drowned, and no papers found on board that discover to what Port she belongs; some Part of her Rigging is saved: There was on her Rudder the Head of a Man with a Jocky Cap.

Calais, Jan. 31 [i.e. 20 Jan., UK style]. The News we have here is melancholy enough, both by Sea and Land: the Damage done by the late high Wind is inexpressible; we learn every Day some Disasters. In the Country, Houses thrown down, and Trees blown up by the Roots, &c. Three Ships lately come into this Pier, the Masters of which report, that never was seen so many Wrecks of Ships, and dead Bodies drove in upon the Coasts far and near. Four Fishing Boats of Dieppe were over set in that Road, at an Anchor, and the Men, about 50 in Number, all perished. In one of the said Boats was a Father and two Sons, and as soon as the unfortunate News reached the Town, the Sister of the said Sons dropped down dead upon the Spot, at hearing the unhappy Tale of her Family.

From WYE's and other Letters, [London] Jan. 28.
On Thursday Night last [23 Jan] it blew a Hurricane in the Downs, the Neptune, Capt. Hutton, from Rotterdam, was lost in Margate-Road, with her Master, the Crew, and 15 Passengers.