The storm and floods of January 1794

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The storm of wind and snow which wrecked many ships in January 1794, and was followed by a thaw which brought flooding, is well known to climatologists, but little noticed in history books. News reports show that it was very significant to many people at the time, so here's another page of reports from contemporary newspapers, similar to the one I prepared a couple of years ago on the 1736 North Sea storm surge. Note that the northern newspapers did not have room to describe the effects of the storm on southern England.

A violent gale of wind came on here last Thursday evening [23 Jan], which continued with little intermission till Sunday morning [26 Jan]. Considerable damage has been sustained by the shipping in the [Whitehaven] harbour. On Thursday night, about ten o'clock, the Nelly & Fanny, Gunson, loaden with oats, from Wexford, was driven upon the beach on the outside of the North Wall, and sunk. The sea ran so high, and the waves broke with such violence, as to prevent, for some hours, that assistance which numbers of people on the shore were anxious to afford to the distressed crew; at length they were all brought to land, except two boys, who (lashed to the shrouds, for greater security) had perished during the dreaded interval.- The vessel went to pieces the next tide.

By the violence of the wind, on Saturday morning one of the alder-trees in the Flat Walks, near the Castle [at Whitehaven], was blown down.- An inveterate frost set in on Friday night, which continues.


Saturday morning last [25 Jan], after a sharp wind from the S.W. the wind remarkably suddenly shifted to the N.E. from whence we had a perfect hurricane of several hours duration, accompanied with a very heavy fall of snow, which continued (with a severe frost) to fall in great quantities that day and on Sunday and Monday, by which many of the principal, and all the bye-roads were completely blocked up, and the intercourse between this town and the interior parts of the country, were, in a great measure, suspended; happily the principal navigation of the river has not yet been totally stopt; but the quaantity of floating ice prevents the small craft from working as usual.- Four of the Shields wherries, one of which was deeply laden, in attempting to come up the river, were sunk; happily no lives were lost. In the Saturdaay morning's gale, several stacks of chimnies were blown down, roofs of houses shattered, and the gilt ball of that beautiful fabric, St. Nicholas' steeple, blown off. At Shields many houses were damaged by the chimnies being blown down; and at South Shields two men were killed by the falling ruins of a chimney.- For the vast damage sustained by the Ship Owners, we refer our readers to the following particulars:
Extract of a Letter from Shields.
"Saturday morning last, a most tremendous gale of wind sprung up for the N.N.E. accompanied with thick showers of snow; several light Colliers, then off Tynemouth Bar, from the sudden shifting of the wind, were thrown into the most perilous situation. Some of them endeavoured to get into Shields harbour, but the storm encreased to a hurricane, they were driven with the last of all their canvas upon the Herd Sand. Three or four beat over the sand and got into the harbour in safety, but the Orwell, Hazard, and Barbara were thrown on shore; the former has since got off, but it is feared both the others will be lost. The Alexander, Tyro, and Dorothy were stranded between Seaton Point and Sunderland. Happily all the crews were saved. The Kingston, bottle trader, Blessings Increase, Longbottom [master], and the Woolsington, Hurry [master], are on shore on the Yorkshire Coast. The May Flower, Lewins [master], was totally wrecked near Dunstanburgh Castle, only the mate and a boy saved. It is feared much more damage is done, and many lives lost; but no certain account is yet arrived. The tide at Shields flowed with such rapidity, and rose to such a height, being impelled with the heavy wind, that upwards of 15 Ships broke adrift in the harbour, 10 of which were carried high up into Jarrow's Slake."
Extract of two Letters from our Correspondents at Sunderland.
"A more sudden and violent gale from the N.E. than was ever remembered came on here on Saturday morning last, by which the sea and river were most uncommonly agitated; many ships in the harbour were driven from their moorings, and much damage was done to the small craft.- The following is the most accurate list that has yet been obtained, but several vessels not having been heard of, we are apprehensive the disaster has been of much greater extent.:
The Dorothy, Moon;- Nautilus, Dobson;- Thomas and Dorothy, Steel;- Venus, Park;- Vine, Richardson;- Wear, Jackson (the Captain drowned) all of Sunderland, are on shore, and few of them expected to be got off. One ship foundered in our Roads, and four are on shore near Hartlepool, names unknown. The Alexander, of Shields, came on shore, bottom up, on Whitburn Steel; the crew were all saved by the intrepidity of the Whitburn Coblemen.- Sir Hedworth Williamson distinguished himself by his humanity to the unfortunate crew. He ordered them blankets, and every comfort their hard fate required.
Among the unfortunate events in consequence of the violent gale of wind on Saturday, we are informed of the total loss of the brig Kingston, of London, Mitchell, master; she was driven on shore near Seaham Sands, and soon after went to pieces. We are happy to announce the crew were all saved, being within a short distance of Seaham; they were the immediate objects of Mrs Milbank's care and humanity; both meat and drink were provided for the unfortunate sufferers under her hospitable roof, and no comfort there was wanting to alleviate their distresses, which could only be equalled by the assiduous kindness of their benefactress.- We are happy in recording such instances of humanity; fortunate would it be were there many of Mrs Milbank's humane disposition resident near the sea, where such objects of compassion too often present themselves."
We hear from Hartlepool, that on Saturday morning last, a very violent gale of wind arose, by which the ships (then on that coast) suffered much, there being about 16 or 18 vessels drove on shore between that place and Sunderland. The accounts from Coatham, Redcar, and Saltburn, also mention that several vessels are on shore on the Yorkshire coast, but an account of their names has not yet been obtained, so as to give it with accuracy. A vessel, very richly laden with Merchants goods, called the Neptune, Mr Terry, master, from London to Stockton, is on shore near the last mentioned place; the crew are all safe, and it is hoped the vessel will be got off again without much damage.
Our correspondent at Billingham informs us that a fine Flour Mill, built near Stockton, has suffered much; the sails (six in number) were carried away by a sudden gust of wind, and the axle-tree, which was of cast metal, was also broken into two pieces, and the damage done is very considerable. Several large Trees were broken or torn up by the roots in that neighbourhood, and so severe aa gale for some hours, was scarce ever remembered.
A further account says, that a vessel with the name, Minor, of Eymouth, is on shore, at Seaton, near Hartlepool: and from Redcar, on the Yorkshire coast, we hear that the Anstruther, of Anstruther, is on shore there. the Newport, of Stockton, is on shore at East Row, near Whitby.
Extract of a Letter from Holy island, Jan 26.
"What a scene at Holy Island today. Above a dozen vessels ashore. one or more to pieces and all hands lost, unknown. I saw a vessel strove hard to get to her to save five men on board. Often they were baffled, but at last happily relieved them. Had another tide returned they would have all perished as the vessel will likely go to pieces. Yesterday was also a dreadful day, and a vessel wrecked off Dunstanburgh Castle, only the mate and boy saved."
Extract of a Letter from Bambro' Castle, dated Jan. 29.
"The late severe gale has proved fatal to a number of vessels on this rock-clad coast: several have been driven on shore. The Mayflower, in great part the property of the Alnwick merchants, was entirely lost off Dunstanburgh Castle; the crew all perished, excepting two men who remained by the vessel, the others having taken to the boat, which overset, and the unfortunate people were all drowned.
When the ships broke from their moorings at Holy Island (several of which are on shore in different parts), the crew of one of them made for Warrun, and immediately dispatched some labouring people, with liquors and bread, to find a poor old lame seaman they had left upon the sands. he was not found till next morning, when, half perished, he was conveyed to Bambro' Castle, to receive that hospitable cheer, whose philanthropic endower has so nobly empowered his humane Trustees to bestow, and which calls for the prayer of gratitude from the distressed, and loudly claims the imitation of the rich and powerful."
In the north west parts of Northumberland, the roads were rendered entirely impassible, and we are sorry to announce, that four persons perished in the snow, and that several others from their being missing, have, it is now much to be apprehended, shared the like fate.- A man of the name of Emmerson, a Boat-man, belonging to the Custom House at Shields, was also found dead in a field near Shields Road; it is supposed as the road was much blown up, that in endeavouring to make his way thro' the fields, he had fallen a sacrifice to fatigue, and the inclemency of the weather.
A Farmer, at Todderidge, and his servant, were lost in the storm, at Great Whittington; when found they were in an erect posture: Another unfortunate man was, on Sunday, found dead near St. John Lee; and many, with great difficulty, saved their lives.
On Sunday, a person of the name of Carter, in going from Whitby to Steaths, perished on the road.
Saturday night, Mr John Davison, farmer, of Billilaw, near Berwick, on returning home from the market of that town, in that inclement snowy night, missed his way upon Tweedmouth Moor, and he and his horse were next morning found dead in an unclosed Coal-pit, with which the Common abounds. The limbs of the unfortunate gentleman were broken in several places. He has left a widow and four orphans (the eldest only nine years of age) to lament the want of the fostering care of an indulgent, frugal, and industrious parent.
By accounts from Scotland, and every other part of the country, we find the storm has been general, and every part of the island has shared in the calamities of the dreadful gale.
Yesterday [31 Jan] a mild rapid thaw took place in this neighbourhood.

[Of the 24 and 25th ult.]
They write from Appleby, that on the 25th ult. they experienced one of the most dreadful tempests ever remembered; few people could get to the market. A man of about 80 years of age, and a boy with him, both perished on the road between Warcop and Brough-Sowerby; and a young man about 18 also perished upon Stainmore, where he was shepherding. His companion bore him upon his back, towards a place of shelter, till he found he had expired. On Friday [31 Jan], there was an amazingly large swell in the river Eden, owing not entirely to the rain, but to the melting of a vast quantity of snow which had lain there, and on the neighbouring mountains. The river overflowed its banks insomuch that the mail from the north could with difficulty pass the end of Appleby-Bridge, towards Brough; the horses were mid rib deep, the fore-wheels entirely under water, and only a few inches of the hind-wheels emerged above it. Had the coach been twenty minutes later, it must have been detained six or seven hours.
We hear from Carlisle, that the same river had risen to such a height there, that boats were employed between the bridges [the Eden Bridge was then two bridges, linked by an island in the river], to convey the people coming to the market.- One of these, by the rapidity of the current, was overset, having several persons on board; but happily no lives were lost.
At Carlisle, and its neighbourhood, the wind was excessively high [this probably takes us back to the original storm of 24-25 Jan]; several large trees were torn up by the roots; many chimnies blown down, and some houses unroofed. There was also a very heavy fall of snow, and it was apprehended that considerable loss would be sustained amongst the sheep.- Several trees were blown down in the vicinity of Keswick, and, amongst these, one tree of unusual growth, at Ormthwaite, in a situation apparently more sheltered than some others which received no injury.- We have similar accounts from most parts of this county; particularly Penrith, and Wigton.
From Dumfries they write that they had one of the most dreadful hurricanes of wind, rain and snow, that has been remembered for many years. In the town, many chimnies were blown down, and some houses almost totally unroofed. In the country, a prodigious number of trees were torn up by the roots, and a great many houses much damaged.- Since Saturday morning the frost had been very intense in that quarter; and the roads, in all directions, so much obstructed, that the London post, which should have come on Saturday night, did not arrive till Sunday morning; and the conveyance from Edinburgh, on account of the depth of the snow at Errickstone-brae, was almost impracticable. The wind blew down a great number of trees about Comlongon-castle, and particularly the large Silver fir that stood before the house, which was justly esteemed the most ornamental and beautiful tree of the kind, in that neighbourhood; the roofs of the most adjacent houses were also damaged.- Above 50 trees, oak and fir, were torn up by the roots in Kenmore-Park; some of the latter, of a very great size, were broken through the middle, as if cut by a saw; and what is singular, and yet a certain fact, a crow was taken up alive, lying under the branches of a fir tree.
At Port Patrick, it blew so much that none of the packets could put to sea. At York, the snow was so deep, and the frost so intense, that the coaches to and from the metropolis did not arrive in time for the dispatch of the Mails. And on the whole of the North road the fall of snow was so great that many families of distinction were left on the road, to wait there till the weather should break up.
[Then follows a summary of the news from Newcastle, as given above]
The accounts from Whitby are also very melancholy; the sands are strewed with wrecks; the Wearmouth, Jackson, of Sunderland, is on shore near Whitby; the crew, except the master, are safe.- The stern of a vessel, with the words Martin of Wisbech, is driven on shore; many masts, and other parts of wreck, have also been washed upon the sands. The Newport, of Stockton, is on shore at East-row, near Whitby; the hands are saved. A large vessel, dismasted, was seen driving at sea; and the Anstruther, of Anstruther, is stranded near Redcar. A brig was lost on Filey bridge, and all the crew perished. The Countess of Kintore, from Leith, for Aberdeen, with spirits, flour, &c. was wrecked about five miles east from North Berwick. The passengers and crew were all lost, consisting, it is said, of from eighteen to twenty people. the Raith, of Kirkcaldy, a ship of 250 tons, came ashore to the westward of Leith harbour: she is expected to be got off. The sloop Christian and Janet, of Grangemouth, (Charles Robertson, master) was put on shore at Royston; the vessel and cargo a total loss. The captain's father and mother were washed overboard after she struck; one boy perished on board, and another died a few minues after he was taken from the vessel. The master was the only person who was saved- he has lost his eye-sight, and has been very ill since the accident..
[Further summaries from Newcastle]
Accounts from Liverpool say, that the following vessels have received damage, viz. The schooner, Ariel, which had sailed on Wednesday for Africa, but sprung a-leak and returned, on Friday morning, drove on shore on Pluckington-bank, and sunk.- The Bark Montreal, of Osteend, was put on shore at Woodside, and full of water.- The brig Maria, Callaghan, for Virginia, on shore at Rock-house, little damage.- The Jenny, Stringer, for Africa, drove on shore near New Ferry, and it is feared will be lost.- The ship Olive, White, for Ancona, beat over Pluckington, but got into safety.- We are happy to hear that no lives were lost belonging to the above.- The Hope, Neale, from thence for Gibraltar, that sailed on the Wednesday, was wrecked in the storm of Thursday night, near Lytham, and it is feared all hands are drowned; five dead bodies being cast on shore the following day, lashed together. The brig James, Cranee, from Dublin for London, with provisions, is lost at Amlwch, and gone to pieces: all the people saved, except one man, the owner of the vessel.- A vessel, laden with coals for Dublin, is on shore at Porthwen, within the Middle Mouse.- A vessel is said to be lost to the eastward of Point Linas,- The west pier of Amlwch harbour is washed down.- Three wrecks at Abergale.- The Dudgeon, Egerton, returned from a cruize, after throwing her guns overboard, and receiving other damage at anchor, in the late gale, at the N.W. Buoy.- The ship Mercury, Capt. Malanby, from Virginia to that port, was wrecked, in a dreadful gale of wind on the Saturday, near the Orms Head, and the Captain with fifteen of the crew perished; ten saved.- On Saturday morning, the St. Patrick packet, from Dublin to that port, was driven on shore in a creek, near Amlwick; the passengers and crew escaped, except four of the former, through the confusion attendant on such a situation.- A large ship, supposed to be a Guinea-man, and several other vessels, are lost on this same coast.
[More summaries from Newcastle]

Though the gentle thaw carried off the late fall of snow in the most moderate manner, yet the land floods swelled the river in such a degree as to carry off a great quantity of hay, corn, and other articles, which were set up far above the usual reach of the highest floods ever remembered on the Tyne since the memorable flood in November 1771, by which most of the bridges on our river were carried away.
[Reports from Appleby and Carlisle, as above]
The Welsh Oak, with nine passengers on board, from this port, for Gainsborough, and the Britannia, from Hull for this port, sailed a few days before the late severe gale, and have not since been heard of; it is feared both have foundered, and all hands suffered. the above vessels are principally the property of Mr Graham, of Sunderland.
The following ships, which were driven on shore near Sunderland in the late gale, we are informed have been got off:- Dorothy, Moon; Thomas and Dorothy, Steel; Venus, Park; and Vine, Richardson.
The Leith Packet, Swaine, from London to Shields, is lost at Saltburn. Several other vessels are lost on the coast of Yorkshire.
The Kingston, of London, on shore off Seaham, is broke up.- The Industry, of Sunderland, is totally lost near Yarmouth; the crew taken up by a fishing smack on Sunday last [2 Feb].
On Saturday se'nnight [25 Jan], during the heavy gale, a collier was totally lost off Cleethorps, in the Humber; she went to pieces soon after taking the ground. The Hawk, Spicer, of Gainsborough, has sustaained considerable damage, and is come into Hull dock to be repaired. Several vessels have lost their anchors and cables in the Humber.
On saturday se'nnight, four fishing cobles were overset off Flamborough Head, and all the people on board, amounting to sixteen, were drowned; thirteen of whom had families, and have left thirty-three children in great distress. To add to the calamity, we understand that the wives of three of the sufferers are again pregnant.
Hull, Feb. 3. On Saturday afternoon [probably 25 Jan, not 1 Feb] a sloop was seen to founder about two about two miles from Whitby, another near Lord Mulgrave's alum works, and one near Robin Hood's bay, whose mast may be seen at low water. Between Runswick and Boulby alum works, within twelve miles of Whitby, six vessels were stranded, five of them totally lost with all hands; from the other, fourteen of the people were saved. Part of a vessel was driven on the bach there, which appears to have been the Success, of Sunderland, John Spink, master, and another which is supposed to have been a new Scotch brig; in addition to those, the Pomona of Staithes was forced on the rocks near Rawcliffe.

Dumfries, Feb. 4. We are sorry to learn the fatal effects of the late storm in the muirs: a great number of sheep have been destroyed, and several shepherds, in their laudable endeavours to save their flocks, perished. Four of these unfortunate men were buried last week in Mussar, and about eleven are still missing.- On Thursday last [30 Jan], a rapid and complete thaw commenced here, which, in consequence of the great quantity of snow that had fallen, swelled the river Nith to such a height, that the water entered most of the houses that were situated near its banks.

NETHERBY, March 1, 1794
THE late very severe Storm and high Floods having made great Destruction amongst the Game, and particularly the HARES, within Sir JAMES GRAHAM's Manors, and, as the Season is now far advanced, it is his earnest Request that those Gentlemen, who had his Permission to course, will from henceforth desist; and, with Respect to Persons not qualified, he gives this Notice, that prosecutions will be commenced against every one found Hunting, Coursing, or destroying Game upon his Estates. And as very unwarrantable Liberties have lately been taken upon his Manors, and the Game of all Kinds much reduced, Sir JAMES hopes no Gentlemen in future will sport upon his Estate, without particular Leave.