1623 STRETCHLEIGH, Devonshire, Stone(type?)
1628 HATFORD, Berkshire. Stones(type?)
1642 WOODBRIDGE, Suffolk, Stone (doubtful)
1676 COPINSAY Orkney, Scotland, Stone (doubtful)
Westcote, writing about the same period, related the occurrence in almost the same words. "In some part of this manor (Strechley) there fell from above, 1625*[a probable misprint for 1623]--I cannot say from heaven--a stone of twenty-three pounds weight, with a great and fearful noise in falling, first it was heard like unto thunder, or rather to be thought the report of some great ordnance, cannon, or culverin; and as it descended so did the noise lessen, at last, when it came to the earth, to the height of the report of a peternel, or pistol. It was for matter like unto a stone singed, or half burnt for lime; but being larger described by a richer wit, I will forbear to enlarge on it."*[A view of Devonshire in 1630, by Thomas Westcote, gent., Oliver's Ed. Exeter, 1845, pp. 391, 392.]
The "richer wit" here alluded to was, in all probability, the author of a pamphlet published at the time, which further describes this aerolite as having fallen on January 10th, 1623, in an orchard, near some men who were planting trees. It was buried in the ground three feet deep, and its dimensions were three feet and a half in length, two feet and a half in breadth, and one foot and a half in thickness. The pamphlet states that pieces broken from off it were in the possession of many of the neighbouring gentry. Lysons*[Lysons' Magna Britannia. vol. vi, pt. 2; Devon, pp. 175, 176.] adds that this pamphlet (which I have unfortunately never been able to obtain) also describes three suns seen at Tregony, in Cornwall, in 1622, and this circumstance is important, as thowing some light upon two doubtful entries referred to under the dates 1622 and 1723. In 1869 I called especial attention to the Ermington meteorite in the Transactions of the Devonshire Association*[vol. III, pp. 75, 78.] in the hope of obtaining some clue as to the subsequent history of any of these portions, but so far, my enquiries have been unsuccessful. From the description it is highly improbable that it could have been an iron meteorite, and from comparing the weight with the size it would appear that either the latter must have been very much exaggerated by the writer of the pamphlet, or that Risdon and Westcote must have been mistaken in the weight.
The following accounts of two stones that fell from the sky being to similar to the account of the late phaenomenon in Yorkshire, and as they have escaped both Mr. King's and Mr. Bingley's investigations on the subject; I shall give it you from two pamphlets, printed at the time, without farther apology.
"Look up and see a new wonder. The name of the town is Hatford, in Berkshire, some eight miles from Oxford, April 9, 1628, about 5 of the clock in the afternoon. The weather was warm, without any great show of distemperature; a gentle gale of wind from West to N.W.; in an instant was heard first a hideous rumbling in the air, and presently after followed a strange and fearful peal of thunder; it maintained the fashion of a fought battle. It began thus: first, for an onset, went off one great cannon as it were of thunder alone, like a warning-piece to the rest that were to follow. Then, a little while after, was heard a second; until the number of 20 were discharged, or thereabout.
"In some little distance of time after this, was audibly heard the sound of a drum, beating a retreat. Amongst all these angry peals shot off from heaven, at the end of the report of every crack, a hizzing noise made way through the air, not unlike the flying of bullets from the mouth of great ordnance, and by judgement were thunderbolts; for one of them was seen by many people to fall at a place called Bawlkin Green, being a mile and a half from Hatford; which thunderbolt was by one Mistress Greene caused to be digged out of the ground, she being an eye-witness amongst many others of the manner of the falling.
"The form of the stone is three-square, and picked at the end; in colour outwardly blackish, somewhat like iron; crusted over with that blackness about the thickness of a shilling; within it is soft, mixed with some kind of mineral, shining like small pieces of glass. This stone broke in the fall. The whole piece is in weight nineteen pound and a half, the greater piece that fell off weigheth five pound, which, with other small pieces being put together, make four and twenty pound and better. It is in the country credibly reported, that other thunder-stones have been found in other places; but for certainly there was one taken up at Letcombe, and is now in the custody of the sheriff." [9 Y b] This account is shortened that it may not take up too much room in your pages.
(note the letter continues with a report of the woodbridge fall, the second pamphlet mentioned at the start, which I have included under its appropriate entry)
On Wednesday before Easter, being the ninth of April, about six of the clock, in the afternoon, there was such a noise in the air, and after such a strange manner, as the oldest man alive never heard the like. And it began as followeth:-- First, as it were, one piece of ordnance went off alone. Then, after that, a little distance, two more, and then they went as thick as ever I heard a volley of shot in all my life; and after that, as it were the sound of a drum, to the amazement of me, your mother, and a hundred more besides; yet this is not all; but as it is reported, there fell divers stones, but two is certain in our knowledge. The one fell at Chalows, half a mile off, and the other at Barking five miles off. Your mother was at the place where one of them fell knee-deep, till it came at the very rock, and when it came at the hard rock it broke, and being weighed, all the pieces together, six & twenty pounds. The other that was taken up in the other place weighed half a tod, 14 pound."
I do not know whether there may be any other record of this remarkable aerolite, so simply but graphically described. Is it not just possible that some of the fragments may yet be preserved in the neighbourhood of its fall? At any rate a search would involve but little trouble.
This fall took place about 5 or 6 o'clock in the afternoon, and by comparison of various accounts, seems to have spread over a large area. Mr T.W. Webb directs attention to a letter preserved in Wallington's Historical Notices i,13 which was written in 1628 by Mr John Hoskins, dwelling at Wantage, to his son-in-law Mr Dawson, a gun-smith, dwelling in the Minories without Aldgate, relating to the fall of these meteorites. Describing the explosion, Hoskins says:- "It began as followeth: First, as it were, one piece of ordnance went off alone. Then, after that, a little distance, two more, and then they went as thick as ever I heard a volley of shot in all my life; and after that, as it were the sound of a drum..... Yet this is not all; but as it is reported, there fell divers stones, but two is certain in our knowledge. The one fell at Chalows, half a mile off (from Wantage), and the other at Barking five miles off. Your mother was at the place where one of them fell knee-deep, till it came to the very rock, and when it came at the hard rock it broke, and being weighed, all the pieces together, six & twenty pounds. The other that was taken up at the other place weighed half a tod, 14 LBS.
During my researches I found out that the village of Balking was an ancient market town the reference does not say from how early on, but mentions that in 1219 the market day changed from Thursday to Tuesday; and that it had, however ceased to be held before 1792.
Looke Vp and See Wonders: a miraculous Apparition in the Ayre, lately seen in Barke-shire at Bawlkin Greene, neere Hatford, 9th April 1628. (Imprinted at London for Roger Mitchell.)It begins as follows--
So Benummed wee are in our Sences, that albeit God himselfe Holla in our Eares, wee by our Wills are loath to heare him. His dreadfull Pursiuants of Thunder and Lightning terrifie vs so long as they have vs in their fingers, but beeing off, wee dance and sing in the midst of our Follies.Then, proceeding to his task, the author tells how
the foure great quarter-masters of the World (the fours Elements)... have bin in ciuill warres one against another. . . . As for Fire, it hath denied of late to warme vs, but at vnreasonable rates, and extreame hard conditions. But what talke I of this earthy nourishment of fire? How have the Fires of Heaven (some few years past) gone beyond their bounds, and appeared in the shapes of Comets and Blazing Starres? . . . The Aire is the shop of Thunder and Lightning. In that, hath of late bin held a Muster of terrible enemies(*) and threatners of Vengeance, which the great Generall of the Field, who Conducts and Commands all such Armies (God Almighty, I means) auert from our Kingdome, and shoote the arrowes of his indignation some other way, upon the bosomes of those that would confound his Gospell. . . . Many windowes hath he set open in Heaven, to shewe what Artillery hee has lying there, and many of our Kings have trembled, when they were shewne vnto them. What blazing Starres (euen at Noone-dayes) in those times hung houering in the Aire? How many frightfull Ecclipses both of Sun and Moone? . . . It is not for man to dispute with God, why he has done this so often . . . but, with feare and trembling casting our eyes vp to Heauen, let us now behold him, bending his Fist onely, as lately he did to the terrour and affrightment of all the Inhabitants dwelling within a Towne in the County of Barkshire. . . . The name of the Towne is Hatford, some eight miles from Oxford. Ouer this Towne, vpon Wensday being the ninth of this instant Moneth of April 1628, about five of the clocke in the afternoone this miraculous, prodigious, and fearefull handyworke of God was presented. . . . The weather was warme, and without any great shewe of distemperature, only the skye waxed by degrees a little gloomy, yet not so darkened but that the Sunne still and anon, by the power of the brightnesse, brake through the thicke clouds. . . .Footnotes
A gentle gale of wind then blowing from betweene the West and Northwest, in an instant was heard, first a hideous rumbling in the Ayre, and presently after followed a strange and feare-full peal of Thunder, running up and downe these parts of the Countrey, but it strake with the loudest violence, and more furious tearing of the Ayre, about a place called The White Horse Hill, than in any other. The whole order of this thunder carried a kind of Maiesticall state with it, for it maintayned (to the offrighted Beholders' seeming) the fashion of a fought Battaile.
It beganne thus: First, for an onset, went off one great Cannon as it were of thunder alone, like a warning peece to the rest that were to follow. Then a little while after was heard a second; and so by degrees a third, vntill the number of 20 were discharged (or there-abouts) in very good order, though in very great terror.
In some little distance of time after this was audibly heard the sound of a Drum beating a Retreate. Amongst all these angry peales shot off from Heauen, this begat a wonderful admiration, that at the end of the report of euery cracke, or Cannon-thundering, a hizzing Noyse made way through the Ayre, not unlike the flying of Bullets from the mouthes of great Ordnance; and by the judgment of all the terror-striken witnesses they were Thunder-bolts. For one of them was seene by many people to fall at a place called Bawlkin Greene, being a mile and a half from Hatford: Which Thunder-bolt was by one Mistris Greene caused to be digged out of the ground, she being an eyewitnesse, amongst many other, of the manner of the falling.
The form of the Stone is three-square, and picked in the end: In colour outwardly blackish, somewhat like Iron: crusted over with that blacknesse about the thicknesse of a shilling. Within it is a soft, of a gray colour, mixed with some kind of minerall, shining like small peeces of glasse.
This Stone brake in the fal: The whole peece is in weight nineteene pound and a halfe: The greater peece that fell off weigheth five pound, which with other small peeces being put together, make foure and twenty pound and better. . . .
It is in the Countrey credibly reported that some other Thunderstones (*) have bin found in other places: But for certainty there was one tapen vp at Letcombe, and is now in the custody of the Shriefe.
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WOODBRIDGE, Suffolk, Stone (doubtful), fell 1642
A stone of 4lb is said to have fallen 4th August 1642 4:30pm, but the evidence is not conclusive.
Extract from "The Gentleman's Magazine" 1796, page 1007.
"Upon Thursday the 4th of this instant August , about the hour of four or five o'clock in the afternoon, there was a wonderful noise heard in the air, as of a drum beating most fiercely, which after a while was seconded with a long peal of small shot, and after that a discharging as it were of great ordnance in a pitched field. This continued with some vicissicudes for the space of one hour and a half, and then making a mighty and violent report together; at the ceasing thereof there was observed to fall down out of the sky a stone of about four pound weight, which was taken up by them who saw it fall, and, being both strange for the form of it and some what miraculours for the manner of it, was by the same parties, who are ready to attest this truth, brought up and shewed to a worthy member of the House of Commons upon whose ground it was taken up, and by him to divers friends, who have both seen and handled the same. Now, the manner of finding the stone was on this wise: one Captain Johusson and one Master Thompson, men well known in that part of Suffolk, were that day at Woodbridge, about the launching of a ship that was newly builded there; who, hearing this marvellous noise toward Alborow, verily supposed that some enemy was landed, and some sudden onset made upon the town of Alborow; this occasioned them to take horse and hasten homewards, the rather because they heard the noise of the battle grow louder. And being at that instant, when that greatest crack and report was made in conclusion, on their way upon an heath betwix the two towns, Woodbridge and Alborow, they observed the fall of this stone, which, grazing in the fall of it along upon the heath some six or severn yards, had outrun their observation where it rested, had not a dog, which was in the company, followed is by the scent, as it was hot, and brought them where it lay covered over with grass and earth, that the violence of its course had contracted about it. This is the true relation of the finding of the stone, which is eight inches long, and five inches broad, and two inches thick. And now, being on their way nearer Alborow, they met the greatest part of the town's folk, who were generally all run out of their houses round about, amazed with this noise of war, and descrying no enemy near; when suddenly there was heard a joyful noise as of musick, and sundry instruments in a melodious manner, for a good space together, which ended with an harmonious ringing of bells. This is the true relation of this most strange sign from heaven." [12 Gg 67]