Earthquakes and Lights in the Sky

At least one physical phenomenon is very rare in Nottingham. Would that it were not so:

“Northern Lights,” or “Aurora Borealis” was first recorded as having been seen in the neighbourhood of Nottingham during the winter of 1755-1756. The Northern Lights appear at their best according to an eleven year cycle, and 2015-2016 was quite a good year, so keep yourself entertained by doing a very long backwards calculation!
Here is a website which will tell you when is a good time to look for the Northern Lights.

Another physical phenomenon is almost equally infrequent in Nottingham…Thank Goodness!
And luckily, when it does happen, it tends to do little damage, and it soon gets forgotten. Who remembers this one now?…

August 23 1752  The severe shock of an earthquake was felt in Nottingham and the surrounding district, about 7 a.m. Great alarm, but not much damage, was the result. The day was remarkably fine, both before and after the shock.”

And forty years later, another earthquake came to nothing…thank goodness:

February 25, 1792  Between the hours of eight and nine this evening, an alarming shock of an earthquake was felt in the Midland counties, but particularly at Nottingham, many of the inhabitants running out of their houses, expecting them to fall upon their heads. The shock was preceded by a rumbling noise, like the rolling of a cannonball upon a boarded floor.”

Another Victorian source mentions an earthquake on October 6th 1863:

“The earthquake appears to have been felt over a great part of England” and it was decidedly more severe in the western parts of the country, especially the West Midlands:

“At Birmingham walls were seen to move, and people rose from their beds to see what damage had been done, for though the rumbling, grating sound is like a passing train, it was known at once to be something more. At Edgbaston successive shocks were plainly felt, and houses were shaken to their foundations. At Wolverhampton everything in the houses vibrated. The houses cracked and groaned as it the timbers had been strained. The policemen on duty saw the walls vibrate, heard everything rattle about them, and were witnesses to the universal terror of the roused sleepers.
At Cheltenham, a deep rumbling noise was heard, the heaviest furniture was shaken, the fire-irons rattled, heavy stone walls were heard to strain and crack, and the boys at Cheltenham College were all under the impression that the rest were engaged in making the greatest possible disturbance.”

I was unable to find a picture of the boys of Cheltenham College, but, much better, here are the splendid young ladies of Cheltenham Training College around the same period:

chel traoining

And what of Nottingham? Well…

“October 6th 1863  A slight shock of earthquake was felt early in the morning in Nottingham, and in most parts of the country.”

and then, just over a year later:

October 30th 1864  Slight shocks of an earthquake were felt in Nottingham, and in various parts of the country.”

Those two earthquakes were so insignificant that they have, literally, not passed “the test of time” and I have not been able to find really very much at all about them.

In fairly recent times, my Dad experienced an earthquake in South Derbyshire:

“On one occasion when he was walking home from his job as a teacher at Woodville Church of England Junior School in Moira Road, Woodville, Fred was the hapless victim of an earth tremor. It must have been quite frightening because, as he was to relate many times in subsequent years, he was able to watch the pavement rippling up and down with the force of the shock.

Seismological records for the local area show that this event occurred most probably on February 11, 1957. Here is my Dad’s quiet little mining village around that time, in the late 1950s:


If you want to check the history of known earthquakes in England, then this is the link to the relevant Wikipedia page.


Filed under History, Nottingham, Science

29 responses to “Earthquakes and Lights in the Sky

  1. Earthquake tremors we felt in Newark, but no Northern Lights 🙂

    • No, I’ve never seen them. My Dad was stationed in Lossiemouth during the war and he saw them fairly regularly but I think that Nottingham-Lincoln is just about their limit.

  2. I have never seen Northern Lights, but rest assured, it’s on my bucket list – along with so many other things. Never been through an earthquake either but I definitely left that OFF the list!

    • No, I don’t think my Dad was too happy with his experiences of seismic activity! He said it was very disorientating to have nothing really solid….and that was only a very strong earth tremor.

  3. John, I wasn’t aware that you also get tremors in your part of the world.

    Tremors are part of our day-to-day lives here in California. On Thursday at 12:30 p.m., the chair in which I was seated shook for several seconds. I learned shortly afterwards on the local news that a 5.3 earthquake had struck off our coast near the Channel Islands.

    • Yes, there is a steady list of dates throughout the last 1,000 years or so which chronicle earthquakes although nothing terribly serious, just ten fatalities apparently. In the Middle Ages some second rate cathedral builders would blame the collapse of their sub standard buildings on “earthquakes” so they perhaps tend to obscure the real numbers. As always, Wikipedia has a page about it…
      Wikipedia has quite a few of those old church “earthquakes”. Our tour guide at Lincoln said they were no longer certain about events in 1185. The suspicion was that the roof was too heavy and the lot came down!

  4. I witnessed an earthquake in Kent a few years back and it was the most weird feeling. Solid walls literally moving like paper and the sound is nothing I’ve ever witnessed before! It must have seemed much worse back then!

    • I think he found it quite frightening. He certainly mentioned it a few times afterwards. The only experience I have is of two earth tremors. One was at night and I woke up just 30 seconds before it arrived. Presumably this was some kind of inbuilt caveman thing!
      I could hear the second tremor coming and it went through the house such that I thought the house was going to fall down. And then it had gone. I’m certainly glad I wasn’t in Kent for a real earthquake. That must be a truly scary thing to be in!

  5. I thought there wan earthquake in Nottingham every time Forest play Derby!

    I remember an earthquake in Lincolnshire about 10 years ago. It was in the middle of the night but it woke me as I literally heard it approaching. At first I thought it was a piece of heavy farming equipment driving into the village but soon the contents of the house were shaking and it was fairly clear that it had been an earth tremor.

    Love the old post card of Woodville.

    • Yes, I mentioned it in a previous reply (above) that I had also been awakened by the approaching tremor just seconds before it arrived. Looking back, the thing it reminded me most of was a Mexican wave in a really big football ground, and the way that you anticipate its arrival. I must admit though, that when the earth tremor arrived, it was a lot more scary than just people jumping up and sitting down!
      I have always loved the postcard of Woodville. I will probably never know, but the first time I saw it, I thought the two ladies were my mother and my grandmother. The two are certainly a spitting image, as they say, and they both shopped at the Co-op. And what a busy morning for traffic by the way!

      • I like the Mexican wave analogy.

        It is a great picture, I like the detail especially the Belisha Beacons, the Keep Left Bollards and the old telegraph pole. Simple times!

  6. Chris Waller

    I also remember that earth tremor in South Derbyshire. My mother stood in the doorway of our kitchen and went very pale. As for the Northern Lights, it is the one natural phenomenon I would like to see.

    • I was only three so I have no memory of it, I’m afraid. The first ”weather” memory I have is of the snow starting in the winter of 1962-1963. It started snowing at our back door around 11 o’clock on Boxing Day and soon spread to the rest of the country. That was really bleak weather, especially in short trousers.

  7. While not earthquake related, I understand that a great comet appeared early in 1843 was so brilliant that it could be seen in broad daylight from Europe and North America. How was that received?

    • Sorry but I can’t tell you from my usuqal source which is “The Date-Book of Remarkable Memorable Events Connected With Nottingham and Its Neighbourhood 1750-1879″, by John Frost Sutton. If you read for free, then that page is blanked out. Having said that, another source I use,”A Chronological Listing of Early Weather Events” does not mention it. I found a scientist’s view of matters from London, “Report on the Comet of 1843: (From the Report of the British, Association by H. v Boguslawski” Apparently the comet was best seen in the southern hemisphere and there is an account here..
      I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help about Nottingham though. At the time its worthy citizens were busy preparing unrest in support of the Chartists, whose birthplace was, not surprisingly perhaps, in the home town of Robin Hood.

  8. I would never have thought of earthquakes in England. Thanks for sharing John.

    • My pleasure Lloyd. There has also been an increase in earth tremors in the areas in England where fracking has been tried. Don’t let them do it in your country!

  9. I’ve never seen the Northern Lights, John, but I would love to! I haven’t been in an earthquake either and that I will pass on, thank you! Another great post, which I thank you for!! 💖

    • PS I couldn’t help but see the comment about fracking. Unfortunately it is here in the USA and it is terrible. My husband and brother used to fly fish in a world famous fly fisherman stream, but because of fracking there is barely any water left. This is in the Black Mountains of Pennsylvania. I have actually gone there with hubby a few times, camped out in a tent, and fished with hubby teaching me. At those times this stream was incredible and not easy to fish. Today it is a totally different scene. How sad!

      • I watched a documentary from PBS about fracking in western Canada and it looked dreadful. Only the greedy few who profit from such vandalism would do it. I always carry a hope though, that one day, Mother Nature will bite them back (but without affecting me too much, of course!)

  10. In Australia we had one this last Ashes series.

    • That must be the reason that our lads performed so poorly. They must have been scared that one of the stands would collapse and squash them just as they were setting themselves for a double hundred. And that moment of being 27-9 before triumphantly moving on to 58 all out, that must have been their very proper fear of Godzilla re-emerging from the sea.

  11. The northern lights are so beautiful. My friend had told me about her experience. Earthquakes must be so terrifying. We have not had them in this part of the world.

  12. We’ve had three earth tremors in the 30 years I’ve lived in Nottingham. One was just a quick cracking noise and one was longer and felt like a train running by as kitchenware and ornaments seemed to shake and set up a high pitched rattle. I wasn’t here for the other one though Julia was. She was in her office at Forest Fields Community Centre when some people ran through from the far end of the building. Their end had shaken but at Julia’s end of the building nobody had noticed it!

    • I remember just the two but that was in the days when we lived in Redhill in the north of the city. I’ve always enjoyed how, in the Middle Ages, the architects of cathedrals which fell down, used to blame it on earthquakes and earth tremors. This happened at Lincoln apparently with the original cathedral built just after the conquest.

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