Letter | Published:

The Recent Earthquake


THIS village lies partly on the lowest beds of the Chalk, and partly on the Gault; it is between N. lat. 51° 49′ and 51° 50′, and W. long. 0° 40′ and 0° 41′. The shock was felt at the church, and at two cottages where are invalids in bed. The church is on rising ground at the edge of the chalk platform which lies below the Chilterns, some two miles away from them. I was on the scaffolding erected for repairs to the church. At a little past nine—it could hardly have been later, I think, than 9.15, if so late—I felt the church give what seemed like a fierce shudder. This seemed to begin on the east, rather to north, and travelled westwards nearly. By shudder I mean that a sort of vibration began, which almost instantly increased in intensity, reached a climax, and then rapidly decreased and died away. It seemed to me to begin slightly north of east, because I remember feeling (for what reason I can hardly say) that the cause was hidden from me behind the east end of the church. I was on the south side, some eighteen feet from the south east corner. A moment after a whirlwind followed, which began, as I find, near the top of the slope north-east of the church, and followed the churchyard wall which bends round the churchyard to south-west. In a cottage on the junction of the Chalk and Gault (or very near the junction), according to the result of inquiries I have made of an invalid there, the pictures on a wall lying north-west and south-east waved from and to the wall, but seemed also to move along it somewhat, i.e. north-west and south-east. Flower-pots on a table rocked in a direction almost east and west, and a window facing the south-east shook; her bed also, lying north-west and south-east, waved, and seemed as if giving way. This took place, she says, a little after nine. In a cottage on the Gault where another invalid was lying, a window facing south-west rattled, a picture shook on the wall on which it is fixed, and the bed, lying south-east and north-west, also waved. This was, she thought, at nine, but the time must have been later. She noticed that the wind was still. No noise was heard except the clatter caused by the rattling of the buildings; but at a mill on the Icknield Way, near Tring, lying at nearly lat. 51° 48′, and long. 0° 40′, a rumbling was heard.

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