The Great English Earthquake of 1884 and Other Disasters to Avoid

Who would want to be dangling from the pinnacles of the Victorian tower at the House of Lords with or without an earthquake? Not me. However, that’s exactly where six workmen were on the morning of April 22, 1884 during the Great English Earthquake aka Colchester or Essex Earthquake.

When the tower began to sway, the men thought the vibrations were caused by the wind and scrambled to the roof near the flagstaff. Fortunately they all survived to report the incident. Marguerite, the heroine of my manuscript, would not have been one of the public house customers who ran off without paying for their ale, but she would have protected as many people as she could.

Victorian tower at the House of Lords
(far right)

The quake lasted about twenty seconds and was felt across England, Northern France, and Belgium. The British Geological Survey used records from 1884 and estimated the quake would have registered at a magnitude of 4.6. In 1961 East Anglia television interviewed Mrs. Jane Wadley, an eyewitness to the epicenter near Essex in 1884. She described her reactions as a thirteen year-old teacher as well as those of the students and her father, who was stranded without a ladder. What did the villagers think was happening? Fears ranged from an attack by Irish extremists to tidal waves to Judgment Day. Click here to view the video.

Did you know that other disasters like the eruptions of the Tambora and Krakatowa volcanoes changed the gases in the atmosphere over Europe, the color of London sunsets, and the appearance of the daytime sun for seafarers during the 18th and 19th centuries? Scientists uncovered evidence, which indicates that deaths attributed to the plague in 1258 AD were actually caused by conditions created by a volcanic eruption. Some effects lasted for years and resulted in thousands of deaths.

If you’re curious about the details, click on the links below. If you’re a writer, I suggest you avoid disasters by researching them carefully. You never know how they can affect your story or lead to new story ideas. Or characters. BTW I have dibs on Mrs. Jane Wadley.


The UK Historical Earthquake Database has data from 1048 AD to 2001.

The 1258 AD earthquake

The Mount Tambora Eruption 1815

The Krakatoa Eruption 1883


  1. Enjoyed the links!

    Oh darn, I was hoping to use Mrs. Jane in a paranormal sometime.

  2. Gary, you may use Mrs. Jane in a paranormal if you change her name/circumstances and don’t kill her or Nicky Parsons.-Jillian

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