The Earthquake of 1884 - Great and Little Wigborough

The Earthquake of 1884 - Great and Little Wigborough

22 April 1884 An earthquake at 9.20am, knocking down a chimney of the house which nearly came through the roof, frightening everybody very much and ringing all the bells. The damage done all the way to Wigboro', Peldon, Mersea, Abberton, to Ipswich. It is I believe very serious. Charles Harvey's House [Brick House now Chestnuts in Great Wigborough], Alen's of Wigborough [The Hyde] and Fairheads of Peldon [Brick House Farm] are simply wrecked, and there is not a chimney standing in all the locality. Great Wigborough and Little Wigborough Churches will have to be rebuilt, it is thought. A spire of a chapel and heaps of chimneys came down at Colchester. The damage everywhere is tremendous. Dr Salter's Diary, Tolleshunt D'Arcy

Charles Harvey's House, Brick House, Great Wigborough

In the report by Meldola The East Anglian Earthquake he detailed the damage

GREAT WIGBOROUGH: Two of the corner pinnacles thrown down from the church tower, one falling onto the nave and damaging the roof; the other two pinnacles were loosened and had to be taken down. The tower is also said to have been cracked on its south and west sides, and to have received an inclination over towards the nave. The Rectory was severely shaken but received no serious injury. The Rev. F. Watson states that he heard a rumbling noise, and his clock was stopped at 9.17; some medicine bottles were seen to jump about, and were then thrown down and broken; a large picture was swung to and fro, and plaster was brought down from a ceiling. The sensation was described 'as being in a boat and going up and down, backwards and forwards.' Chimneys were thrown down and the roofs damaged at the surrounding farmhouses, Moulshams, Seaborough, and Brick House. The latter, a substantial two-storeyed building occupied by Mr Charles Harvey, was much injured about the roof, the chimneys having fallen and the upper part of the brickwork of the front of the house just beneath the roof, having been thrown down for a distance extending about half the length of the building, leaving the ends of the rafters exposed. Among the houses reported to have been much damaged were Mr Blythe's [Barn Hall], Mrs Cause's, the Kings Head Inn (several chimneys levelled) and the Parochial Schools (chimney fell through the roof). As evidence of the violence of the movement, the Rev F Watson states that 'a horse at work was taken off his legs and thrown to the ground'.

At Moulshams the old manor house on Wigborough hill nearby the church so many tiles were shaken off that they had to cover the roof with haystack cloths Eric Rayner The Story of Wigborough Past and Present, Essex Countryside March 1965

Little Wigborough Church fared particularly badly.

The Rev F Watson reports that the church was 'perfectly riddled'. In his statement at the Mansion House the Rector added that 'the body of the church has separated from the tower, and I cannot think of ever having any more service in it'.

St Nicholas Church, Little Wigborough

Within days of the earthquake, the great and the good from Colchester had appealed to the Lord Mayor of London to set up a Mansion House Fund for the relief of all those who had suffered damage and for the restoration of churches, chapels and schools. This fund finally realised over £10,500 and Colchester and 25 local parishes received financial help.

The tower at St Stephens was deemed not to be repairable and had to be rebuilt. £400 of the cost came from the Mansion House fund.

On 4th September 1885 a ceremony was held when the foundation stone of the newly-built tower was laid by the rector's wife. It was reported after constant rain all morning the sun came out for the service which boasted a large attendance of neighbours and parishioners.

The builder, Mr Letch had made a handsome silver-plated trowel for the laying of the stone and a well-carved mallet and level made out of the oak of the old tower.

Interestingly, a hundred years later, just in time for the centenary celebrations in September 1985, the trowel specially made and engraved turned up in a shed in Finchley, London and was returned to the church. How it turned up there remains a mystery!

The plaque commemorating the rebuilding of the tower - sited inside the recently built toilet!

The inscription on this stone inserted in the west wall of the tower can just be deciphered, it reads
This foundation Stone of the
Tower of the Church of St
Stephen, Great Wigborough, was laid
in the name of the Father the Son
and the Holy Ghost by Emily Ann, wife
of the Rev. Frederick Watson, M.A.
Rector, on the 4th day of September, 1885

St Nicholas Church in Little Wigborough had its roof completely stripped of tiles and pieces of masonry fell from the tower. So badly damaged was the church there were hopes that a new church could be built nearer the main centre of population but Charterhouse, the owners of Copt Hall Manor, were not forthcoming with financial assistance to do so. The parish had to restore the church and tower and this was done through the rector's own family donating £300. The repairs to St Nicholas were completed by 1888. Reverend Theobald became incumbent of both St Stephens and St Nicholas in 1886 and it was down to his donations that both churches could be restored.

Referring to St Stephens in 1905 P.A.F. Stephenson wrote

Since 1890 the whole church has been handsomely restored and the chancel entirely rebuilt by the generosity of the present rector The Reverend Frederick Theobald at a cost of over £3,000 out of his own pocket. The edifice had cracked in all directions owing to the long droughts and the earthquake.

In later years, an amusing account of the earthquake came from Harry Ponder who was born on 22nd February 1882 in the 'Thatch Cottage' at the beginning of Copt Hall Lane, Little Wigborough; his two grandfathers, both his parents and some of his sisters lie in the churchyard there. He was interviewed by the editor of the Peldon and Wigboroughs Parish magazine on his 90th and 91st birthdays in 1972 and 1973, he was to live to the age of 95

It was there [Little Wigborough] he went to school and Sunday school. The Earthquake occurred when he was two years and two months old. He does not remember it, but tells how it was washing day, and they had taken him to the school to get him out of his mother's way. It happened just after 9 o'clock in the morning, and they all ran out and left him in there until the governess - Ada Witham [sic - Ada Whithams] it was - went in and got him out Peldon and Wigboroughs Parish News.

Elaine Barker

Sources and More Information
Report on the East Anglian Earthquake Raphael Meldola - see MAW
1884 Essex Earthquake Report - JB01_EREP
"The Great English Earthquake" by Peter Haining
Peldon People: Harry Ponder - PH01_HPO

Author: Elaine Barker

Related Images

 This Trowel was used by Emily Ann, wife of the Rev Frederick Watson M.A. 
 Rector of Wigborough Essex on the occasion of her laying the foundation stone of the New Tower of St. Stephen's Church, Great Wigborough on September 4th 1885
</p> <p> 
This Trowel was used by Emily Ann wife of the Rev Frederick Watson M.A. 
 Rector of Wigborough Essex
 on the occasion of her laying the foundation stone of the New Tower of St. Stephen's Church, Great Wigborough, September 4th 1885.  GWG_CHC_035GWG_CHC_035
This Trowel was used by Emily Ann, wife of the Rev Frederick Watson M.A.
Rector of Wigborough Essex on the occasion of her laying the foundation stone of the New Tower of St. Stephen's Church, Great Wigborough on September 4th 1885

This Trowel was used by Emily Ann wife of the Rev Frederick Watson M.A.
Rector of Wigborough Essex
on the occasion of her laying the foundation stone of the New Tower of St. Stephen's Church, Great Wigborough, September 4th 1885.
4 September 1885

 The New Tower of Great Wigborough Church
 Newspaper cutting in Great Wigborough Church files, from Wormell Collection.
From Essex Standard.
 Transcription by Anne Taylor
</p><p>
A very interesting ceremony, and one which has not been witnessed for many years in this neighbourhood, took place on Friday last, September 4th, when Mrs Watson (wife of the Rev. Frederick Watson, Rector) laid the foundation stone of the new tower of Great Wigborough Church. The old tower was much shattered by the earthquake of April 22nd, 1884, two of the pinnacles having been thrown down at the time. Mr Joseph Clarke, of No 13, Stratford Place, Oxford Street, London, St Alban's Diocesan Architect, and Architect for the Diocese of Canterbury, was consulted, and he at once said that to the best of his belief it would only be throwing away money to spend anything on the old tower. It was therefore settled by the Rector and Churchwardens to rebuild the tower. Mr Letch's estimate of £614 was agreed upon. 
</p><p>
Soon after half-past three o'clock, the time named for laying the stone, the rain, which had been falling since eleven o'clock ceased, and the sun shone brightly during the ceremony. The Clergy robed in the Vestry, and proceeded to the spot where stone was about to be laid, and where the Choir stood, with the harmonium, singing the processional hymn, Brightly gleams our banner, & c. Hymn No 394 in the New Version of Hymns Ancient and Modern was sung - 
</p><p>
O Lord of hosts, whose glory fills. 
 The bounds of the eternal hills, &c.
</p><p>
Mrs Watson then laid the foundation stone, saying in a clear, audible voice, I declare this stone duly laid in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
</p><p>
The Rev. F. Watson delivered a short address, concluding with the hope that our Heavenly Father would favourably approve their work, and asking those present to pray for His blessing on their undertaking. He then offered up a few appropriate prayers from the Prayer Book. The Choir sung with much feeling and most impressively The Church's one foundation. The Rev. Frederick Watson pronounced the Blessing, and the Clergy retired during the singing of Hymn 379 - Now thank we all our God. - Miss C.E. Harvey and Miss Alen accompanied the Choir on the harmonium. 
</p><p>
Mr. Letch provided a handsome silver-plated trowel, and a well-carved mallet and level made out of the oak of the old tower. The foundation stone is a piece of Portland Stone. The inscription on it is as follows -
 This Foundation Stone of the Tower of the Church of St. Stephen, Great Wigborough, was laid in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, by Emily Ann, wife of the Rev. Frederick Watson, M.A., Rector, on the 4th day of Sept, 1885.
</p><p>
There was a large attendance of neighbours and parishioners, which would have been more numerous if the weather in 
the morning had been more favourable. It was gratifying to see a good number of the labouring population present 
(Mr Chas Harvey and Mr Chas Hutley) and their families; the Rev. F.J.R Laurence, Mrs and the Misses Laurence, the 
Rev. T., Mrs, and Miss Musselwhite, the Rev. F.J. and Mrs Ball, the Rev, T.E. and Mrs Cartwright, the Rev. E. and 
Miss Musselwhite, the Rev. T.O. and Mrs Price, the Misses Blyth, Miss Bean, Mr Tibbet (clerk of the works), Mrs
 and the Misses Abbott, Mrs Henry Abbott, Miss Barrett, Mr. and Miss Alen, Messrs and Misses Cause, Mr Balls, Mr and 
Mrs Cooke, & c. The interesting scene was enlivened with a number of flags hung on the scaffolding and the trees around. 
</p><p>
<p>Read More;
 <a href=mmresdetails.php?col=MM&ba=cke&typ=ID&rhit=1&pid=GWG_CHC ID=1>Great Wigborough Parish Church - a short history </a>
 <a href=mmresdetails.php?col=MM&ba=cke&typ=ID&rhit=2&pid=WIG_WEQ ID=2>The earthquake of 1884 - Gt & Lt Wigborough </a>
</p>
<p id=footer>
<a href=mmwig.php>More Wigborough History</a>.
</p>  GWG_CHC_101GWG_CHC_101
The New Tower of Great Wigborough Church
Newspaper cutting in Great Wigborough Church files, from Wormell Collection. From Essex Standard.
Transcription by Anne Taylor

A very interesting ceremony, and one which has not been witnessed for many years in this neighbourhood, took place on Friday last, September 4th, when Mrs Watson (wife of the Rev. Frederick Watson, Rector) laid the foundation stone of the new tower of Great Wigborough Church. The old tower was much shattered by the earthquake of April 22nd, 1884, two of the pinnacles having been thrown down at the time. Mr Joseph Clarke, of No 13, Stratford Place, Oxford Street, London, St Alban's Diocesan Architect, and Architect for the Diocese of Canterbury, was consulted, and he at once said that to the best of his belief it would only be throwing away money to spend anything on the old tower. It was therefore settled by the Rector and Churchwardens to rebuild the tower. Mr Letch's estimate of £614 was agreed upon.

Soon after half-past three o'clock, the time named for laying the stone, the rain, which had been falling since eleven o'clock ceased, and the sun shone brightly during the ceremony. The Clergy robed in the Vestry, and proceeded to the spot where stone was about to be laid, and where the Choir stood, with the harmonium, singing the processional hymn, "Brightly gleams our banner, & c." Hymn No 394 in the New Version of Hymns Ancient and Modern was sung -

"O Lord of hosts, whose glory fills.
The bounds of the eternal hills, &c."

Mrs Watson then laid the foundation stone, saying in a clear, audible voice, "I declare this stone duly laid in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

The Rev. F. Watson delivered a short address, concluding with the hope that our Heavenly Father would favourably approve their work, and asking those present to pray for His blessing on their undertaking. He then offered up a few appropriate prayers from the Prayer Book. The Choir sung with much feeling and most impressively "The Church's one foundation". The Rev. Frederick Watson pronounced the Blessing, and the Clergy retired during the singing of Hymn 379 - "Now thank we all our God." - Miss C.E. Harvey and Miss Alen accompanied the Choir on the harmonium.

Mr. Letch provided a handsome silver-plated trowel, and a well-carved mallet and level made out of the oak of the old tower. The foundation stone is a piece of Portland Stone. The inscription on it is as follows -
"This Foundation Stone of the Tower of the Church of St. Stephen, Great Wigborough, was laid in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, by Emily Ann, wife of the Rev. Frederick Watson, M.A., Rector, on the 4th day of Sept, 1885."

There was a large attendance of neighbours and parishioners, which would have been more numerous if the weather in the morning had been more favourable. It was gratifying to see a good number of the labouring population present (Mr Chas Harvey and Mr Chas Hutley) and their families; the Rev. F.J.R Laurence, Mrs and the Misses Laurence, the Rev. T., Mrs, and Miss Musselwhite, the Rev. F.J. and Mrs Ball, the Rev, T.E. and Mrs Cartwright, the Rev. E. and Miss Musselwhite, the Rev. T.O. and Mrs Price, the Misses Blyth, Miss Bean, Mr Tibbet (clerk of the works), Mrs and the Misses Abbott, Mrs Henry Abbott, Miss Barrett, Mr. and Miss Alen, Messrs and Misses Cause, Mr Balls, Mr and Mrs Cooke, & c. The interesting scene was enlivened with a number of flags hung on the scaffolding and the trees around.

Read More;
Great Wigborough Parish Church - a short history
The earthquake of 1884 - Gt & Lt Wigborough


12 September 1885
 Wigborough Mystery. The trowel used by Mrs Emily Watson to lay the foundation stone of the new tower for Great Wigborough Church has turned up in Finchley.  SG01_022_001SG01_022_001
Wigborough Mystery. The trowel used by Mrs Emily Watson to lay the foundation stone of the new tower for Great Wigborough Church has turned up in Finchley.
September 1985
 Plaque inside St Stephen's Church, Great Wigborough. It is in the base of the tower, now inside the toilet erected c2018.
</p><p>
To the Glory of God the tower of this church was re-erected during the time the Rev Frederick Watson MA was Rector of this Parish after the earthquake of April 22nd 1884 in the years 1885 and 1886.  GWG_CHC_027GWG_CHC_027
Plaque inside St Stephen's Church, Great Wigborough. It is in the base of the tower, now inside the toilet erected c2018.

To the Glory of God the tower of this church was re-erected during the time the Rev Frederick Watson MA was Rector of this Parish after the earthquake of April 22nd 1884 in the years 1885 and 1886.
2019

ID: WIG_WEQ
Source: Mersea Museum