|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
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.
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
1884 Earthquake - panel in Great Wigborough Church GWG_CHC_155