Climate change, we are told, will lead to more extreme weather events. Extreme weather has always happened down the year as this vivid account of a storm (which sounds like a tornado such as those suffered in the American Midwest) in Bedford in 1672 shows. It was published as a pamphlet. One of which survives in the BritishMuseum. H. G. Tibbutt transcribed the pamphlet and donated the transcription to Bedfordshire Archive Service and it became CRT130Bed5. The transcription is below, incorporating the original spelling.
Of what happened at
On Munday last, Aug 19 instant
Thundering, Lightning and Tempestuous
Winds tore up the Trees by the Roots, the
Gates off the Hinges, Breaking them in
Pieces, Driving down Houses
To the Terror and Amazement of the
As by this
Will more at large appear.
Attested by several Ey-witnesses
A True Relation of what hapned at Bedford, on Munday last 19 Instant, while Thundering, Lightning, and Tempestuous Winds tore uo the Trees by the Roots, the Gates off the Hinges &c.
After my hearty love to your Self and Family presented. We have unwonted news from these parts to acquaint you with: For on Munday last, the Nineteenth of this instant August, hapned in our Town of Bedford, an Horrible and Unheard of tempest, with much Terrible Thunder, Rain, and Lightning, to the general Amazement and Terror of all the Inhabitants, beginning about one a Clock in the Afternoon, and continuing for about half an hour; in which time it threw the Swan Inn Gates off the Hinges into the Street and after it had whirled them there, up and down, as if they had been a Foot-Ball, it brake them to pieces: It drove a Coach in the same Yard from the back gates up, almost to the Cellar door, which is several Poles from thence: It carried a great Tree from beyond the River, over our Paul’s Steeple, as if it had been a bundle of Feathers; it threw down Mr. Beverleys Stack of Corn of well-nigh Threescore Load, breaking to pieces the Carts that were under it, much of the Corn being carried no Man knows whether.
In Offell-lane [presumably near the butcher’s shambles in the northern part of Saint Paul’s Square] the violence was such, it bore down two Houses in an instant, to the dreadful amazement of the Spectators that blessed be God, escaped maiming, yet knew not where to flie for shelter, but to run too and fro like persons amazed. In one of our Gardens it rent up the Onion and radish-Beds by the Roots, with an incredible violence, carrying them almost two Miles. It plucked up a large Apricock Tree by the Roots, and rent it from the Wall, to which it was nailed, and carried it over Houses and Hedges almost a quarter of a Mile.
At Cardwel it brake down much of a great Stone wall, and plucked up several great Trees by the Roots, and carried one of them almost a Furlong. Also there it did pluck up a Quickset Hedge by the Roots, and so tore and mangled it, that it lay all in Tayles, as if it had been Bushes Tops, and Roots together.
It brought a large Tree from some place unknown and set it upright in a Field belonging to the Swan Inn striking the Roots of it nigh a Foot into the Ground; and thence plucked it up again and carried it some certain paces further. It tore also many Arms from the Trees, carrying them quite over the River.
The Rose Inn gates it threw off the Hinges into the middle of the Street. The Maidenhead Inn Gates it served in like manner, and broke them to pieces. It took up about a Load of great Rushes, carrying them from the place where they stood, and left many of them, no Mortal knows where.
Mr Christy our Lawyer, hath also received much hurt by this Strange Tempest, which came also to John Rushes Shop, driving his Sieves, Pales and other Wooden ware up and down the Streets, making a heavy clattering, scarce to be credited. The Head-Hostler at the Ram Inn and his man, was constrained to fix themselves to a Post, otherwise they had been carried away by this violence.
At the aforesaid Mr. Beverleys there was Trees of Twenty Inches square rent in pieces; The Church called Saint Peters, is much damnified also; the Church called Saint John hath met with share in this Tempest: The Head-Hostler at the Swan Inn, where they was a Brewing, as he was going to open the Furnace door, the tempest came and clapt the Brew-house door, and the Furnace door together with that force, as if it had broke them to pieces, in so much, that it whirled the Fire from under the Furnace, and the Flame seised on the Roof of the House, setting it in fire, but he being careful, with Water speedily quenched it, else they had, in all probability, with many more Houses of the Neighborhood, been destroyed, had not this timely application intercepted.
It is credibly reported, that at the Town of Liddlington, Five miles from hence, much hurt was done and two hay-Cocks was turned upside down, and carried away.
Wooburne also, as we are informed, felt something of this terrible Tempest, some Houses in that Town being levelled with the Ground by it. It is reported by Passengers upon the Road, that they see a great combustion in the Air, the Clouds as it were fighting one against another, in so much, that they thought at a distance the Town of Bedford was on a light fire.
To be brief, the danger for the time it lasted was such that the people scarce knew where to be in safety from the violence of the storm, while the Tyles rent from many Houses, thrown as with a strong Hand, about the Streets with many other dreadful Accidents, as by the next you may receive further account.
It is very remarkable That all this did not much harm upon any person, save in the Terror of it, sufficiently great, one man excepted that was hurt with a piece of a Timber. And also it is very observable, that what was of least strength, or most exposed, such as the Glass-Windows Signs and Sign-Posts, received such inconsiderable harm, as is scarce to be credited, considering the strength of the Gates it tore down, with the Trees of great bulk, whose fastned Roots were soon pulled up.
Near Justice Barbers Grounds, was a Stone wall blown down, and such breaches made, that two carts a breast might go thorow; Twenty of the said Justices stoutest Elms were torn up by the Roots, and the violence was so great, that it cleared his Orchard of most of his Fruit-Trees, much of the Fruit blown into a Meadow on the other side of the River Owse.A Tanners man coming over the Bridge, was taken up from the Ground, and hardly escaped blowing over the Bridge, insomuch that he fell upon his Belly, and crawled away upon his Hands and Knees. It blew down several Houses at the further end of the Town, and removed one House two yards out of its place, and set the Threshold where the middle of the House was before. It blew also many Stacks of Hey which are not yet to be found. A Woman sitting by her fire, had her Chimney blown away, and she removed in the middle of the House, without any other apparent hurt, save the amazement. A Fisherman had a great Pile of Flags carried away, which after two days search was found in Putney Pastors, two miles distant from the said Fishermans House.
This dreadful Tempest began with a great darkness, and lasted half an hour, accompanied with extraordinary Claps of Thunder and Lightning, insomuch that the People of the adjacent places did believe the whole Town of Bedford to be on a light flame.
These worthy and credible Testimonies, with Thousands more, were Eye-witness that might be inserted, take as followeth
Anthony Withnal, Major [Mayor] John Gardener, Recorder
Francis Becket, Alderman Thomas Christy, Attorney
George Margets John Crawley
John Rush, Bedford Waggoner
In May of that year John Bunyan had been given a licence to preach. It seems likely that this event featured in one or two of his sermons.