The Great English Earthquake

By Peter Haining, Robert Hale Ltd, 1976, 219pp (Essex County Libraries E551.22)

Pat Marsden

This book recounts the story of ‘The Essex Earthquake’ of 1884.  Chapter Two (p20 – 41) is headed ‘The Destruction of Wivenhoe’.  It refers to the peaceful riverside village; the sailors and fishermen long since at work along the quay; its centuries old function as a fishing port; and its current role as a fashionable yachting centre for weekend visitors.  It describes the community of 3,000 people, many of whom crewed and serviced the visiting yachts, with much lyrical detail.  It refers to the Anchor Inn and Mrs Dick Ham; Mr Jones’ ferry service across the Colne; and the impressive steam yacht ‘Santa Cecilia’, owned by Lord Alfred Henry Paget.

When the earthquake began at 9.18am there was a terrible rumbling noise and the whole village rose up and then down.  There were showers of slates and crashing masonry and people calling for help.  Buildings cracked and glass shattered.  The author refers to the impact on ‘St Cecilia’ and the village: the chaos in the Anchor; the destruction in the small grocer’s shop belonging to James Moore; Mr H T Cuthbert, the yacht decorator, responsible for painting Lord Paget’s yacht, was knocked to his feet; the Independent Chapel in West St was damaged; residents were shaken and frightened; The National School in Wivenhoe High St began rocking; a chimney fell through the roof at Wivenhoe Hall.  The gas works was severely damaged and confusion reigned in nearby streets. The shock fell heavily on the eight houses in ‘the New Road’ owned by John Green Chamberlain, and in Brook Street owned by Isaac Blyth who also owned the Black Boy. Many of the local public houses were damaged including the Live and Let Live, Falcon, Sailor’s Return and the Grosvenor Hotel (landlord Mr J Goodwin).

He refers to the Post Master, Mr J Pratt; the aged residents of the almshouses; Captain Harry Harlow, owner of the yacht ‘Rosabelle’; Mr William Ham; Mr Edwin Wilkins, a local yacht builder; Dr H C Sorby, a local doctor (and yacht owner); and Dr A C Squire Ling the local GP who dealt with the injuries with his wife and voluntary helpers.

This page was added on 22/03/2016.

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