Friday, 10 May 2013

Some Natural Catastrophies and Others Befalling the City

Over the centuries there have occurred numerous natural disasters and events, which have shaped the lives of the citizens of Worcester. Some of these occurrences are noted in a book titled ‘Forgotten Worcester’ and from it’s pages are noted some of these events, spanning a 600 year period.

On December 31st 1210, there was such a severe frost that the river Severn was frozen as far down to the outskirts of Gloucester. It lasted until mid February and it was further reported that it was possible for a man to cross the river on horseback.

In January 1285, a heavy fall of snow caused great damage to property and claimed many lives. The  weight of the snow was so great that it broke many bridges throughout the county.

During 1342, a fatal plague broke out in the city, claiming many lives.

In 1349 the Black Death or what was termed as a ‘severe pestilence’ erupted and killed many of the population. So great was the fear of contamination that it was ‘deemed unsafe’ to bury the bodies within the Cathedral churchyard and so they were interred at St.Oswalds.

Earthquakes have been felt in the county and city, one of which was mentioned in 1534.

What was referred to as ‘the sweating sickness’ raged through the city during the year 1558.Then almost 80 years later, as happened in many towns and cities across Europe, almost a quarter of the city’s population died from the plague.

The flooding of the river Severn has always been a major problem to the city and no more so than in 1672.When this occurred it was reported that this was the highest ‘then on record’. Then in 1770 this level was exceeded by 10 inches, a level that was matched in 1795.

In the year 1811 the city was hit by a tremendous storm, it ravaged much of the surrounding land as well as causing huge damage to both property and forestry. Huge pieces of ice 5” to 6” in diameter were hurled around in a hurricane force wind, accompanied by vivid lightning and rolling thunder.

During 1813, for a period of 9 days the city was engulfed in a ‘remarkable’ fog.

Epidemics were not uncommon in the city and that of Cholera was no stranger. Outbreaks occurring in 1831,1832 and 1849,claiming 43 lives.

On reading this list, it should be noted that a celebrated antiquarian – Lambarde wrote the following, ”that never had he met a place that had so great experience, in the calamities of the intestine broils of the kingdom, and other casual disasters, as the city of Worcester”.

Over the centuries the city has suffered, on numerous occasions, severe damage to properties and loss of life through fire. Of course a main aid to this was that the bulk of the city was timber built and through either accident or design this was an inevitable problem. As far back as 1114, July 19th, there was an unusually immense fire that caused huge damage, including the destruction of the Cathedral, together with many of the cities churches and the castle was destroyed.

Adrian Skipp



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