Friday, 27 April 2018

#52Ancestors Week 16 "Storms"

#52Ancestors  Week16  “Storm”

Not sure that there is anyone in my tree that I can link closely to a storm, so this week a little local history with family loosely linked.
It’s Brighton 1850 and after a few days in July where the thermometer has hit 80 a storm is brewing.  This is not any ordinary storm the deluge that came down on Brighton the evening of 17th July 1850 was put on canvas and lithograph.  The Brighton Herald printed a full report in their weekly publication a few days later.
The full report can be read here Brighton Herald (page 3)
A shortened version is below - with the tenious links to family.


Violent and Destructive Storm
Brighton was visited on Wednesday evening by the most violent storm of thunder, lightning and rain that has occurred here for the last 50 years.
For several days previously the had had been, for this time, excessive – the thermometer standing at 80 degrees, for summer heat, in the shade; and in the Sun its scorching beams were scarcely to be borne.  At night, too the heat was intolerable; nor was there scarcely a breeze, day or night, to cool the atmosphere, which was very heavy and oppressive.
The weather was again very hot and close on Wednesday.  Towards the evening and immense “thunder loft” as it has been poetically termed, rose up heavy and threatening in the east- one skirt resting , as it seemed, on the sea; the other sweeping round to the north-east, dark and ponderous.  In the west, there was also a vast “blue-black” curtain, advancing slowly and heavily towards the town.  The upper edge was nearly straight, so that it has the appearance of an immense curtain being drawn over the heavens.  This collection of clouds extended far over the sea to the south-west and stretching from the ocean t was suspended over the land , reaching to the Dyke hills.   Over-head it was serene, though not clear – thin fleecy clouds floating between earth and sky, as if they did not know what to do with themselves to escape the coming storm.
About half-past six the wind suddenly shifted round from the north-east to the north-west, and as the storm continued, worked more to the west, and at times seemed to blow from the south-west.  Thus sweeping round, it brought with it immense masses of clouds, which came to a junction immediately over this town.  No sooner did the masses meet –apparently from all quarters- than the town was enveloped in a lurid mist, which concealed every object from the sight.  There was one terrific clap of thunder, like the exploding of a bomb, which seemed to shake the town to its foundations, and then the whole atmosphere seemed to descend in vast sheets of water.  It was such a sight as was, we believe, never witnessed by living man on this coast. 
The violence of this storm was confined, we believe, almost exclusively to Brighton.  At the time it was raging here, there was a violent wind at Shoreham, which swept up dust in eddies; but not rain fell.  On the east – at Rottingdean – there was no rain, though the lightning was very vivid.  Even at Black Rock and Kemp Town comparatively but little rain fell; but the Marine-parade and the streets behind it were exposed to the full violence of the storm.  The rain descended in torrents here, and swept down the side streets on to the parade, sweeping over the sea-wall in sheets of water.  To the north, also, the storm does not appear to have extended far inland,Wivlesfield, Hurst, Clayton, &e, that, at the time the rain was falling in torrents at Brighton, no a drop fell in those places.  But at Patcham and thence into Brighton the roads resembled rivers, and in a though places the surface of the roads was torn into gullies by the rush of the water, as impelled from side to side by inequality of the ground.
It was, therefore, within comparatively a small circle that the storm was felt; embracing within it the valley and sides of the hills in and on which Brighton is built. But hers its effects were terrific.  The rain began to descend about 10 minutes to 7. At 10 minutes to 8 its violence had abated, and pedestrians and vehicles could again venture onto the streets.  But the state which they presented in many parts was as if the town had been submerged.   To the north, the Level was like a lake, with large sheets of water in the roads on each side.  Passing St Peters Church, the rain had so covered the large space between the Church and the Northern Enclosures that it was almost impossible for pedestrians to make their way across it.  Down Trafalgar-street on the west, and down Richmond-hill on the east, (GG Grandmother, Mary Ann Johnson is living with her parents in Carlton Row, close to Richmond Hill) the rain had descended in torrents and collected in the roads below, covering their pavement and forming little lakes.  There was no passage along the east side of the Enclosures, by Grand-parade.  The water reached from the coping of the Enclosures to within an inch or two of the cellars of the houses, and in some cases poured down them.  The gratings of the sewers were quite inadequate to carry off the water, which swept over them or filled them up with mud and rubbish.  It was the same at the bottom of Sussex-hill , Carlton-hill, (again close to the Johnson family home) and Edward-street. The Palace grounds were also completely swamped.
But, bad as it was at the north, the state of things was far worse at the southern extremity of the town; towards which there is a natural as well as artificial drainage; and both of these conspired to the destruction of property, for whilst the surface water poured into houses through the doors and windows, - vainly closed to keep it out,- the drains beneath burst in a variety of cases and shot their contents like a jet into kitchens, cellars, &c.


Messers Hannington narrowly escaped severe loss.  The water found its way into their warehouse, at the top of the building the rain found its way through the roof.  Stephen Wadey GG Grandfather was living very close at this time in Clarence Yard, that was situated behind Clarence Hotel and Hanningtons.
Such was the force of the stream in the square [Castle] that a ladder against a house on the south side was taken up and floated down to the York Hotel like a mere straw.  As to the Steyne itself it presented the most extraordinary spectacle.  The whole of the wide roads by which it is surrounded and the spacious pavements were covered with a wide sheet of water.  The currents swept with great force towards the southern end of the Steyne where the Royal York and Royal Albion hotels stand, and where there are several outlets leading into what is called Pool Valley. 
As this was the spot where the destructive effects of the storm were most felt, it may be as well to give some account of it.  Pool Valley receives its name from having been the outlet of a stream or bourne which used formerly to flow through Brighton from Patcham, where it took its rise in a well renowned for its depth.  The stream used to be called Well-bourne, from its fountain head, and, in the course of time, this was corrupted to Whalebone as the legal name of this Hundred.
On Wednesday evening soon after seven the water began to pour in considerable quantities down this several passages [into Pool Valley]  At first it was carried off by two gratings which stand each side of Creeks Baths, as however these became unequal to the task of carrying it off and at half past seven a pool began to form in this old place, without having any outlet for it.  

Mindful of the length of this piece I will leave it there but there is a very long and descriptive report in the Brighton Herald. (link to the paper at the top of the page, details on page 3) As you can see from the etching done at the time, this was not just a normal thunder storm, something I am sure was spoken of for years after.


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