When The Wind Blows

By M@ Last edited 142 months ago
When The Wind Blows

Well, the elements gave us a bit of a battering last week, with plenty of damage and several people killed. But lest we get all worked up about global warming and freaky weather, it's worth remembering that the capital is no stranger to the Force 10 fart of Mother Nature. Here's a roundup of, erm, past wind.

1091: Strong winds make their debut on the recorded history of London. On October 23rd that year, many houses and churches were damaged, including St Mary-le-Bow on Cheapside, whose roof was blown off with impressive gusto: "the roof and rafters of the church were lifted so high into the air that, on falling, six of the rafters sank so far into the ground that only a seventh or eighth part of their length remained visible". Yeah, right. The then-new Tower of London also took a beating and the wooden London Bridge was practically destroyed. Two people lost their lives.

1362: Forms of doom other than plague and pestilence were abroad in the late Middle Ages, and London was battered by another great storm. But some folk made the most of it. According to a contemporary Royal Ordinance: "Those who have tiles to sell...do sell the same entirely at their own pleasure, at a much higher price than they were wont to do; and that the tilers and the roofers of buildings, seeing so great an urgency for persons of their calling, hesitate to follow their trade, or to do any work, unless they receive excessive wages". Bastards.

1703: The biggest storm ever to hit the capital occurred on 26 November. Its effects were diligently recorded by celebrity reporter Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe. "No pen could describe it," described Defoe, using his pen, "nor tongue express it, nor thought conceive it unless by one in the extremity of it". London was savaged. The roof of Westminster Abbey rolled up; whole rows of houses were flattened and many churches lost their spires. In the south-east of England, 8000 people were killed - 21 of these from falling chimneys. A 'day of fast' was declared by the queen in January, cos that'll help.

1724: Two girls were trapped when The Pindar of Wakefield inn - now the Water Rat, Grays Inn Road - was destroyed by...you guessed it...another hurricane.

1752: Powerful gales lifted two ships from the Thames at Vauxhall, carrying them on to shore.

1779: Strong winds uprooted trees in St James park and took a bite out of a royal palace.

1954: A devastating tornado hit the Gunnersbury area, destroying the local Tube station, uprooting trees and demolishing homes. According to the local press, "Up the road, the tornado took off part of the roof of the Britvic factory; and a huge outer door weighing a ton was blown into the building and smashed to splinters." Several people were injured, but there were no reported fatalities.

1987: The so-called Great Storm, forever associated with an incredulous Michael Fish, robbed London and the south east of a staggering 15 million trees, with 18 people killed.

2006: Still fresh in the memory, a highly localised tornado ripped apart a number of houses in the Kensal Green area. Miraculously, no one was killed.

Now, the North wind doth blow and we, apparently, shall have snow...

Image taken from jonnybaker's Flickr photostream. And acknowledgement is made to the Annals of London (John Richardson) for source material.

Last Updated 22 January 2007