Earthquake Shocks, May 30th, 1889


Seismology: Fourteenth Report of the Committee on Scientific Memoranda

Trans. Devon Assoc., 1889, Vol XXI, pp. 80-81.


J. Brooking Rowe F.S.A, F.L.S.

Prepared by Michael Steer

The report was delivered by Mr Rowe at the Association’s July 1889 Tavistock meeting. On May 30th, 1889, a Channel Island earthquake, strongest in Guernsey and near Cherbourg was felt in London and Paris. It was noted at Bognor, Bournemouth, Surbiton and Wareham. Thus it might well have been felt in the general Exeter area. A draft paper by Ian West on Earthquakes of the South of England provides a comprehensive record of seismic activity on the Wessex Coast of Southern England. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

"The signalman - Rice - on night duty in the London and South-Western signal-box at Cowley Bridge, near Exeter, states that at 8.21 p.m.. May 30th, 1889, when sitting with his back against the box, he distinctly felt the structure quiver almost as if a train were passing; but there was no train near.

Mr. William Radford, of Sidmouth, says he distinctly felt a slight shock the same evening, lasting about three seconds, the time by his watch being seventeen minutes past eight.  It was sufficient to cause the lamp-shade to sway to and fro, and the glass on the side-table to jingle

"At Exeter Mrs. and Miss Buckingham were sitting in the drawing-room upstairs on Southernhay, Exeter, and distinctly felt the chairs on which they were sitting rock, and also heard a noise they could not account for in the passage outside at the same time, and went out to see what it was, but saw nothing.

“My wife and myself were sitting in one of our rooms on the ground-floor, and all at once we heard a door slam. I said, 'What can that be? there is no wind' (it was quite still). In another second we heard it again, and then a noise on the stairs and overhead, so much like someone going up the stairs into our bedroom that I was persuaded it was someone, and went up to see. It did not occur to me at the time, as we felt no motion, that it was an earthquake, until I saw the accounts from Guernsey, and places along the south coast of England. Comparing the time at which it was felt the noise we heard corresponded. My wife says she distinctly heard a rumbling sound, apparently outside the house. From the slamming of the door twice I conclude that there must have been two waves of motion, although we did not feel it. (Edward Parfitt.)"