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The Storm 1703

Daniel Defoe placed a series of advertisements in newspapers in London in December 1703 asked for information regarding the great storm and its effects. In 1704 he published a book entitled ‘The Storm’, which is based on these responses, a reprint of which is available as a Penguin Classic.

The following is the letter written by Edward Shipton, Vicar of Fairford 1704 to Daniel Defoe.

Honoured Sir

In obedience to your request I have here sent you a particular account of the damage sustained in our parish by the late violent storm; and because that of our church is the most material which I have to impart to you, I shall therefore begin with it. It is the fineness of our church which magnifies our present loss, for in the whole it is large and noble structure, composed within and without of ashlar curiously wrought, and consisting of a stately roof in the middle, and two isles running a considerable length from one end of it to the other, makes a very beautiful figure. It is also adorned with 28 admired and celebrated windows, which, for a variety and fineness of the painted glass that was in them do justly attract the eyes of all curious travellers to inspect and behold them; nor is it more famous for its glass, than newly renowned for the beauty of its seats and paving, both being chiefly the noble gift of that pious and worthy gentleman Andrew barker Esq., the late deceased lord of the manor. So that is all things considered, it does equal, at least, if not exceed, any parochial church in England. Now that part of it which most of all felt the fury of the winds, was, a large and middle west window, in dimension about 25 foot wide, and 25 foot high, it represents the general judgement, and is so fine a piece of art that £1,500 has formerly been bidden for it, a price though very tempting, yet were the parishioners so honest and just to refuse it. The upper part of this window just above the place where our Saviour’s picture is drawn sitting on a rainbow, and the earth His footstool, is entirely ruined, and both sides are so shattered and torn especially the left, that upon a general computation, a fourth part at least is blown down and destroyed. The like fate has another west window on the left side of the former, in dimension about 10 foot broad and 15 foot high, sustained; the upper half of which is totally broke excepting one stone munnel. Now if this were ordinary glass we might quickly compute what our repairs might cost, but we more lament our misery herein, because the paint of these two as of all the other windows in our church, is stained through the body of the glass; so that if that be true which is generally said, that this is lost, then we have an irretrievable loss. There are other damages about our church, which not so great as the former, do yet as much testify how strong and boisterous the winds were, for they unbedded three sheets of lead on the uppermost roof, and rolled them up like so much paper. Over the church porch, a large pinnacle and two battlements were blown down upon the leads of it, but resting there, and their fall being short, these will be repaired with little cost.

That is all I have to say concerning our church: our houses come next to be considered, and here I may tell you, that (thanks be to God) the effects of the storm were not so great as they may have been in many other places; several chimnies, and tiles, and slates, were thrown down, but nobody killed or wounded. Some of the poor, because their homes were thatched, were the greatest sufferers; but to be particular therein, would be very frivolous as well as vexatious. One instance of note ought not to be omitted ; on Saturday, the 26th being the day after the storm, about two o’clock in the afternoon without any previous warning, a sudden flash of lightning, with a short , but violent clap of thunder, immediately following it like a discharge of ordinances fell upon a new strong house in the middle of our town, and at the same time disjointed two chimnies, melted some lead of an upper window , and struck the mistress of the house in a swoon, but this as afterwards, proved the effect more of fear, than of any real considerable hurt to be found about her. I have nothing more to add, unless it be the fall of several trees and ricks of hay among us, but these being so common everywhere, and not many in number here, I shall conclude this tedious scribble, and subscribe myself.

Sir, your most obedient and humble servant

EDW, Shipton, Vicar

Fairford, Gloucest., Jan., 1704