A Letter from the Rev. Mr. William Paxton,
Re: A storm in Buckland Brewer in the County of Devon,
To Dr. Miller, Dean of Exeter.
Buckland Brewer, April 7, 1769
I had the favour of your letter, and with great cheerfulness comply with your request, as far as faint words can express what, in reality, is beyond the power of description.
On Thursday, the 2nd of March, about four of the clock in the afternoon, a cloud, of a most uncommon blackness, gathered in the west-north-west, and, changing its course to east-south-east, diffused a most prodigious darkness, accompanied with a very copious shower of hail. It passed immediately over the church tower (remarkable for the height both of its situation and structure), and, bursting with incredible fury, poured forth an amazing body of fire, which threw down the south-east pinnacle on the church, and entering (as I suppose) at the breach shivered a table on which the commandments were written, scorched and discoloured two tomb-stones, broke the windows, and battered the walls and roof to a great degree. The south-east corner suffered most ; where it chiefly forced its way, and tore up the ground on the outside, where it found vent. There is something very extraordinary There is something very extraordinary in the dispersion of the stones of the pinnacle to every point of the compass, and to different distances ; some of which were 7 pounds weight. I picked up one that weighed almost 8 pounds, at the distance of 60 perches from the church; and doubt not but others, and perhaps larger stones, were carried further : it may be worthy of remark also, that several of the stones, some of which were not small, though they appeared close and firm, yet, on a very slight impression of the fingers, mouldered into powder. The explosion on the opening of the cloud, was as instantaneous as terrible, and equalled the discharge of, at least, a hundred cannon at once.
It is matter of great wonder, that not only the church, but that every house in the village, which trembled to its foundation, was not reduced to atoms, or lighted up into a general blaze and yet, stupendous mercy! not a man, woman, child, or beast, received the Ieast hurt.
I am, Sir,
Your very obedient, and humble servant,