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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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From The Western Times

Friday July 13th 1923

(The incident took place on Saturday July 7th 1923)


Parish Church Tower struck by ball lightning


Dunsford Church was damaged by the thunderstorm which broke over the village in the early hours of Saturday morning.

During the night a number of fire balls were seen by the cottagers to be falling in different directions. Consequently they left their houses, which are mostly thatched and would easily have caught fire. About 4.10 am, a fire ball passed through the window of the clock chamber in the church tower and exploded, blowing out the face of the clock, shattering the framework to atoms, passing upward to the bell chamber, where some very heavy beams and stonework have been displaced. Fortunately the bells were not hit. One large stone, weighing over a hundredweight, fell between the treble and second, another of the same size having fallen through to the clock chamber.

The current seems to have passed upward, as a hole has been blown through the lead roof of the tower. The large church flag, which was hung in the bell chamber, was burnt. Other parts of the west end of the church have been shaken, but it is not yet definitely known what damage has been done. It is considered dangerous to use the bells until a thorough examination has been made, as a deal of the woodwork is displaced.

Parishioners who saw had heard the explosion say it was a grand but awful sight; the fire was flung in all directions, and the church appeared as if in flames. Large pieces of the stone fell in the churchyard, also glass which was blown from the windows.

"The fireball," ( remarks London's Daily Chronicle) "was in all probability an occurrence of ball lightning, an aggregation of ozone and oxygen produced in the form of a luminous ball from a negatively-charged cloud after a discharge of lightning. The ball falls slowly earthwards, and if it comes into contact with anything on its way down, it explodes with great violence. Fireballs and thunderbolts, as commonly understood, have no existence, the cylindrical tubes found in the ground after a thunderstorm and known as fulgurites, being formed where they are discovered by the fusing effect of the lightning on the materials near the surface. They are fairly common in dry, sandy soil, and can be manufactured artificially in a laboratory".


Dunsford church tower in 2010

Dunsford church tower and clock in 2010

©Richard J Brine


From the Western Times

14 September 1923

The work of repairing the damage done to the Dunsford Church Tower bell chamber and clock through the late thunderstorm has been entrusted to Messrs Aggett, bell-hangers, of Chagford. The estimate is £263. 15s, the same being covered by the insurance. The parishioners are glad to learn that the work is to be commenced at once, so that the bells may may once more be set in motion, as they were greatly missed at the Harvest Festival and the Agricultural Show, as ringers come from neighbouring parishes for a peal on that day.


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