October 17, 1091: The London Tornado of 1091 strikes. It was Britain’s earliest reported tornado, possibly because it was so fierce. Only two people were reported killed, however damage to London was immense. There were reports of four rafters being driven into the ground. The beams were 26 feet long and yet only four feet were protruding from the ground after the storm passed. This has helped modern meteorologists to set the force of the tornado at T8 or F4. Much of London was wooden construction and therefore susceptible to damage. The wooden London Bridge was destroyed. St. Mary-le-Bow was badly damaged, losing the rafters mentioned above. Many other area churches were also demolished and over 600 houses were destroyed.
London became what we would consider a city with the Roman occupation. In the year 140 there were about 45-60,000 inhabitants of Londinium. City size dropped with the fall of the Empire and by 300 there were only 10-20,000 residents. By the beginning of the first millennium, the population had dwindled to only 5-10,000 but it was picking back up. With the destruction of the Cnut dynasty in 1042, English rule came under Edward the Confessor and the foundation of Westminster Abbey is credited to him. By the end of the century there were probably about 18,000 people living there watching this gigantic twister strike the city.
St. Mary-le-Bow had been part of London since the Saxon period of England. The medieval version of the church was the one destroyed by this tornado. During the Norman period, a church known as St. Mary de Arcubus was built. It was famous for its two arches or bows. Today, the church remains a historic London building. According to tradition, in order to be considered a true Cockney (East End working class Londoner), one must be born within earshot of the sound of the church’s bells. The present day church was designed by Christopher Wren in the Baroque style and there are twelve bells ringing out.
Tornadoes are violent storms with a rotating column of air and they can also be called twisters or cyclones. There are a variety of ways to measure them. The TORRO scale is one method and rates intensity from T0 to T11. It evolved from the Beaufort Scale which measured intensity from 8 to 30. The other type of scale often used is the Fujita Scale which rates storms from F0 to F5. These scales are based on a number of factors including wind speed and resulting damage. On the TORRO scale, T8 through T11 are considered violent storms. An F4 storm leaves behind “devastating” damage.
A broken heart is a very pleasant complaint for a man in London if he has a comfortable income. – George Bernard Shaw
I think London’s sexy because it’s so full of eccentrics. – Rachel Weisz
People in London think of London as the center of the world, whereas New Yorkers think the world ends three miles outside of Manhattan. – Toby Young
You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. – Samuel Johnson
Also on this day:
National Geographic – In 1888, the National Geographic Society began publishing a new magazine.
Fore – In 1860, the Open Championship was first played.
War on Poverty – In 1993, the UN sponsored its first International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.