6th April 1580. The Wrath of God?

Sound is a pressure wave, which is a disturbance that travels through a medium such as air and water.

Today in 1580 a strong earthquake, referred to in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, was felt widely in England’s south east, including the Dover Straits, and is said to be one of the largest recorded in England.(1)

The resultant tsunami killed more by drowning than on land, including many ships lost. The widespread nature of the earthquake was seen when the Leicestershire Church of St. Margaret’s, Stoke Golding, lost its spire.


Document of Town Wardens’ accounts for  Bardwell, Suffolk,  1580 headed: ‘In this year was the earthquake ‘, and showing accounts for repairs. One Item was for a ‘Bocke (sic) of  Prayer 4d’, showing they had paid regard to Archbishop’s injunction to repent.

The Privy Council, fearing the wrath of God, asked Archbishop Grindal for spiritual guidance, and poems and pamphlets were issued on the need for prayer and repentance.

Considering it happened in Easter Week, the fact was not lost on The Puritans who ascribed the disaster to God’s wrath resulting from the theatres now springing up in London. (2)

Thomas Churchyard (c1520-1604), wrote a contemporary account of the earthquake, in an 8th April pamphlet, in the apocalyptic language of a God-fearing age : ‘A Warning to the Wyse, A Feare to the Fond, A Bridle to the Lewde’.(3)

Abraham Fleming wrote: ‘A Bright Burning Beacon forewarning all Wise Virgins to trim their lampes (sic) against the coming of the Bridegroome'(sic).(4)

On the coast, walls came down in Dover, there was a landslip at the White Cliffs, Sandwich Church arches cracked, and Saltwood Castle (where the plot was hatched to assassinate Beckett in 1170), was rendered uninhabitable until the 19th century.

London chimney-stacks and a pinnacle at Westminster Abbey fell. In East Anglia, Ely Cathedral was damaged.

The young James VI King of Scotland, curious to know, was informed that it was ‘the work of the Devil’; bad news as now, travelled widely!(5)

When the Channel Tunnel was under construction in the 1980s, The British Geological Survey estimated the quake at 5.6-5.9 on the Richter Scale; rare for Britain.

It was Lord Rayleigh who found that earthquakes produce radio waves now picked up on seismographs. They produce seismic waves of energy, transported through the earth and over its surface by transverse and longitudinal waves.

Transverse waves are where the medium is dispersed in perpendicular direction to energy transported. Their wavelengths are measured from crest to crest, or trough to trough, as seen in the conventional diagram.

Transverse Wave.

Transverse Wave.

Longitudinal waves are where the medium is dispersed in direction of energy transported without permanently transporting matter.

Longitudinal Wave.

Longitudinal Wave.

Wavelength distance in longitudinal waves is measured from one compression to the adjacent compression, or the distance from one rarefaction to the next adjacent.

Compression is where particles are pressed together and is high air pressure: ie the humps above the line.

Rarefaction particles are given extra space and allowed to expand and is low air pressure ie the humps below the line, as seen in the diagram.

The Rayleigh wave is a type of surface acoustic wave travelling in solids and are produced by earthquakes. They are a type of surface wave include longitudinal and transverse motions which decrease exponentially in amplitude as the distance from surface increases.

(1) ‘Tis since the earthquake now 11 years’.

(2) Bryson. B. 2007, Shakespeare, Harpur, London.

(3) Cited in Google Books, Journal of Royal Statistical Society V 41 London March 1878.P 501.

(4) Published by Henry Denham 27.6.1580. Fleming (1552?-1607), reported on many pamphlets showing the wrath of God, apart from his own.

(5) The King interrogated David Ferguson, Master of Dunfermline on the matter. Ebenezer Henderson, Annals of Dunfermline. John Row, History of Kings of Scotland. Ed 1840.

Ref: walsham-le-willows.org/history-quarterly-review 2.Ref. for town wardens’ accounts.

Ref: Wiki/rayleigh_wave

Ref: Rayleigh Theory of Sound/Rayleigh Waves/Surface Waves.

Ref: physicsclassroom.com Sounds and other waves -physics

Ref: gcsescience.com/long waves: Diagram Ref.

Ref: antonine-ed.co.uk/transverse waves: Diagram Ref.




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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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