7th April 1297. Hail.
The largest hailstone officially recorded fell on Horsham, West Sussex in 1958.(1)
Today a Sunday in 1297 it was reported, ‘That on the second night after Palm Sunday [today’s date],before Matins, there was a terrible storm; thunder, lightning, fire [balls] and hail came…with unheard of violence ‘.
‘The hailstones were immense and astonishing to witness for their size was as big as a man’s thumb. On top of all this there was an eclipse of the moon and then the storm renewed itself with renewed violence’.(2)
The fifty most intense British hail storms since 1650 see a peak in July in the months from May to September with the East Midlands, East Anglia, London and Home Counties as the main areas.
For hail to form, a large part of cumulonimbus clouds need to be below freezing, with the temperature at the top colder than -20c. Water droplets are supercooled in the updraught and the layers of the stone, when fallen, is an indication as to how many times it has risen to the top of the cloud.
The earliest recorded hail storm was in 1141; with the most intense in Hertfordshire on 15th May 1697. The most destructive on 9th August 1843 when north Oxfordshire roofs were ‘pounded to pieces’, whilst in Norfolk the crops were ‘devastated requiring a special voluntary rate levy’.
On 20th October 1791 a hailstorm at Fowey was sufficiently strong to cause the mineralogist Philip Rashleigh, a Cornish squire to model the stones in glass, which can be seen in the Natural History Museum, London.
There is a brick monument at Barton-on-Humber in memory of the great hailstorm of July 3rd, 1883, between 10.30-11.00, when stones 5 inches by 3 inches fell.
Even the day of Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee was not exempt, when in Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, poultry and game birds were wiped out in their thousands.
On 22nd September 1935, Northampton hailstones some as big as a tennis ball, fell in the middle of the storm which followed a north-eastern track of 335 km which constituted a record for hail storms.
(1) On 5th September 1958. Reports vary from 142g to 190g (6.7oz), with a diameter of 6.35cm (2.5in).
(2) Chronicle of Bury St. Edmunds 1212-1301. Ed. A. Grandsen 1964. pp 134-42.
Ref: wscountytimes.co.uk/day-of -records/Pic of hail.
Ref: English Historical Documents (1189-1327); Wiki Carta Mercatoria 1297.