1894 The Terrific Storm That Blew Down The Steeple of St Mary’s Church

In February 1894 a ferocious storm was sweeping the country, the worst that had hit for many years, wrecking houses, destroying buildings, and causing many fatal injuries.

It’s thought to have come from “cyclonic disturbances” which had been hitting North America.st mary 3

Shrewsbury took a fair battering over one weekend as described in the Shrewsbury Chronicle…

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Shrewsbury Chronicle – Friday 16 February 1894 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Chester Street was the first place to be hit…Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 14.49.19

But it was during nightfall when the town’s inhabitants were truly startled and left terrified. The wind was howling with a noise “that resembled the roaring of the sea when in its most furious state” and residents of Castle Street and St Mary’s Street were startled by a tremendous crash…

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It was too dangerous to go in and so the full extent of the damage wasn’t clear until Monday when large crowds came and gathered around the church.

st mary collapse 2

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In the previous weeks, repair work had been going on at the church and steeple jacks had been up and down the spire and had constructed a scaffold. It was this scaffolding that was believed to have been part of the reason for the collapse.

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But it was lucky that nobody was hurt. Just an hour before the collapse the church was full with a Sunday congregation. The Sunday prior a plank had fallen from the scaffolding making a loud racket causing “considerable alarm” amongst the church going folk. In fact on the day of the incident the congregation were told that they were perfectly safe and the scaffolding had been secured.

A Silver Lining.

The gale caused much damage throughout the town and the rest of Shropshire, which I will go into more detail in a later post.

st mary distant view
In the distance you can see the spire of St Mary’s missing its top.

But as for the church itself, it was estimated at the time that it would take many months and many thousands of pounds to fix, and great efforts were made to raise the money. This is well documented in the newspapers at the time. There was also controversy over who would get the contract to fix it, with many local tradesmen worried it would be given to an out-of-town firm.

But whoever would be given the work, one commentator hoped one “unsightly” part of the church would be fixed.

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Shrewsbury Chronicle – Friday 16 February 1894 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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