The Great Bexhill Waterspout and Tornado
The most miraculous thing about the tornado that on May 20 1729 struck just west of Bexhill and then carved a path of destruction for about 12 miles inland is that it caused no fatalities. A review of some of the damage it caused highlights how lucky those whose property was touched by the thing actually were – though the man whose leg was broken and a woman crushed beneath rubble might have thought otherwise.
As the great wind formed in Pevensey Bay, or perhaps further out in the sea, only reached land at around 9:00, by which time it was dark, nobody actually saw it pass. But many felt it; and the devastation revealed then and the next day was ample evidence of its passage. The roof of one Thomas Holland’s house in Bexhill was torn off and his barn destroyed; at Sidley Green the house of John Philcock was shifted two inches as well as having its roof flipped off; at Engrim Wood 150 oaks were flattened; more houses were partially wrecked before it reached woods near Battle , bringing down more than 1300 trees. And so it continued through Sedlescombe where it ruined 14 houses, Great Saunders where more woods were turned to matchsticks, then Staple Cross, until finally dissipating near Linkhill.
When it touched land the water spout was shown to have a width of 150 yards; this spread as a tornado to an average nearing 400 yards. We can only imagine the terror it caused, accompanied by deafening thunder and bolts of lightning.
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