Contrary to general perception, the UK experiences a considerable number of earthquakes each year. However most of these earthquakes are of very low intensity and so rarely hit the headlines. (View the British Geological Society's website for details on earthquakes in Britain; also a regularly updated map showing the earthquakes throughout Britain for the previous month.)
In the early hours of Monday 23rd September 2002, an earthquake with its epicentre in Dudley, Worcestershire, was of sufficient magnitude to cause damage and be widely noticed across a considerable part of the country including Leverstock Green. Emergency services across the country received thousands of calls from worried members of the public unsure what was happening. (See BBC News report)
At home in Leverstock Green I had staggered half awake out of bed shortly before 1 am and gone to the bathroom. On crossing the landing I had noticed the light still on under my 18 year old's door not an unusual occurrence as he's a night owl. I was sat in state in the bathroom, minding my own business when I heard a quite loud, and very sudden double bang. I mentally moaned thinking my son had dropped something in his room, or perhaps thrown something onto his bed, which had in turn banged the wall which adjoined the bathroom. Still in a half asleep state I went to return to bed to be met on the landing by my son.
"Had I felt the house shake?" he wanted to know. No I hadn't. Was I sure, as there had been a tremendous woomph and his window and front wall had shaken for a couple of seconds after a loud noise similar to a very forceful gust of wind hitting the front of the house. I told him I thought he'd dropped something but had noticed nothing else. We both returned to our rooms assuming it had been a sudden gust of wind. I noticed the time by now was 1. 05
In the morning I turned on the radio and heard of the earthquake. It then became apparent that what Alex had experienced was the quake. But what of my double bangs? I was not sure as my description didn't fit Alex's, however all uncertainty was removed later that day when watching the BBC's 10 o'clock news. The bulletin included a sequence caught on a CCTV camera in Dudley, and the shaking was immediately pre-empted by the self same bangs I'd heard. Remarkably the volume I'd heard was not radically lower than caught on the video camera.
The magnitude of the quake was initially put at 4.8 on the Richter Sale, but after further analysis the BGS have subsequently upgraded the quake to 5.0 on the Richter Scale. (See further BBC News report) Quakes of this magnitude occur in Britain roughly every 10 years. This was not the first time an earthquake was experienced in this area. The most noticeable being on 22nd April 1884 - This was the day of the "Great Essex Earthquake", and although there are no known reports of it having been felt in the village, we know it was reported as being felt in St. Albans and at "Langleybury" in Kings Langley at 9.20 a.m. It therefore seems possible that it would also have been felt in Leverstock Green. [S145]
A further quake was recorded over the south of England on 17th December 1896 As with the earlier quake of 1884 no formal record of anyone feeling the tremors is known within our area of study. However, there are so many very accurate and detailed accounts of the effects of the quake recorded by persons locally that I feel certain its effects must have also been felt in the village. According to Sir John Evans at Nash Mills, the quake woke him at approximately 5.45 a.m. The account of his report, along with many other local reports from Bedmond, Abbots Langley, Leavesdon Asylum, St. Albans, Gorhambury and Watford can be read in Volume 9 of the Transactions of the Herts. Natural History Society and Field Club. A copy of which is held at Hemel Library. [S146]
To find out more about earthquakes in Britain click on the following links: