The Worcester Fish Fall and 'Phantom Fishmonger'
28th May 1881

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The Worcester Fish Fall and 'Phantom Fishmonger'

A periwinkle - thousands of which fell on Worcester in 1881.

The fall or periwinkles that hit the St. Johns district of Worcester excited much comment at the time and since. In the late spring of 1881, the streets were found to be awash with sea food - periwinkles featuring heavily, but also crabs and other shellfish. A popular explanation advanced at the time was that a fish monger was responsible and had disposed of out of date stock by shovelling it onto the streets of the town.

The Worcester Daily Times of May 30th describes the events.

A thunderstorm of unusual severity passed over Worcester and neighbourhood almost three o'clock on Saturday. The rain was exceedingly heavy and the lightning very vivid. Several accidents are reported, but none of a very serious nature. At Whitehall, a woman was driving a donkey and cart along the road and the animal was struck dead by lightning. At Fearnall Heath a chimney in the house of Mr John Baylis was struck, and a quantity of bricks were knocked down. A chimney at Mr Chambers', Ashwood, was damaged, At Boughton Fields, St. John's, a woman was struck, and she lost the use of her limbs for several hours.

The storm at St. John's was of an exceedingly phenomenal character. We learn from Mr. Bozward and others who observed its effects that when it began at three o'clock there was light wind from the north, and while the thermometer stood at 67 the barometer was at 30. At first there was a heavy fall of hail. It was more like the hailstorms that visit the south of France than those which the inhabitants of the Midland Counties of England have experienced. The hail tore leaves off tree, stripped a good deal of the crops of apples, plums, and bush fruit, cut off peas, potatoes, and beans, and generally battered the crops in the gardens as though they had been trampled on.

During the course of the storms a man named John Greenall, taking shelter in his master's garden at Comer-Lane, observed large numbers of periwinkles fall, some of them being buried a considerable depth in the ground with others rebounding off the surface. The fall was confined to the market garden belonging to Mr. Leeds and the Comer-lane. Intelligence of what had happened had soon spread abroad, and an army of Worcester arabs took possession, and were as busy as diamond -diggers "prospecting." They gathered the periwinkles, which were in such profusion that one man alone succeeded in collecting two pecks.

The search was prosecuted during the remainder of the day, and when darkness came it was continued by the aid of lanterns. All day yesterday it was still being persevered in, and to-day the periwinkles are still being found. A live specimen is before us as we write. In one large shell, which a boy picked up in the lane and gave to Mr. Joseph Phillips, of St. John's, was a living hermit crab.

It is surmised by some persons that a water spout broke over the locality. The fall of water was so great that the subway at Henwick station was flooded to the depths of four feet, and the railway officials were under the obligation of stationing a man at the spot to prevent danger to passengers. Masses of sand and stones, many tons in weight, were carried into Henwick-road, and there are marks of devastation generally through the gardens in the neighbourhood, scarcely a garden escaping the ravages of the storm. In some places the hail remained unthawed until seven o'clock in the evening.

The lightning struck a tree opposite the house of Mr. J. Stallard, Henwick, and a remarkable circumstance is that it took a spiral course round the tree. It also struck a small standard apple tree in Mr. Bozward's garden, although all the surrounding big trees were untouched. One or two pebbles, such as are found on the sea shore, fell through a skylight at Mr. Latty's in High-street.

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Author: Ian Freud   |  Last updated: 23rd September 2013 | © Weird Island 2010-2020
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