MARMET- METEORITES

HISTORIC METEORITES 4: England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland.

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WOLD COTTAGE 1795 (England)

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Wold Cottage L6; England; 1795 Dec.13, 6.35 g

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Naturalist James Sowerby and the Yorkshire (now Wold Cottage) meteorite.

Above you see a 1816 painting by Thomas Heaphy. It shows the naturalist James Sowerby aged 59 with his books, colour experiments and the Yorkshire (now Wold Cottage) meteorite.

The Sowerby family is without equal in the history of natural history for the depth and variety of its contribution to science. Fourteen members of the family published, wrote or illustrated natural history works between about 1780 and 1954. Subjects covered included botany, zoology, conchology, palaeontology and mineralogy. They worked with and for most of the great names in nineteenth century natural history, and the family correspondence is an unparalleled source of biographical, bibliographical and historical information.

James Sowerby was born on March 21, 1757, in the City of London; he died at No. 2-3 Mead Place, Lambeth, on October 25, 1822. He was the son of John Sowerby, a carver of inscriptions, and his wife Arabella Goodspeed.

Next to his house, James Sowerby had established a museum. One of the star exhibits in the museum was a meteorite that had landed in Yorkshire in 1795. This was later purchased by the British Museum and is now known as the Wold cottage chondrite. This meteorite dominates the 1816 watercolour portrait of Sowerby by James Heaphy. This meteorite shrunk over time as Sowerby used to chop bits off to send to interested correspondents.

Above right: Monument erected by Magistrate Edward Topham at the exact spot where the meteorite landed.

Below: An original antique hand-coloured engraved view of Wold Cottage, home of Edward Topham, printed in 1818. On the left side of the picture the monument to the meteorite or "atmospherical stone" which fell there in 1795. (Note: colouring is not contemporary - but expertly done).

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Postcard of the Wold Cottage meteorite, British Museum (Natural History) 1922


ALDSWORTH 1835 (England)

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Aldsworth LL5; England, TKW 680 g, fell 1835, 1.38 g, ex coll. NHM (BM) London

Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science for 1857, volume 27, page 140. Extract of a letter to Prof. Powell from Thos. C. Brown (text adapted and abridged):

A specimen of a meteorite (one stone of 1.5 lbs and a shower of smaller stones) which fell about half a mile from Aldsworth in a field occupied by Mr. Waine, within twenty yards of his workmen, who were sitting against a wall at the time, on the 4th of August 1835, a sunny afternoon without a cloud. A meteor was seen at Cirencester proceeding eastward, and a remarkable noise was heard at half-past 4 in the afternoon. The noise was heard in most parts adjacent.

The workman saw no unusual light, but heard the aerolite rush through the air, and felt it shake the ground by striking it with great violence. It fell on a swarth of oats, and drove the straw before it down into the earth for six inches, till opposed by rock. When the men got it up, it was not hot, but the part of the surface which appeared not to have been broken was quite black and soiled the fingers. It weighs about 9270 grains. It contains a great deal of iron, but is not magnetic. Its specific gravity is 3.4.

Mr. Waine states that a shower of small pieces fell about half a mile south of the spot where this fell. Children thought it was a shower of black beetles, and held out their hands to catch them as they fell.

My niece, Miss Anna Sophia Brown, now Mrs Pooley, about 4 p.m. on the same day, being in her father's garden at Cirencester, perceived a meteor passing from W. to E., apparently about twice the height of Cirencester tower, which is upwards of 100 feet high, looking like a copper ball larger than an orange, and having a tail or stream of light behind it. In its passage it made a rumbling noise heard by many persons, reminding her of thunder, and the people of the town marvelled that it should thunder in a serene day with a cloudless sky.

APPLEY BRIDGE 1914 (England)

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Appley Bridge LL6 vnd.; fell 1914 October 13 in England, 6.1 g with Monnig label

Nature 1914, p. 258-9 by W. F. Denning (text adapted and abridged):

On Tuesday evening, October 13, at 8.45, the inhabitants of Lancashire and Cheshire were alarmed by a sudden and vivid illumination of the heavens caused by a ball of fire moving. slowly from about S.S.E. to N.N.W. It lit up the whole countryside and consisted of several outbursts, the final one being the brightest flash. Then a short interval afterwards, the estimated periods varying from a few seconds to four minutes, according to the distances of the observers, there was a tremendous report, as though a thunder-like explosion had occurred in the region a few miles west of Wigan. This was followed by a series of rumblings extending apparently back along the flight of the luminous object. At several places the windows are stated to have been shaken, and the vibration was such that it presented some similarity to an earthquake shock.

Numbers of persons in Manchester, Liverpool, Halifax, Northwich, Bolton, Macelesfield, and other towns witnessed the event and heard the noise, and in the present agitated state of the public mind, all sorts of ideas were formed as to the nature of the phenomenon.

A large detonating meteor had, notwithstanding the rather cloudy state of the atmosphere, not only penetrated the lower region of the air, but had resisted complete disruption and fallen to the ground. It was discovered on the following day at Appley Bridge, four miles W.N.W. of Wigan. An employee of Mr. Lyon of Halliwell Farm noticed a newly turned up mound in a field and on examination, he saw a reddish mass of strange material lying in a hole about 18 in. below the surface. On being dug out the object weighed about 33 lbs. and in appearance looked like rough piece of burnt iron.

Subsequently, the county police took possession of the strange visitor, and it has since been handed over to curator of the Godlee Observatory, Manchester for proper investigation.

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Postcard of the Appley Bridge meteorite, British Museum (Natural History) 1922


MOORESFORT 1810 (Ireland)

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Mooresfort H5 xen.; Ireland; fell 1810 Aug. 3.66 g, ex coll. NHM (BM) London

Letter from Mr. M. C. Moore to Mr. W. Higgins:

"Early last August, between eleven and twelve o'clock in the morning, I went from Mooresfort to Limerick; the day was dark and sultry. I returned in a few days, and was immediately informed by my steward and butler that a most wonderful phænomenon had occured very soon after my departure; they produced the stone, and gave the following account of the occurance there had been thunder; some workmen who were laying lead along the gutters of my house were suddenly astonished at hearing a whistling noise in the air; one said, The chimney is on fire; another said, It proceeds from a swarm of bees in the air. On looking up, they observed a small black cloud very low, carried by a different current of air from the mass of clouds, from whence they imagined this stone to have proceeded: it flew with the greatest velocity over their heads, and fell in a field about three hundred yards from the houses they saw it fall. It was immediately dug up, and taken into the steward's office, where it remained two hours cooling before it could be handled. This account I have had from many who were present, and agree in the one story. I saw myself the hole the stone made in the ground; it was not more than a foot in depth."

I am sir, your very humble servant,

Maurice Crosbie Moore, May 22, 1811.

From: The Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, 1811, page 262: XLVIII. Description and Analysis of a Meteoric Stone which fell in the County of Tipperary, in Ireland, in the Month of August 1810. By William Higgins, Esq. (text abridged).


LIMERICK 1813 (Ireland)

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Limerick H5 vnd.; Ireland, fell 1813 Sept. 10, 2.07 g, ex coll. NHM (BM) London.

Fall of the Limerick meteorite, narrative of an eyewitness:

Friday morning, the 10th of September 1813, being very calm and serene, and the sky clear, about nine o'clock, a cloud appeared in the east, and very soon after I heard eleven distinct reports appearing to proceed thence, somewhat resembling the discharge of heavy artillery. Immediately after this followed a considerable noise not unlike the beating of a large drum, which was succeeded by an uproar resembling the continued discharge of musketry in line. The sky above the place whence this noise appeared to issue became darkened and very much disturbed, making a hissing noise, and from thence appeared to issue with great violence different masses of matter, which directed their course with great velocity in a horizontal direction towards the west. One of these was observed to descend; it fell to the earth, and sank into it more than a foot and a half, on the lands of Scagh, in the neighbourhood of Patrick's Well, in the county of Limerick.

It was immediately dug up, and I have been informed by those that were present, and on whom I could rely, that it was then warm and had a sulphurous smell. It weighed about 17 lb., and had no appearance of having been fractured in any part, for the whole of its surface was uniformly smooth and black, as if affected by sulphur or gunpowder.

Six or seven more of the same kind of masses, but smaller, and fractured, as if shattered from each other or from larger ones, descended at the same time with great velocity in different places between the lands of Scagh and the village of Adare.

One more very large mass passed with great rapidity and considerable noise at a small distance from me; it came to the ground on the lands of Brasky, and penetrated a very hard and dry earth about 2 feet. This was not taken up for two days; it appeared to be fractured in many places, add weighed about 65 lb.! Its shape was rather round, but irregular.
N. S. Maskelyne, "Lecture Notes on Meteorites", Nature, 1875, vol. 12 (XII). p. 485 (text abridged).


KILLETER 1844 (Ireland)

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Killeter H6 vnd.; Ireland; fell 1844 April 29; 1.2 g, ex coll. NHM (BM) London.

On the shower of aerolithes that fell at Killeter, county of Tyrone, on the 29th of April, 1844:

"On the 29th of April 1844 a shower of Meteoric Stones fell in the sight of several people at Killeter near Castlederg Co. Tyrone; they broke into small fragments by the fall, one piece only being found entire. It was (according to the testimony of a resident) "about as long as a joint of a little finger." The account given by three gentlemen, who, however, did not actually see the shower fall, was that they were at a distance of three or four miles, up the hills in the neighbourhood; it was a fine sunny evening, three or four o'clock. They heard "music" towards Killeter, which they supposed to proceed from a strolling German band, which they knew to be in the neighbourhood; they are under the impression that they heard the music several times in the course of the evening; they remember also to have noticed clouds in the direction of Killeter. On reaching Killeter the same evening, they were told of the wonderful shower of stones which had spread over several fields.

The largest specimen given to me weighed 22.23 grs. in air, and 16.32 grs. in water, showing that its specific gravity is 3.761. Both it and the smaller fragments presented the usual black crust and internal greyish-white crystalline structure and appearance, with specks of metallic lustre, occasioned by the iron and nickel alloy that was present."

Extract from Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 1861, Volume 7, page 491 (text abridged).


DUNDRUM 1865 (Ireland)

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Dundrum H5; fell in Ireland 1865 August 12, 2.0 g ex Nat. Hist. Museum London (cut from BM 67745)

The fall of the Dundrum meteorite, statement of eyewitness:.

"I, John Johnson of the parish of Clonoulty near Cashel county Tipperary, was walking across my potato garden at the back of my house in company with Michael Fahy and William Furlong on the 12th of August, 1865, at seven p. m., when I heard a clap, like the shot out of a cannon, very quick and not like thunder; this was followed by a buzzing noise, which continued for about a quarter of an hour, when it came over our heads; and on looking up, we saw an object falling down in a slanting direction. We were frightened at its speed, which was so great that we could scarcely notice it; but after it fell, we proceeded to look for it, and found it at a distance of forty yards, half buried in the ground, where it had struck the top of a potato drill. We were some time in looking for it (a longer time than that during which we had heard the noise). On taking up the stone, we found it warm, milk warm, but not hot enough to be inconvenient. The next day it was given up to Lord Hawarden."


CRUMLIN 1902 (Northern Ireland)

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Crumlin L5; Northern Ireland; fell 1902 Sept. 13, 11.9 g, ex coll. NHM (BM) London.

Extract from the Memoirs of the British Astronomical Assocation, Vol. XII. Part I, April 24th, 1903 by W. E. BESLEY (text adapted and abridged):

Three men were loading hay in a field at Crosshill, near Crumlin, County Antrim, when a noise like thunder or the rolling of drums broke overhead. One of them thought it was at Crumlin Mill, rather more than half a mile away, and described the report as twofold and followed by a whizzing noise or the sound of escaping steam. A second believed the cause was the running of a train off the line near by, and ran to look over the hedge, about a dozen yards off, returned, and put up a forkful of hay during the time the sound lasted. The former, from his position on the top of the haystack, saw something like a "whirl" going into the ground about 70 yards off in the adjoining field (sown with corn) with lightning speed. There was an explosion and the soil was thrown a considerable distance above the standing corn. When dug out the object, which had embedded itself in a straightdownward course for 13 inches, was found to be quite hot, continuing so for about an hour.

Another eye-witness of the fall was separated from the place by only a very small field. His attention was attracted by a hissing noise like that which a rocket produces and by an explosion. When the stone struck the ground he could see the dust rising up. He also went to the hole and estimated it as two feet deep.

The meteorite was purchased for the British Museum collection by Mr. L. Fletcher, Keeper of the Mineralogical Department, and has been on exhibition for some time in the Central Hall of the Natural History Branch, Cromwell Road, South Kensington. From the statement appended to the case it appears that the stone was actually dug up by a man gathering apples not 20 yards distant from where it fell. It may also be mentioned for the benefit of those unable to visit the museum that, as there announced, the meteorite consists chiefly of stony material, probably a mixture of Olivine and Enstatite; through it are dispersed grains of a metallic alloy of Iron and Nickel. Here and there are small nodules of the bronze-colonred mineral Troilite, a compound of iron and sulphur not found as a native terrestrial product.



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Postcard of the Crumlin meteorite, British Museum (Natural History) 1922

The Crumlin Meteorite ("The Times", November 11, 1902):


"From the various accounts which have reached the Museum of the fall of this meteorite, and as the result of personal inquiries on the spot on the part of Mr. L. Fletcher, F.R.S., Keeper of the Department of Minerals, the following authentic infomation respecting the occurrence has been obtained. 

On Saturday, September 13, at 10:30 a.m., a loud noise as of an explosion was heard at several places on the western side of Belfast -among others, Antrim, Crumlin, Lisburn, Moira, Lurgan, and Pointzpass. It is noteworthy that of these places Antrim and Pointzpass are as far as 30 miles apart. An observer at Crosshill at first thought that the detonation was due to the bursting of the boiler in the mill at Crumlin, a mile away, while other persons state they heard a rattling noise, similar to that made by a reaping machine, but much louder. The detonation was followed by another sound, Iike that made by escaping steam. 


A man, W. J. Adams, who was gathering apples from a tree on the edge of a cornfield at Crosshill, near Crumlin, was startled by these noises and still more so, immediately afterwards, by the sound as of a heavy object striking the ground not far from where he was standing. Seeing a cloud of dust rise above the growing corn, at a distance of about 20 yards from him, Adams rushed towards it, and found that a deep hole had been made in the soil. On reaching the spot he noticed a sulphurous odour around, and as to this he is corroborated by two other men, employed on the same farm, who were only a few yards further away. 

Adams went for a spade, and, within a quarter of an hour of the fall, extracted from the hole a black dense stone, which had penetrated to a depth of a foot and a half and had then been stopped by a much larger stone lying in the soil The black stone was hot when extracted, and is said to have been warm even an hour later." 


HIGH POSSIL 1804 (Scotland)

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High Possil L6; fell in Scotland 1804 April 5, 1.177g (ex coll. Prof. P. Scalisi).

From: The Herald and Advertiser, Monday April 30th, 1804.


"Three men at work in a field at Possil, about three miles north from Glasgow, in the forenoon of Thursday the 5th curt. were alarmed with a singular noise, which continued, they say, for about two minutes, seeming to proceed from the south-east to the north-west. At first, it appeared to resemble four reports from the firing of cannon, afterwards, the sound of a bell, or rather of a gong, with a violently whizzing noise; and lastly they heard a sound, as if some hard body struck, with very great force the surface of the earth."


"On the same day, in the forenoon, six men were at work in the Possil quarry, thirty feet below the surface of the ground, and there too an uncommon noise was heard, which, it is said, seemed at first to proceed from the firing of some cannon; but afterwards, the sound of hard substances hurling downwards over stones, and continuing in whole, for the space of a minute."

"By others who were at the quarry, viz. the overseer of the quarry and a man who was upon a tree, to whom he was giving directions, the noise is described as continuing about two minutes, appearing as if it began in the west, and passed around by the south towards the east; .... as if three or four cannon had been fired off, about the great bridge which conducts the Forth and Clyde canal over the river Kelvin, at the distance of a mile and a half westward from the quarry; and afterwards, as a violent rushing, whizzing noise.


Along with these last people, there were two boys, one of ten, and the other of four years old, and a dog; the dog, on hearing the noise, ran home, seemingly in a great fright. The overseer, during the continuence of the noise, on looking up to the atmosphere, observed in it a misty commotion, which occasioned in him a considerable alarm, when he called out to the man on the tree, "Come down, I think there is some judgement coming upon us," and says that the man on the tree had scarcely got upon the ground, when something struck with great force, in a drain made for turning off water in the time of, or after rain, about ninety yards distance, splashing mud and water for about twenty feet around. The elder boy, led by the noise to look upto the atmosphere, says that he observed the appearance of smoke in it, with something of a reddish colour moving rapidly through the air, from the west till it fell on the ground. The younger boy, at the instant before the stroke against the earth was heard, called out "Oh such a reek!" and says that he saw an appearance of smoke near the place where the body fell on the ground.


The overseer immediately ran up to the place where the splashing was observed, when he saw a hole made at the bottom of the drain. In that place a small stream of water, perhaps about a quarter of an inch deep, was running over a gentle declivity, and no spring is near it. The hole was filling with water, and about six inches of it remained still empty. The overseer having made bare his arm, thrust his hand and arm into the hole, which he judges to have been almost perpendicular, the bottom being perhaps a little inclined to the east, and the upper part to the west; at the bottom of the hole, he felt something hard, which he could not move with his hand. The hole was then cleared out, with a shovel and mattock, from an expectation that a cannon ball might be found, but nothing was observed except the natural stratum of soil, and a soft sandy rock upon which it lay, and two pieces of stone that had penetrated a few inches through the rock.


The pieces of stone, he took to be whinstone, and thinks that they were eighteen inches below the bottom of the drain, and that the hole was about fifteen inches in diameter. He was not sensible of any particular heat in the water, or in the pieces of stone, nor of any uncommon smell in the latter, although he applied them to his nostrils. He says that the one piece of stone was about two inches long; that the other piece was about six inches long, four inches broad, and four inches thick, blunted at the edges and end; that the fractures of these pieces exactly coincided; that he does not know whether the fracture was caused by the violence of the fall, or by the mattock; and that he never saw any such stone about the quarry."

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The High Possil Meteorite Monument, erected in 2005.

"Some days later, when the particulars which have been narrated, became known; a careful search was made for these pieces of stone, which had been disregarded, and the first mentioned piece was soon found; but the largest piece having been used as a block in the quarry, and having fallen among rubbish could not be discovered. Some days after, a fragment of it was detected. The two fragments recovered make the two extremes of the stone: on the surface, they are pretty smooth, and of a black colour; but internally they have a greyish appearance. The intermediate part larger than both seems, as yet, to be lost."


STRATHMORE 1917 (Scotland)

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Fell through a roof: Strathmore L6, Scotland 1917 Dec.3, 20.0 g ex coll. NHM (BM) London

Fall of Meteorites in Strathmore, Perth, December 3, 1917:

At about 1.18 p.m., when the Sun was shining in the south by west sky at an altitude of 10°, many persons in Edinburgh, Perth, Fife, and Forfar saw a brilliant meteor, which gave a startling flash and a series of thunder-like detonations. The direction of flight was from S.E. to N.W., and as seen from Edinburgh the meteor descended from high in the N.E. to low in the North. The sounds heard indicated the disintegration of the meteor and its comparative proximity.

Three fragments fell at Keithick Lodge, about 2 miles W.S.W. of Cupar Angus, where it penetrated the slate roof of the house; at Carsie Farm, about 3 miles N.W. from Keithick , where it was seen to fall into a grass field by a farmer's wife standing about 20 yards away; and near Easter Essendy, 2 miles W.S.W. from Blairgowrie, where it embedded itself in a grass field to the depth of 18 to 20 inches.

The attention of the police was called to the startling event, and they took possession of the fallen bodies pending further investigations.
Preliminary inquiry as to the nature of the objects proved them to be genuine meteorites of the class known as siderolites, consisting of an admixture of iron and stone. (By W. F. Denning, text abridged).

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The hole in the roof caused by one of the four Strathmore Meteorites on 3 Dec 1917.

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