There are many great storms recorded in British history, but the 1703 was particularly vicious and made quite a mess of our Royal and Mercantile navies. I have included it in this section due to the enormous losses sustained to our shipping, which scarcely seems believable. It is not recorded on any particular day but it had increased in strength over several weeks, getting worse as time went on, however, it seems to have peaked around 27th November. Be thankful we were not there.
At sea, many ships (many returning from helping the King of Spain fight the French in the War of the Spanish Succession) were wrecked, including HMS Resolution at Pevensey and on the Goodwin Sands, HMS Stirling Castle, HMS Northumberland, HMS Mary, and HMS Restoration, with about 1,500 seamen killed particularly on the Goodwins. Between 8,000 and 15,000 lives were lost overall. The first Eddystone Lighthouse was destroyed on 27 November 1703, killing six occupants, including its builder Henry Winstanley (John Rudyard was later contracted to build the second lighthouse on the site). The number of oak trees lost in the New Forest alone was 4,000.
On the Thames, around 700 ships were heaped together in the Pool of London, the section downstream from London Bridge. HMS Vanguard was wrecked at Chatham. HMS Association was blown from Harwich to Gothenburg in Sweden before way could be made back to England.
In London, the lead roofing was blown off Westminster Abbey and Queen Anne had to shelter in a cellar at St. James's Palace to avoid collapsing chimneys and part of the roof.
There was extensive and prolonged flooding in the West Country, particularly around Bristol. Hundreds of people drowned in flooding on the Somerset Levels, (shades of last winter!) along with thousands of sheep and cattle, and one ship was found 15 miles inland. Winds of up to 80mph killed 123 people and destroyed more than 400 windmills - many of which caught fire due to the friction of their wildly-spinning sails.
Daniel Defoe, who travelled the country afterwards assessing the damage, reported that men and animals were lifted off their feet and carried for yards through the air and that lead roofs were ripped from one hundred churches. The Robinson Crusoe author reported seeing a tornado which "snapped the body of an oak".
At Wells, Bishop Richard Kidder was killed when two chimneystacks in the palace fell on the bishop and his wife, asleep in bed. This same storm blew in part of the great west window in Wells Cathedral. Major damage occurred to the south-west tower of Llandaff Cathedral at Cardiff.
The storm caught a convoy of 130 merchant ships and their Man of War escorts, the Dolphin, the Cumberland, the Coventry, the Looe, the Hastings and the Hector sheltering at Milford Haven. By 3pm the next afternoon losses included 30 vessels
The Royal Navy was badly affected, losing thirteen ships, and upwards of fifteen hundred seamen drowned.
The third rate Restoration was wrecked on the Goodwin Sands; of the ship's company of 387 not one was saved.
The third rate Northumberland was lost on the Goodwin Sands; all 220 men, including 24 marines were killed.
The third rate Stirling Castle was wrecked on the Goodwin Sands. Seventy men, including four marine officers, were saved, but 206 men were drowned.
The fourth rate Mary was wrecked on the Goodwin Sands. The captain and the purser were ashore, but Rear Admiral Beaumont and 268 other men were drowned. Only one man, whose name was Thomas Atkins, was saved. His escape was very remarkable - having first seen the rear admiral get onto a piece of her quarter-deck when the ship was breaking up, and then get washed off again, Atkins was tossed by a wave into the Stirling Castle, which sank soon after. From the Stirling Castle he was swept into a boat by a wave, and was rescued.
The fifth rate Mortar-bomb was wrecked on the Goodwin Sands and her entire company of 65 were lost.
The sixth rate advice boat Eagle was lost on the coast of Sussex, but her ship's company of 45 were all saved.
The third rate Resolution was lost on the coast of Sussex; all her ship's company of 221 were saved.
The fifth rate Litchfield Prize was wrecked on the coast of Sussex; all 108 on board were saved.
The fourth rate Newcastle was lost at Spithead. The carpenter and 39 men were saved, and the other 193 were drowned.
The fifth rate fire-ship Vesuvius was lost at Spithead; all 48 of her ship's company were saved.
The fourth rate Reserve was lost by foundering off Yarmouth. The captain, the surgeon, the clerk, and 44 men were saved; the other 175 members of the crew were drowned.
The second rate Vanguard was sunk in Chatham harbour. She was not manned and had no armament fitted; the following year she was raised for rebuilding.
The fourth rate York was lost at Harwich; all but four of her men were saved.
It was claimed 10,000 seamen were lost in one night, a far higher figure, about 1/3 of all the seamen in the British Navy.
Over 40 merchant ships were lost.