History on 30th October

Deadliest British Tornado

Pontypridd, South Wales The 30th of October 1913 AD

Though we like to think that extreme weather events happen to other, well, foreign people, Britain over the centuries has had its fair share, including plenty of tornadoes. The first of which a recorded history remains was the Great London Tornado of 1091. In 1729 a waterspout, that is a tornado passing over the sea, made landfall at Bexhill to destructive effect. Rather more humorously another such dropped fish into gardens in Great Yarmouth in 2000.
What happened on October 30 1913 in Edwardsville, Abercynon and Cilfynydd near Pontypridd in Glamorgan was, however, far from amusing. A terrible storm passed over Devon and Somerset , crossed the Bristol Channel , and struck with increased power in Glamorgan, its track about 200m at Cilfynydd widening to 300m by the time it reached Edwardsville.
Any light structures in its path – kennels, henhouses, sheds – were ripped into the air and smashed. Whole terraces had their roofs peeled off, a chapel was all but destroyed, and tragically there were six fatalities, among them one Thomas Harries, thrown quarter of a mile to his death; a Mr Woolford, captain of the Ton Pentre FC team returning from a match, was picked up and dashed against a wall, his skull fracturing fatally on impact. More than 100 were injured too.
A contemporary eye-witness description makes fascinating reading, the headmaster of the Boys’ School in Edwardsville happening to be an amateur meteorologist. He detailed the change from red lightning to blue; how the blue flashes rolled over the ground; the sound being so like motor-lorries that his household believed several such had collided and were about to explode; a great clock stopped seemingly by the sudden drop in air pressure; and the lightning strikes igniting recently-laid asphalt.
The storm continued north; over Shropshire and into Cheshire where it caused great damage in Runcorn and Widnes, though no further human fatalities – several cattle were killed by it, however.
As is the way with terrible events, this one followed close behind another in the area, the Caerphilly mining disaster just two weeks previously claiming 439 lives.

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