1638 Thunderstorm, Widecombe in the Moor, Dartmoor National Park

1638 Thunderstorm, Widecombe in the Moor, Dartmoor National Park

Inside Widecombe St Pancras Church, at the base of the tower, are four wallboards telling the story of the 1638 Thunderstorm. The following transcription was taken from photos.

'It is of the Lords mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. Lam.III.2.2.
The merciful and gracious Lord hath so done his marvelous works that they ought to be had in remembrance. Psalm. CXI. 4.
In token of our thanks to God, these tables are erected.
Who in a dreadful thunder storm, our persons here protected
Within this church of widicombe, 'mongst many fearful signs
The manner of it is declar'd in these ensuing lines.
In sixteen hundred thirty eight, october twenty first,
On the Lords day at afternoon, when people were addrest
To their devotion in this church while singing here they were,
A Psalm distrusting nothing of the danger then so near;
A crack of thunder suddenly, with lightning hail & fire,
Fell on the church and tower here, and ran into the choir;
A sulpherous smell came with it, & the tower strangly rent,
The stones abroad into the air, with violence were sent.

Some broken small as dust or sand, some whole as they came out,
From of the building and here lay, in places round about:
Some fell upon the church, and brake the rook in many places,
Men so perplex'd were they knew not one anothers faces.
They all or most were stupified, with that so strange a smell,
Or other force what e're it was which at that time befell,
One man was struck dead, two wounded so they died few hours-after,
No father could think on his son or mother mind her daughter
One man was scorcht so that liv'd, but fourteen days & died
Whose cloaths was verry little burnt, but many were beside.
Were wounded scorcht and stupified in that so strange a storm,
Which who had seen would say twas hard for to preserve a worm:
The different affection of people, then were such,
That touching some particulars, we have omitted much.
But what we here related have is truth in most mens mouths;
Some had their skin all over scorcht, yet no harm in their cloaths.

One man had money in his purse, which melted was in part,
A key likewise which hung thereto, and yet the purse no hurt,
Save only some black holes, so small as with a needle made,
Lightning some say,no scabberd hurts, but breaks & melts ye blade
One man there was sat on the bier, which stood fast by the wall,
The bier was tore with stones that fell, he had no harm at all;
Not knowing how he thence came forth, nor how ye bier was torn,
Thus in this doleful accident, great numbers were forborne.
Amongst the rest a little child which scarce knew good from ill,
Was seen to walk amidst the church, and yet preserved still:
The greatest admiration was, that most men should be free,
Among so many dangers here, which we did head and see.
The church within so filled was with timber stones and fire,
That scarce a vacant place was seen in church or in the choir;
Nor had we memory to strive, from those things to be gone,
Which would have been but work in vain, all was so quickly done.

The wit of man could not cast down so much from of the steeple,
Upon the curch's roof and not destroy much of the people;
But he who rules both air and fire, and other forces all,
Hath us preserv'd bless be his name, in that most dreadful fall.
If ever people had a cause, to serve the Lord and pray,
For judgment and deliverance, then surely we are they:
Which that we may perform, we beg th' asistance of his grace,
That we at last in heaven may have with him a dwelling place.
All you that look upn these lines of this so sad a story,
Remember who hath you preserv'd ascribe unto his glory:
The preservation of your lives who might have lost your breath,
When others did if mercy had not crept 'twixt you and death;
We hope that they were well prepar'd, altho we know not how,
Twas then with them its well with you, if you are ready now.
Amos IV:II. Ye were as a firebrand pluck'd out of the burning.
1786. Peter and Silvester Mann, Church - Wardens.