Over the years Deal, Walmer and Sandwich have experienced the wrath of several natural phenomena, which have included earthquakes, waterspouts, area gales, storms and even whirlwinds and cyclones. The assistant curate of Walmer, Reverend Charles R. S. Elvin wrote in 1890 in his book ‘Records of Walmer’ reporting on the devastating route that a whirlwind took, which damaged and caused havoc to buildings from Lower Walmer, and may have continued as far as Whitfield, near Dover. The whirlwind, also described as a cyclone, took place on Thursday October 24, 1878, and it was stated “slates from Walmer Court were blown to a distance of 3,400 feet, and the rigging of some vessels in the Downs……. was encumbered with hay and straw, and we believe, in one case, a branch of a tree fell on the deck.“
The Deal Telegram newspaper gave a full report of the incident stating that a strong southerly breeze had begun and then proceeded with a moderate south-westerly wind the previous night, which caused vessels to seek shelter in the Downs off Deal, and steadily progressed to a hurricane. This resulted in houses becoming unroofed, chimneys blown down, windows and window frames blown in, trees torn up and even the gable ends of some house being blown out.
One of the worst affected properties was believed to have been Walmer Court Farm, which for many years was located close to the Old St. Mary’s Church at Upper Walmer, and is now occupied by homes in Menzies Avenue and Church Street. Many of the trees near the farm were uprooted, while others had large branches snapped from them, or scattered around the premises. The brick-built house at Walmer Court had its lead roof turned up, several chimneys blown back, and the tiles on the roof were partially stripped. The majority of the other farm buildings were destroyed, with the implement-shed being blown away across the bullock yard, with the bullocks espying without any obvious harm. One sheep was killed, and two received injuries that lead to them having to be slaughtered, while some of the Christmas sheep were buried. All the bullock-lodges were destroyed, along with a cart and wagon lodges. Only the brick walls of outbuildings remained as the roofs of the carpenter’s saw-lodge and riding horse stable were lost. The front carriageway to the Court was completely blocked with falling trees and broken timber.
The cyclone was said to have then taken the direction of passing Walmer Court across the fields on the west side of Walmer Hill towards the South Barracks at Lower Walmer, where it blew down thirty to forty yards of the strongly built barracks wall. The cyclone then proceeded towards the barracks entrance gates and went on towards Cambridge Place in an easterly direction. As it passed through the barracks gates it overturned the sentry-box with a sentry in it, who was given assistance after escaping with just a few bruises and a crushed helmet. It then crossed the roadway towards Palmerston Villas, where it took off the roof of Ely House, carrying away the chimneys, and sending them through the roof of another property. The same property also had every floor crushed and carried through to the lower apartments, carrying furniture and even a grand pianoforte, right through the budding and landing in the kitchen.
Two houses were also affected in Cambridge Terrace, which completely collapsed the whole side of one of the properties, exposing the staircases and bedrooms. The Granville Arms public house was also affected and was partially unroofed with chimney pots destroyed. Many of small properties and houses also received damage, as the whirlwind travelled in the direction of Walmer Court.
Two properties in Cambridge-terrace had been left with their staircases and bedrooms open to the street view, which left them in such a dangerous condition that they couldn’t continue to be occupied. The Granville Arms public house had been partially unroofed, along with its chimney pots destroyed. It was considered that such little personal injury was suffered by residents since they were not at hem during the event, but had it occurred at night then consequences might have been so much worse. It wasn’t long before hundreds of local residents from across Deal and Walmer visited the area to be amazed at the amount of destruction being caused in such a short space of time. (Written by Colin Varrall)
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