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A Strange Storm In Shoreditch

September 15, 2018
by the gentle author

As well as collecting his experiences of life in his diaries, Samuel Pepys collected many other things, including prints of the Cries of London, cheese wrappers and Broadsheet Ballads. Thanks to his foresight, these are all preserved in the Pepys Library at his former college, Magdalene College, Cambridge.

This broadsheet from his collection records something strange and wondrous that happened in Shoreditch on 18th May 1630, when hailstones eight inches in circumference fell from the sky resulting in the near-fatality of a hemp dresser. Connoisseurs of doggerel can enjoy the full story below.

Learn more about the history of this ancient parish at an exhibition of artefacts recently excavated by Museum of London Archaeology, open now at St Leonard’s Church from Tuesday to Sunday each week until 14th October.

Click on this image to enlarge

Good Christians all attend unto my Ditty,
And you shall hear strange News from London City;
The like before I think you ne’r did hear,
Which well may fill our hearts with Dread and Fear.
Upon the Eighteenth of this present May,
A Tempest strange, pray mind me what I say:
So Strange, I think the like was never known,
As I can hear of yet by anyone.
Hail-stones as bigg as Eggs a pace down fell,
And some much bigger, as I hear some tell:
Who took them up as they lay on the ground,
And Measur’d, they were found Eight Inches round.
And Fourteen Ounces two of them did Weigh,
As one who weigh’d them unto me did say:
It is so strange, and yet so very true,
The like before no mortal ever knew.
Much mischief by these Hail-Stones there was done,
For in St Leonard Shoreditch there was one
Who as he was was a dressing Hemp, ’tis said,
All on a sudden he was stricken dead.
His Child being by at this was terriffi’d,
My Father he is dead, the Child he cry’d:
At this Out-cry Neigbours came in amain,
And found the man as they supposed slain.
Great care was taken by his friends and Wife,
All Art was us’d to bring him unto Life:
So that at last they found that he had breath,
And God preserv’d him from that sudden death.
He in his Bed in trembling manner lies,
A stranger sight ne’e seen with mortal eyes:
His Hat was burnt, the hair scorcht off his breast,
With Limbs struck lame, full sad to be exprest.
The very Fowls that flew up in the Air
Were stricken dead, it plainly doth appear:
Wings from their bodies parted by this Hail.
A Story true, although a dreadful Tale.
Trees of their Branches then was stripped quite,
Some people from their Houses put to flight:
Such Terrours then possest the hearts of men,
The like I hope they’ll never see agen.
Let all good people keep this in their minds,
He’l nothing lose who for his Sins repines:
For this I fear for-runs some stranger things,
And’s sent for warning by the King of Kings.
Who only knows what there is to follow,
And when the Grave each sinful man shall swallow
Repent in time and fit your selves for Death,
Then do not fear how soon you lose your breath.
Fitted for Death, you fitter are to Live,
Dispise not then this counsel which I give:
You do not know when Death shall give the stroke,
But that once done, your heart is quickly broke.
He that’s prepared, grim Death cannot afright,
What man doth fear what doth his heart delight:
A Christian true desires Dissolv’d to be,
That he may Live with God Eternally.
These things as judgements surely they are sent,
That all poor Sinners timely Repent:
E’re vengeance fall, for then ’twill be too late,
For to Deplore your Sinful wretched state.
But them who boldly say, There is no GOD,
Shall surely taste of his sharp scourging Rod:
Vengeance shall overtake them e’re they know,
Into the Pit of Darkness they must go.


Image reproduced courtesy Pepys Library, Magdalene College, Cambridge

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Strange & Terrible News From Spittlefields

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Greg Tingey permalink
    September 15, 2018

    Plainly a previous incarnation of the dreaded McGonagall!

  2. David Brown permalink
    September 16, 2018

    Love the comment on Cheese Wrappers… is this worthy of a separate blog post?

  3. Jill wilson permalink
    September 17, 2018


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