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DESCRIBED AND IMPROVED,
A PARTICULAR ACCOUNT
SUDDEN STOPPAGE OF THE RIVER SEVERN, AND
OF THE TERRIBLE DESOLATION
COLEBROOK-DALE AND BUILDWAS-BRIDGE,
On Thursday Morning, May 27, 1773 ;
SUBSTANCE OF A SERMON
PREACHED THE NEXT DAY, ON THE RUINS, TO A
VAST CONCOURSE OF SPECTATORS.
REV. JOHN FLETCHER.
O come, and behold the works of the Lord: What desolations he hath
WHICH GAVE OCCASION
TO THE FOLLOWING DISCOURSE.
HEARING on Thursday, May 27, 1773, that a place called the Birches, (probably from some remarkable birch trees, which formerly grew there,) many acres of land, which a gentleman of my parish holds on the borders of Buildwas parish, had that morning, about four o'clock, suffered strange revolutions, as well as the river Severn: I went to see if there was any foundation for so extraordinary a report.
When I came to the spot, the first thing that struck me, was the destruction of the little bridge, that separated the Parish of Madeley from that of Buildwas, and the total disappearing of the turnpike-road to Buildwas-bridge, instead of which nothing presented itself to my view, but a confused heap of bushes, and huge clods of earth, tumbled one over another. The river also wore a different aspect. It was shallow, turbid, noisy, boisterous, and came down from a different point. Whether I considered the water or the land, the scene appeared to me entirely new, and as I could not fancy the God of nature had shaken his providential iron rod over the subverted spot before me.
Following a tract made by a great number of specta. 1: tors, who came already from the neighbouring parishes, I climbed over the ruins, and came to a field well-grown 1 with rye-grass, where the ground was deeply cracked in a pre several places; and where large turfs, some entirely, others half turned up, exhibited the appearance of straight or crooked furrows, imperfectly formed by a plough drawn at a venture.
Getting from that field over the hedge, into a part of 2 the road, which was yet visible, I found it raised in one place, sunk in another, concave in a third, hanging on one side in a fourth, and contracted, as if some uncommon force had pressed the two hedges together. But the higher part of it surprised me most, and brought ? directly to my remembrance those places of Mount Vesu. vius, where the solid, stony lava has been strongly worked by repeated earthquakes; for the hard beaten gravel, that formed the surface of the road, was broken every way into huge masses, partly detached from each party other, with deep apertures between them, exactly like the shattered lava. This striking likeness of circumstances made me conclude, that the similar effect might 27 proceed from the same cause, namely, a strong convul. sion in the surface if not in the bowels of the earth.
Going a little farther towards Buildwas, I found that the road was again totally lost for a considerable space; having been overturned, absorbed, or tumbled, with the hedges that bounded it, to a considerable distance to. wards the river. This part of the desolation appeared then to me inexpressibly dreadful.
Between the road and the river, there was a large field of promising oats, running in length parallel to both I got into it over a stile that had been shocked out of its proper position. Wonderful and unaccountable are the revolutions, which that piece of ground had suffered. It was not flat, but diversified in its surface by some gra. dual falls and eminences; and now I found it had been tossed in so strange a manner, that the old mounts had
sunk into hollows, and the hollows were raised into mounts, one of which is eight or nine yards higher than the road.
This is not all ; this field is rent throughout, like the shattered part of the road; with this difference, that the mis-shapen masses into which it is torn, are in general larger, and the apertures between them deeper than those of the road. Some of these enormous lumps were so detached from the rest, as to totter under the weight of the spectators, when they jumped from one to the other, which made several persons afraid to venture upon the desultory walk; nor indeed without reason, for had they slided into some of the apertures, they might have gone in many feet, and remained wedged in between two ruin. ous lumps of earth.
Between that shattered field and the river, there was that morning a bank, on which, besides a great deal of onderwood, grew twenty fine large oaks. This wood shot with such violence into the Severn before it, that it forced the water in great columns a considerable height, like mighty fountains, and gave the overflowing river a retrograde motion.
This is not the only accident that happened to the Severn; for near the grove, the channel, which was chiefly of a soft blue rock, burst in ten thousand pieces, and rose perpendicularly about ten yards, heaving up an immense quantity of water, and the shoals of fishes that were therein. Among the rubbish at the bottom of the river, which was very deep in that place, there were one or two huge stones, and a large piece of timber, or an oak tree, which from time immemorial had lain partly in the mud, I suppose in consequence of some food. The stones and the tree were thrown up, as if they had only been a pebble and a stick, and are now at some distance from the river, many feet higher than the surface of it.
Ascending from the ruins of the road, I came to those of a barn, which, after travelling many yards towards the river, had been absorbed in a chasm, where the shattered roof was yet visible. Next to these remains of