submitted by Elaine Clarke
THE KIDDERMINSTER SHUTTLE - JUNE 6 1908
Wednesday Night’s Storm
Those who had any experience of the storm on Wednesday evening will not soon forget it. The whole of the West Midlands would seem to have had an almost simultaneous visitation, but its centre was probably around the Woodberry and Ankerdine hills, for it was in the Martley and Astley districts that the more serious damage was sustained.
The heat during the day had been almost tropical. The "blistering sun" had been shining for many hours in a cloudless sky. There was scarcely any breeze. Then the sky became overcast, and in a few minutes a terrific thunder-storm was upon us. It came up from the South-West, then rolled on to the North-West and went back again towards the South. Soon after eight o'clock an almost Cimmerian darkness prevailed. The flashes of forked lightning, averaging about 20 per minute, were exceedingly vivid and the thunder sharp and almost deafening. It was almost entirely an earth storm; the flashes were perpendicular and only a few were horizontal and of great variety of form, but some flashes descended with great streamers from one centre, diverging over a considerable area. The grandest lightning effects were seen when the centre of the storm was around Stourport. There may have been storms of greater intensity but one could not have been more awe-inspiring than that of Wednesday night, which lasted for nearly three hours.
The rainfall was quite torrential. The records vary, but during the storm the fall was nearly three-quarters of an inch, representing about 70 tons per acre. This heavy fall made great demands upon the Borough drains, and some of them were unable to carry away all the water. The result was that for a short time portions of Mill-street, Blackwell-street, Waterloo-street, and other thoroughfares were flooded. At the pumping station every effort was made to cope with the phenomenal downpour. The centrifugal pumps as well as the ordinary pumps were worked at high pressure, and it is fortunate that no serious damage occurred.
When the storm was at its height a report was received at the Police Station that a fire had occurred at the carpet works of Messrs. Harrison, Kempson & Co., of Dixon-street. The members of the Fire Brigade had already assembled at the station house for their weekly practice. They instantly went to the works, to find that the alarm was not well founded. Some rubbish had been burnt on the land near Boucher's Ice Works. Persons on Comberton-hill saw the blaze, and the fire reflected in the windows of the offices and warehouses of the carpet works. They had become alarmed, and sent a messenger to the Police Station.
In another part of our issue we refer to the remarkable experiences of some of those assembled at the Baptist Church to hear Dr. Clifford. At least one other congregation had an exciting experience. Many had gathered for the week-night service at the Mission Church in the Rock district, when the storm swept the district with great suddenness and fury. Mr. Matthews was taking the service. The building is of corrugated iron, and the noise of the falling rain and the thunder was terrific. The homes of some of the mothers were far away, and to face the storm was not possible. They were compelled to remain in a condition of great nervous excitement for a considerable period, and the best sedative was found to be the singing of hymns.
The thunderstorms which passed over Stourport and district was the worst experienced for a quarter of a century. Some considerable time before the storm reached Stourport crowds flocked to places of prominence to view its approach and its awful grandeur. Flash after flash of forked lightening followed in quick succession, and towards eight o'clock the place was in darkness. The cracking of the lightning, the deafening roar of the thunder, and the rattling of windows, doors and furniture were terrifying. It seemed as though the ground around was cracking and the whole place was being shaken. Children screamed, mothers were frantic; while others in their fright even sought refuge in cellars and basements of buildings.
The Fire Brigade was called out no less than three times to fires occasioned by the storm. While the storm was at its worst a large cowshed belonging to Mrs. Worth was struck by lightning, and almost before the Brigade had extinguished it news arrived that three cottages at Astley had been struck and were fired. The glare in the sky in that direction soon confirmed the report, and the Brigade were on the scene with considerable promptitude, having regard to all the circumstances. The fire had however been raging close upon two hours when they arrived at the scene, and there was no hope of saving the old buildings. It is something short of a miracle that no lives were lost, considering the fact that in all 19 people were in the three houses. Scarcely had the Brigade returned from Astley than they received a third call. This time to a small fire, which happily had already been subdued when they arrived there.
The chimney pot of the residence of Mr. Stones, Corporation Farm manager, was displaced, and falling down the chimney did considerable damage.
As one of the cars between Kidderminster and Stourport was nearing Stourport eight out of ten of the electric lamps fused and burst - as a result of the tempest. The controller was also damaged and the "way slate" was torn from the hands of the conductor and hurled against the chest of a passenger, who regarded the situation as so uncomfortable as to prefer to walk. Cars were also blocked at Foley Park owing to the heavy rain.
The chimney of a cottage occupied by Mrs. Lane, residing near the Rock, Wilden-lane, was struck, and several articles of furniture damaged and burnt. A mirror was split in two, and a clock thrown oft' the wall. Other chimneys in the locality were also struck. Two trees were struck and split in two. One belonging to Mr Timmis, of the Wire Mill, and another situate near the Wilden cricket field. Several of the houses in Brook-side, Wilden-lane, were flooded, and loose articles of furniture in the yard floated about in the water.
THREE COTTAGES BURNT AT ASTLEY -
The most serious damaged occurred at Astley, where three thatched cottages on the Pound Farm were destroyed. The property, which is said to be very old, belongs to Mr Arthur Jones, of Ombersley, and is situate at the bottom of the hill near Astley Church. The cottages were occupied by three farm hands, viz: William Davis, wife and son; James Badham, wife and four children; John Goodyear, wife and eight children. The scene on Thursday presented a pitiful sight. Bits of furniture here, there, and everywhere. The iron frames of bedsteads were hanging on the beams. The furniture of Mr Davis was for the most part saved, although much damaged. A small amount of Mr. Badham's furniture was saved, but scarcely any of Mr. Goodyear's. They having eight children to protect had to leave the furniture and clothing, which formed their whole belongings. Badham and Goodyear are, therefore, with twelve children between diem, left entirely penniless. Farm labourers with their proverbially small wages, must have a hard task to furnish a home under the most rosy conditions, but here the chances of again doing so with eight and four children respectively to feed and clothe must be very remote. It is hoped that people of the district will render immediate help.
On arriving at the scene on Thursday morning our correspondent found the occupiers of the cottagers gazing vacantly at the smouldering fire, with hands still trembling and tears trickling down their sorrowful faces. So far as be ascertained it appears that Mrs. Badham's and Mr. Goodyear's cottages were struck by separate flashes in rapid succession - and how they all escaped with their lives is a miracle.
Here are their own stories. Mrs. Goodyear said: "I and my husband had been at work all day, and had no sooner returned home in the evening, about eight o'clock, than the storm burst over us in great fury. The rain poured in torrents and flooded the lane. Articles of furniture and windows rattled, and so terrified were all of us as not to think of having our tea. We all crowded into the pantry, thinking perhaps it would not be so bad, but flash after flash came, one on the top of another, till we really were frightened to death. As we were in the pantry I heard a terrific crash, and immediately a ball of fire as big as my fist fell on to the two stone door-steps and smashed them to smithereens. We were all of us then in the room. The fire ball seemed to bounce, and the room was filled with sulphur, and the kitchen floor immediately set on fire - all ablaze. We ran to Mr. Bullock's, the farmer, who kindly took us in. The water in the lane was up to my knees when I went with the children. None of the children were burnt, but I thought we should all have been killed. We have lost everything, and have simply nothing at all except what we stand up in. Neither food nor clothes."
Mrs. Badham related a similar story. She said: "I was just putting the children to bed, when all at once there was a terrible crash. The room seemed to be all on fire, and the sulphur nearly choked us. My hair was singed. The windows crashed and were broken. I ran down stairs and the sulphur was just as bad there. The furniture was thrown all about and mortar fled in all directions. I have lost pretty well all my furniture, and don't know whatever I shall do. I am thankful to say none of the children were hurt. I never saw such a terrible storm."
William Davis, an elderly man, said he never remembered a storm so bad. It seemed to be all lightning. He was stood at his door when he heard the youngsters next door squealing. He ran to see what was the matter. The house was full of sulphur. The thunderbolt came straight through the roof and first floor into the kitchen. It made a hole in the floor as big as your fist. I thought they were all killed.
In the Chaddesley Corbett district many trees were struck by lightning. The local candidates of the Girls' Friendly Society were driving from Worcester to Chaddesley Corbett during the progress of the storm. They escaped injury, but all of them were drenched by the storm. Roads were flooded and torn up in places and passengers had to make circuitous routes to reach their homes. Owing to the severe thunderstorm the postal authorities were unable to work the local telegraph from Chaddesley to Kidderminster.
WOMAN KILLED AT MARTLEY
Mrs. Randall, wife of a district roadman at Martley, was killed by the lightning. She was at her home sitting in the kitchen some distance from the fireplace, when the chimney was struck by lightning. The current passed down the chimney stack and struck a teacaddy on the mantelpiece. It then struck Mrs. Randall. Dr. Good was called in, and found that death was due to lightning, the only outward sign of which was a slight mark on the neck. Mr. Randall escaped injury, although he was close to his wife when she was struck.
THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY
Widespread havoc has been wrought throughout the country by the series of violent thunderstorms which have resulted from the excessive heat experienced the last few days. Several people have been killed by lightning, dozens of houses and other buildings have been struck, and cattle and sheep destroyed. Wholesale flooding has resulted from the torrential rain-storms which accompanied the thunder. A town - Askerigg in Wensleydale - was practically submerged. Railway bridges have been washed away, and embankments destroyed.
Cottages Birned Down at Astley (from another paper)
Three old cottages at Astley, between the school and the church, were destroyed by fire. They were known as Berrington Cottages, and were built in 1641. One of the women occupants was putting her childeren to bed when the lightning passed through the thatched roof of the cottage, and made a hole through the bedroom floor, and passed out of the front door. The children and other occupants were unharmed, but the cottages were set on fire. The Storport Fire Brigade attended, but the cottages and most of their contents were destroyed. No one was injured. Many persons have shown sympathy with the people who have lost their goods, by gifts of money, food, and clothing.
Comments about the photographs
Postcards were sold to raise funds for the poor families who were left with nothing. I believe the generosity of the people around was extremely good. My father, Harold William Badham (no, not Harold the co-ordinator) was aged exactly 15 months being born on 3 March 1907, and the fire was on 3 June 1908. He told me that for a few days the family lived in the barn of a local farmer on straw palliases and using the facilities of the farm who fed and clothed them in the days following.
The following comments are for each of the photographs.
Astley Cottages 1
This photo shows my grandfather, James Badham (left of picture) with, we think, his son Herbert, who was aged seven at the time. This postcard was sent to Ethel Badham by her friend and says on the back, as a PS "you will see your father on this card. I have got one with us all on. Your father is going to send Sid one." Sid was the eldest son of the first marriage of James Badham. She also says "Herbert's face is not much better. Baby is better," my father did suffer from asthma so perhaps the fire caused a problem here.
My grandfather was the gardener for Stanley Baldwin which might be interesting for a short piece at a later time.
Astley Cottages 2
This photo shows all the people who were made homeless by the fire and presumably the writer of the card above as it is from Ida Gittins who was not as far as I am aware one of the people who lived in the cottages.
The lady in the centre who is holding the baby is my grandmother, Mary Ann Badham, and the baby of course is my father. Note how well dressed everyone is in view of the circumstances! We have always thought the lady with the apron is my great-grandmother, Mary Badham nee Sheppard.
Astley Cottages 3
Another view of the devastation. Note the pigs in the foreground to the left! The lady in the centre with the baby is my grandmother and my father, the children near her are possibly Herbert, Edith and Leonard Badham and again great grandma with the apron.
Astley Cottages 4
The cottages as they were. They were built around the 1640's and as many buildings of the era built as an E but without the centre strut. The two ends were the largest cottages with a slightly smaller one in the centre.
My grandfather, James Badham married twice. His first wife, Emma Prosser, died leaving young children and as was com-mon for the time my grandfather married again, this time to Mary Ann Winnall. He stated on his marriage certificate that he was 38 but in fact was 42. My grandmother was 22 and was disowned by the family for marrying "an old man." This family often gave incorrect ages, appearing younger than they were.
Ethel Jane (1886)
Emma Mabel (1889)
Elizabeth Honora (1891)
Herbert James (1899)
Edith Mary (1902)
Leonard John (1905)
Harold William (1907)
Walter Henry (1909)
Evelyn Mary (1913).
Frederick died as a baby, Evelyn Mary is still living at Great Witley.
Elaine says that her mother's father attended the fire and that family myths should be investigated - there is almost always a grain of truth in there. Also we often neglect the newspapers of the day in our research. She personally has found much information from local newspapers.
The Badham One Name Society would like to thank the editor, Clive Joyce, of the Kidderminster Shuttle for permission to publish the article from their June 6th 1908 edition. Photographs are by JS & IL Wedley of Stourport.