Memories of the Dudley Earthquake, Part 2.

Over the past ten years there have been several rock and fossil fairs in Dudley, but no more events like that of September 2002. So what do people remember about it? Readers of the BCGS newsletter were asked to send in their memories of that night. Many of these were similar to the accounts the BGS recorded back in 2002.

Like many at the time BGCS member Chris Broughton recalled how he slept right through it, “and never felt a thing”. Messages left on the Geology Matters website, included an account from Paul Goodrich, who lives in Manchester, “I thought I had left the handbrake off my car and it had rolled gently down to the house, but rather than the first single jolt, there was also a brief low rumble and the doors rattled”. Christine Hawthorne, from Perton was sitting in her lounge at the time, “when the chair moved!” then, “My friend rang to ask if I felt it too! Could not believe it”.

BGCS newsletter editor, John Schroder, working in Kyoto at the time was hoping to experience an earthquake whilst touring Japan. Disappointedly he recalled how, “The Earth didn’t move for me in Japan”, but was surprised, on phoning his wife Julie in Birmingham, “to be told that I had missed one in Dudley!”

John Radley, Curator of Natural Sciences at the Warwickshire Museum Service, remembered how the Dudley earthquake occurred exactly two years after one in Warwick.  That night, up late watching the television John heard a noise, “Something like a train, moving rapidly closer (sounded like it was travelling up the garden towards the house) culminating in a rumbling and mild shaking”. Having experienced the Warwick earthquake he knew exactly what it was and was soon texting friends and listening to reports on local radio.

Dr Colin Prosser, Principal Specialist in Geodiversity at Natural England, was staying with his mother, in Dudley, at the time before travelling to a meeting in Bournemouth the next morning. He remembers vividly, “the rumbling of the quake as it woke me, like a tube train approaching, and my mother and others in the street popping outdoors in dressing gowns to reassure each other”. The next day at his meeting, pleased at the chance of feeling the event Colin was introduced as ‘English Nature’s geologist who had been, “shaken out of bed in Dudley by an earthquake”.

BCGS Chairman, Gordon Hensman was having a nightcap in his sitting room when the earthquake struck and remembered how, “The drinks trolley and the china cabinet both shook and clinked as glasses and precious ceramics hit each other. Constable’s “Hay Wain” swung to and fro, and Millais’ “Last of England”, moved an inch from the wall and back again, while the shade on the standard lamp joined in the general animation. What on earth was happening? That nightcap in my hand was certainly powerful stuff, and I had to down it in one to prevent it spilling as the armchair lurched from left to right and back again”. After two coal blackened miners walked through his sitting room wall, speaking deepest Black Country, Gordon checked his empty glass as it slowly dawned on him that, “there had been an earthquake – no other explanation!” A few days later he heard from some friends who told him of their experience in Brittany when the stone building they were staying in was subject to strong shaking from the earthquake. 

Maragret Rodway, from the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust, recalled how having experienced three earthquakes since living in Malvern she was unfortunately, “in Bath at the time of the Dudley one”. However, her father who lives in Rowley Regis remembered the shaking, “Afterwards he found that most of the mortar on the outside of the damp course of his bungalow had fallen out, so he assumed that the house must have shifted slightly on its foundations”.

Local walking group members also offered their memories of the Dudley earthquake. Many slept through it, however some remembered the event like Steve Tustin, from Tipton, who recalled how a large rumbling sound woke him up, “my house also felt like it was slightly shaking as I had been in a deep slumber I was totally unaware of what was happening!” Then the neighbour was banging on Steve’s front door, worried about what was going on and fearing that the nearby Midland metro had derailed.

Outside they noticed several other people out on the street in their night clothes all wondering at what had just occurred. Steve discovered that it was an earthquake the following morning on the radio. Three days later he noticed, “a crack in the concrete floor of the garage that hadn’t been there before”, and “two roof tiles that had been dislodged and slid into the guttering”.

Another walking group member was woken up by the sound of the earthquake rattling furniture. Whilst another thought from the noise that, “the garage had collapsed”. One member living in Bedford at the time only felt a minor shudder, but was surprised on waking the next morning to hear people talking about his home town of Dudley. Another group member, living at home in Dudley, was up working late when she felt the earthquake and saw her computer shaking.  Her parents however, “woke up, believing it to be the dog”.

By Andy Harrison
BCGS Field Secretary
West Midlands

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