Natural phenomena at Lelant

Maxwell Adams 2008
Version 16 March 2008

This is about weather, earthquakes, floods, and so on. The general incursion of sand and its effect on Lelant and St Uny's church are discussed in The sands of printless foot.


15 July 1757. An earthquake about 1830 hours, felt among other places in St Ives and Hayle, and presumably therefore Lelant. An account is William BORLASE 'An account of the earthquake in the west parts of Cornwall July 15, 1757' in Philosphical transactions 1757-1758, pages 499-505 (volume 50), published by the Royal Society. This Borlase article includes: "At Huel-Rith mine, in the parish of Lannant, people saw the earth move under them, first quick, then in a slower wavy tremor; and the stage-boards of the little winds or shafts twenty fathoms deep were perceived to move" (page 503). The earthquake was felt all over Cornwall. Huel-Rith is Wheal Reeth.

13 January 1860. An earthquake felt all over Cornwall.

Sunday 10 November 1996. At about 0928 hours there was an earthquake in Cornwall, the epicentre being off Land's End. It measured about 3.8 on the Richter scale. I felt it at Sappho, Lelant, a long rumble that shook the house for seconds. No damage here, a few cracked ceilings elsewhere. [Maxwell Adams]

There was a small earthquake with an epicentre in the sea off Penzance in the early hours of 8 February 1998. An account of it, and some previous ones, is in the St Ives Times and Echo of 13 February 1998.

Sea storms and shipwrecks

There are several references to shipwrecks at Lelant between 1514/15 and 1575/76, presumably because of storms, in POOL P.A.S. 'The Penheleg manuscript' in the RIC Journal, 1959, 163-228. The names of the ships are not given.

On 6 November 1780 the brigantine Recovery of Kings LYnn, carrying a cargo of beef, butter, and suet, was wrecked on "Hayle Sands in the parish of Uny Lelant." It was sailing fronm Dublin to London.

A storm in 1859 wrecked the Severn of Sunderland on Hayle Bar. In the 1860s there were several storms. The French schooner Clementine was driven on to the beach at Lelant in December 1865, the French brig Providence was wrecked on the bar during a gale in October 1865, and the Bessie was driven on to Lelant beach in January 1866.

In November 1900 a storm drove the gig Fortitude on to Lelant beach where it capsized in the breakers and three of her four crew were drowned.

Sand storm

"In 1607 in the Reign of James, the First, a dreadful hurricane happened. Perhaps a great influx of sand might have happened at Hayle." This is a handwritten note on the front cover page of the baptism register for 1813-1846 of St Uny's Church [CRO P 120/1/3]. This page is not on the fiche of the register. This page also contains an analysis of the 1831 census for Lelant which suggests that the note was written around that time.


2 January 1896 the road below Trevethoe Gate was flooded by an overflowing stream. The owner to be asked to clean the stream. 23 January 1896 a culvert at Trevethoe Gate "choked." Reginald C Glanville, the steward, to organise its clearing [Minutes of West Cornwall rural district council CRO DC/WCRDC/195].

Houses at Lower Lelant were flooded. There had been a strong wind and much rain [Cornish Telegraph 23 December 1903, 4/6].

On 13 November 2002 flooding caused damage at Griggs Forge Pottery and the Trendreath area, including Chapel Cottages [a brief list is in Cornishman 21 November 2002, page 28].

Weather damage to St Uny's church

The church, in an exposed position and the tallest building in the vicinity, has experienced several recorded instances of storm damage and seems to have been often struck by lightning but there is a lightning conductor on the steeple now. I suspect that we know of only a few of the instances of damage by the weather, damage before the time of Victorian newpapers going largely unrecorded.

There was a storm in 1744 that damaged the church. The churchwardens' accounts record: "Healing after the Storm and plaistering the Ille, 1 2s 6d. To repear the Breaches after the Storm, 10s 9d" [Churchwardens' accounts 1722-1800 CRO P 120/5].

"On the night of [1 December 1821], the tower of Lelant Church was struck by lightning, which after forcing two large pieces of stone out of the middle of the tower, entered the bell-chamber, broke out the four windows and damaged the arches, ripping open the roof and leads in several places. It then took the southeast pinnacle, throwing the greater part on the corner of the south aisle.

A large piece of stone, about sixty pounds, was carried over the whole length of the church, and fell thirty feet off the wall; the other half of the same stone fell on the leads of the north aisle, and one fell into the gallery. The electric fluid entered the belfry, demolished the window and cracked the wall of the tower in several places; it then went into the gallery, shattering the partition between that and the belfry and breaking the glass in the gallery window; then, shaking a huge pillar adjoining the gallery in a dreadful manner from thence it made its way to the communion, removing the wainscot out of its place, and forcing two large pieces of stone from a pillar which were bruised to atoms; the last appearance of its effects was on a new pew below, one side of which was shattered to pieces" [Royal Cornwall Gazette 15 December 1821].

In 1827 "a pinnacle was knocked down and the dado in the chncel set on fire" ( West Briton 13 October 1887 citing an article by T Raffles DAVISON in the British architect ).

The church roof was repaired in 1872-3 after gales had damaged it. The plans were drawn up by John Dando Sedding (1838-91), an architect of London. There was a grant from the Incorporated Church Building Society and this is recorded in volume 20, pages 212 and 260, of their records at Lambeth Palace Library, London.

The tower of St Uny's was damaged by lightning in a thunderstorm in December 1878. The repairs would cost "over 200" and a musical evening and appeal were organised to raise the money [Cornish Telegraph 22 April 1879, 29 April 1879, and 26 August 1879].

The church tower was damaged by lightning in 1888 and was restored from plans prepared by Mr St Aubyn [Western Morning News 29 January 1889].

"At the Easter vestry it was said that ...extensive damage had been done to the church by recent lightning, including broken windows and damage to iron downpipes" [St Ives Weekly Summary 2 April 1910].

In November 1915 a storm caused severe damage to the church [St Ives Weekly Summary 6 January 1916].

Lightning 2002

On Saturday 23 November 2002 a lightning strike hit surfers on Porthkidney beach. Articles about the incident were published in 2002 in The Times 25 November, Daily Telegraph 26 November, Cornishman 26 November, Western Morning News 26 November, and St Ives Times and Echo 29 November.

Aurora borealis

On Wednesday 11 April 2001 at about 2200 hours the aurora borealis could be seen at Lelant in the northern sky over the bay. The display lasted about half an hour. Lelant is at latitude fifty degrees, eleven minutes and it is unusual to see the display this far south. The display was particularly spectacular, the sky having a whitish arc, diffused red patches, then whitish streamers, then red patches again. A photograph of it at Lelant by James Adams was published in the Cornishman of 19 April 2001 and the Western Morning News 21 April 2001. An account by Maxwell Adams is in the St Ives Times and Echo 20 April 2001.

A further aurora borealis was seen in Lelant and its neighbourhood on 30 October 2003. A photograph and account of it is in Cornish world magazine for Winter 2003/2004.


An article on farming and horticulture in Lelant in St Ives Weekly Summary 14 March 1903 mentions that the wet and stormy weather had delayed the planting of potatoes in the Lelant district.