When a tornado struck Whaley Bridge

A day of destruction in Whaley Bridge 349 years ago is highlighted by Edmund Bradbury, of Chapel-en-le-Frith.

The recent tornados in the United States of America have illustrated their immense force and the devastation which these natural phenomena can cause.

Whilst in Britain tornados are extremely rare, an account of 1662 is of considerable interest in describing a tornado which hit the Macclesfield Forest, Taxal and Whaley Bridge areas on the 20th of July in that Year, and which reads as follows


The 20th of July 1662, was marked in Lancashire and Cheshire by a storm of prodigious violence, accompanied by a fall of heavy hailstones. What, however, chiefly distinguished the day, was a travelling vortex or whirlwind, which produced some remarkable effects, and is thus vividly described in a volume, entitled Admirable Curiosities, &c., published in London in 1682.

In the same day,’ says this narration, ‘in the after-noon, in the forest of Maxfield [Macclesfield], there arose a great pillar of smoke, in height like a steeple, and judged twenty yards broad, which, making a most hideous noise, went along the ground six or seven miles, levelling all the way; it threw down fences and stone walls, and carried the stones a great distance from their places, but happening upon moorish ground [moor-land] not inhabited, it did the less hurt.

The terrible noise it made so frightened the cattle, that they ran away, and were thereby pre-served; it passed over a cornfield, and laid it as low with the ground as if it had been trodden down by feet; it went through a wood, and turned up above an hundred trees by the roots; coming into a field full of cocks of hay ready to be carried in, it swept all away, so that scarce a handful of it could after-wards be found, only it left a great tree in the middle of the field, which it had brought from some other place.

From the forest of Maxfield, it went up by a town called Taxal, and thence to Walley Bridge [Whaley Bridge], where, and nowhere else, it over-threw an house or two, yet the people that were in them received not much hurt, but the timber was carried away nobody knew whither.

From thence it went up the hills into Derbyshire, and so vanished.

This account was given by Mr. Hurst, minister of Taxal, who had it from an eyewitness.

• Fortunately, Whaley Bridge recovered well and today “The Gateway to the Goyt” is a vibrant town, with a progressive town council and many local attractions including the Annual Water Weekend, the Carnival, the Peak Forest Canal and the canal basin, Toddbrook Reservoir, the nearby Fernilee and Errwood Reservoirs and the Memorial Park.

Whaley Bridge also has the distinction of being accessible by three forms – of transport – road, rail and canal– all within a short distance of each other.