Bicentenary celebrations for Sedgeford thunderstorm

Bicentenary celebrations for Sedgeford thunderstorm
Photo credit: Bhas Allan

A small group of historians and creative artists will on Friday 5 July 2019 mark the bicentenary of "The Thunderstorm That Took Place in Sedgeford in the County of Norfolk on Fifth July 1819, a storm so violent it was recorded in the Register of World News, blasting a yard-wide hole in the Church tower and taking the life of Susan Nobes, a 14 year old village girl.

There are 2 events planned.

  1. At the Ladywell, a private memorial for Susan hosted by village historian Tim Snelling. Sedgeford residents poet Gareth Calway and harpist Vanessa Wood-Davies (of the folk/storytelling quartet Penland Phezants) will share their "Ballad of Susan Nobes" (https://youtu.be/nlbKlfyA9Hg) along with Gareth's reading of Janet Hammond's distinctive verses about the tragedy and the Ladywell boulder. Finally, Phezant singer/guitarist Andy Wall will sing his and Gareth's new especially composed "Elegy for Susan Nobes." (This daytime event is invitation only but a film of it will be publicly available later.)
  2. At the Boneyard Field, in a public event starting at 7.30 pm, The Penland Phezants ("entertaining and refreshing….wonderful zany historians" Liz Franklin, Blues and Roots Radio; "Informative and entertaining. A very professional and enjoyable evening" Elmswell History Group, Suffolk; "A fascinating and entertaining show, with a mix of poetry and recitation backed up brilliantly with well delivered original songs." Bury Arts Festival.) will feature a public version of most of the above in a showcase evening of extended excerpts from their lively musical histories of The 1816 Littleport and Ely Bread Riots, The True Story of Hereward the Wake, Margery Kempe of Lynn, The English Civil War (incl the Siege of Lynn) . The centre piece of this evening event will be a one off dramatic musical recreation of the 1819 storm and its accounts, leading into performances of "The Ballad of Susan Nobes" and "An Elegy for Susan Nobes". (timed, like the original storm and tragedy, around 9 pm.) Tickets for this public show: https://www.sharp.org.uk/events-1/the-penland-phezants

"Come the evening, folk were going about their daily tasks, working in the fields while birds sweetly sang. The teacher sat in the porch waiting for the schoolmaster to appear before Bible reading class could begin, meanwhile the attending children happily played, running up and down the churchyard, little knowing the impending doom that was to befall them. The schoolmaster duly arrived, readings began and when done was followed with a final hymn, 'Oh let me, heavenly Lord extend, My view to life's approaching end... "(Religious tract 1819, probably by the then Curate of Sedgeford).

"During the dreadful thunderstorm on the Evening of July 5th the electric fluid struck the top of Sedgeford Church Steeple on the West Side, and precipitated to the ground several stones of considerable magnitude making a breach in the wall of about a yard square. The lightning also passed through the Church entering in at a window near the porch on the South side; and after crossing in a North East direction, it made its escape at two places in an upper window near the Chancel on the North side" (The Times, 1819).

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Photo credit: Bhas Allan

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