This day 432 years ago saw perhaps the deadliest earthquake Britain has ever known. Just over a decade later, it was still significant enough to get a mention in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, with the bard noting it was 11 years ‘since the earthquake’.
On April 6, 1580, people in Kent said they heard a ‘marvellous great noise’ apparently from the Channel, followed by a ‘fierce and terrible’ shaking. A passenger on a boat reported seeing a wave 50 feet high, and up to 30 vessels were sunk.
Parts of the White Cliffs of Dover collapsed, as did sections of the wall at Dover Castle, while there was damage to churches at Broadstairs and Sandwich. Across the Channel, Calais, Boulogne and Lille also suffered structural damage, while at Oudenaarde in Belgium, people were killed and injured by falling chimneys and tiles.
There was also flooding at Boulogne and Calais, where a number of people drowned. The total death toll was said to have run into hundreds.