12th September 1869
Guernsey was struck by a hurricane
Guernsey and its neighbouring Channel Islands were struck by violent storms on 12 September 1869. They caused widespread damage and wrecked ships, causing some deaths.
The average wind speed had been 68 miles an hour for the previous 12 hours. Trees were ripped up right across Guernsey – and even those that had managed to keep themselves upright were stripped of their leaves. Several buildings lost their roofs.
Cross channel services were forced back to the mainland and the packet ship to Guernsey and Jersey was stranded. Another ship, bound for Jersey, foundered in the Channel and had to be towed back to Ramsgate Harbour.
The following day, Monday 13th, a schooner called the Countess of Leicester foundered off Beachy Head. She began to leak in the two days after the gales.
Although six of the schooner’s crew were landed at Deal by a rescue boat, one boy who had been onboard drowned when being hauled across in a life buoy. His body was brought back to shore with the rest of the crew.
The broader picture
It wasn’t only the Channel Islands that felt the force of the wind. According to a story in the Guardian on 16 September, “reports from all parts of the country concur in stating that the recent gales were the severest which have been experienced for a long time, and the damage done has been very extensive”.
In the words of The Times, “the wind frequently blew with the force of a hurricane, causing great loss to shipping at sea and damage to property on land”.
Even in central London, ships that had taken refuge on the Thames were thrown against each other. Boats were wrecked right across the south of England, with a list of 72 damaged and destroyed vessels compiled by Lloyds over the first two days of inclement weather.
On dry land, buildings lost tiles and chimneys, and trees were uprooted. As The Times reported, “large branches of the fine old elms, particularly in the Long Walk and Queen Anne’s Ride, which have weathered the storms for nearly two centuries, have been torn away by the violence of the winds, and are strewed over the avenues and drives from one end to the other”.