A Tornado Devastates London?!


A Brief History

On October 17, 1091, a tornado with a strength thought to be about T8/F4, which means a severely devastating tornado with winds over 200 miles per hour, struck the heart of London, England.

Digging Deeper

When Americans think of tornadoes, they tend to envision twisters striking mostly flat ground in the American mid-west or accompanying Atlantic hurricanes.  We do not generally imagine tornadoes wrecking havoc on major capital cities of medieval kingdoms.  Nevertheless, on October 17, 1091, one such twister did just that!

The London Tornado of 1091 is Britain’s earliest reported tornado.  Although nowhere near as devastating as some of the more recent twisters that practically obliterated some neighborhoods in American cities, this medieval tornado still managed to kill two, leveled hundreds of houses, demolished  the wooden London bridge, and seriously damaged the church of St. Mary-le-Bow, driving four rafters into the ground with only a small fraction of the rafters still protruding above the surface of the ground.

The disaster occurred during the reign of William II the Red and was one of many hardships this particular king faced, but some of those we shall save for another day!

Historical Evidence

For more information on this and other tornadoes in Medieval England, see M.W. Rowe, “Tornadoes in medieval Britain,” Journal of Meteorology 1.7 (1976): 219–222.  For an artist’s rendition of this particular twister, see also this online source.  You may note that some sources note the tornado as occurring on October 23, rather than October 17; however, most seem to go with October 17, which is what I am going with here.

Dr. Zar

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history at multiple universities.

  • Dan Heidenreich

    This event is very intriguing seeing how it is the first reported tornado in history. I personally believe that the most interesting and devastating natural disaster was the black plague. The shear number of people this killed and how rapidly it spread is crazy to think about in today’s world. If something like that were to happen in this day in age (which I believe is very likely) it would be absolute chaos. I watched a documentary titled Apocalypse Now and it counted down the 10 ways that the world could end and a worldwide disease was on there among others such as robots taking over (personal favorite).