A Tornado Devastates London?!

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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!

Question for students (and subscribers): What is the worst natural disaster that you have ever experienced?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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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.


About Author

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 in Ohio.