Royal Charter Storm
The Royal Charter Storm of 25 and
26 October 1859was considered to be the most severe storm to hit the British Islesin the 19th century, with a total death toll estimated at over 800. It takes its name from the "Royal Charter", driven by the storm onto the east coast of Anglesey, Waleswith the loss of over 450 lives.
The storm followed several days of unsettled weather. The first indications were seen in the
English Channelabout 3 p.m. on the 25th, when there was a sudden increase in wind speed and a shift in its direction. There was extensive structural damage along the coasts of Devonand Cornwall. The storm drifted northwards, hitting Angleseyby about 8 p.m. and not reaching maximum force at the River Merseyuntil midday on the 26th, then continued northwards to affect Scotland. The winds reached force 12 on the Beaufort scaleand were well over 100 mph. At the Mersey a wind force of 28 lbs to the square foot was measured, more than ever previously recorded.
On the north coast of
Anglesey, where the "Royal Charter", a steam clipper, was approaching the end of her voyage from Melbourneto Liverpool, the wind at Point Lynas changed direction to ENE at 10 p.m. on the 25th and rose to gale force. By 10 p.m. the wind had reached force 10 and continued to increase, reaching force 12 by midnight. It continued to blow at force 12 until the afternoon of the 26th.
The "Royal Charter" was driven ashore on the east coast of Anglesey just north of the village of
Moelfrein the early hours of the morning of the 26th, eventually being smashed to pieces against the rocks, with the loss of over 450 lives. A total of 133 ships were sunk and another 90 badly damaged. The death toll was estimated at around 800, including some people killed on land by falling rocks and masonry. Twice as many people died in these two days as had been lost at sea around the British Isles in the whole of 1858. There was extensive structural damage to many buildings, with the west coast of Great Britainbeing most severely affected.
This storm had an effect on the development of the
Meteorological Officeas Captain Robert FitzRoy, who was in charge of the office at the time, brought in the first gale warningservice in 1860 to prevent similar tragedies.
List of United Kingdom disasters by death toll
Alexander McKee|title=The golden wreck: the tragedy of the "Royal Charter"|publisher=Souvenir Press|year=1986|id=ISBN 0-285-62745-7
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