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Norfolk, Tunstead & Happing District, Smallburgh, Parish Information, 1867

Document Reference: Lightning hits school and kills Emily WHITTLETON and Matilda HARMER

Transcribed by: Janelle Penney
Date Added: September 22, 2001

East Suffolk Gazette And Beccles And Bungay Weekly News
10 September 1867 Page 5, column 4
From microfilm supplied by the British Library Newspaper Library

Appalling Accident By Lightning At Smallburgh.---During a thunderstorm which raged in some parts of the county on Sunday afternoon, the 1st September, with intense severity, a most appalling calamity, resulting in the immediate death of two children and injury to several others, occurred at Smallburgh - a village a few miles south of North Walsham.

At about twenty minutes past two o'clock, when the storm was at its height, about forty children were assembled in the School-room, preparatory to attending divine service at the church. They were under the charge of Mrs CHAPMAN, who was officiating in the absence of the governess, and had just received their "attendant marks," when a violent noise was heard resembling the report of a cannon, and immediately the room appeared to be filled with smoke.

The poor children, excepting those whose fate we have yet to mention, rushed out in a state of consternation as best they could, and a moment afterwards, when the incumbent (the Rev. W.A. ORMSBY) went inside, he observed the lifeless bodies of two little girls - Emily WHITTLETON, aged seven years, and Matilda HARMER, aged five - lying on the floor near the west window, whilst on the opposite side of the room, near to the fire-place, four children were as it seemed paralysed. One of these, named Maria YAXLEY, was very much burnt in various parts of the body, and her case at first seemed hopeless, but we heard on Wednesday that she had somewhat improved, and that there were prospects of her ultimate recovery.

The other girls, named respectively Mary Ann PRATT, E. LONG, and Eliza YAXLEY, were mostly burnt about the feet, but not seriously. They were removed to the house of the incumbent close by, and attended by Mr CLOWES, of Stalham, Mr DIX, the resident surgeon of Smallburgh, being absent at the time, but the latter gentleman has since been in attendance upon them, and with the exception of Maria YAXLEY, they are all rapidly improving.

On an examination of the schoolroom, it appeared that a flash of lightning had struck the bell outside, tearing away a portion of the brickwork and part of the roof, and thence descended into the interior of the building along an iron rod, which was used as the bell pull. Leaving the rod, the electric fluid seems to have struck on the head (causing almost instant death the poor children WHITTLETON and HARMER, who were sitting on the left at the end of the benches, and thence it took a diagonal course, towards the children who were standing near the fire place.

The combined effects of the thunder and lightning shook the room to such an extent that parts of the frame work and the glass of the west window were forced out, the iron screen supports broken, and the plaster on the walls shattered to pieces in many places. In consequence of the excitement caused by the calamity, the services at the church were postponed until four o'clock, and the Incumbent then, in addressing the congregation upon the touching event, founded his remarks upon the 13th and 14th verses of the 18th Psalm, "The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave His voice; hail stones and coals of fire. Yea, He sent out His arrows and scattered them; and He shot out lightning and discomforted them."

Mrs and Miss POSTLE, together with the Incumbent and his family, have been very diligent in attending to the wants of the sufferers, and in sympathizing and condoling with the parents of the deceased children. The school-room, which now presents a most desolate appearance, has been visited in the course of the week by large numbers of people. It was a neat brick building, erected on the glebe land in 1855, at the expense of the late Mr J. POSTLE.

Rose French has supplied details of the burial of the little grils who were killed, from the parish register

Entry 476
Emily WHITTLETON of Smallburgh buried Sept 3rd 1867 aged 7
Entry 477
Hannah Matilda HARMER of Dilham buried 5th Sept aged 4 years 9 months
.....killed in the schoolroom by lightening September 1, 1867 - Sunday

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