We might think we have had some strange weather this year. However some strange and devastating storms have occurred in Dorset, as highlighted in the Anniversary Address of the President of the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club in 1891.
“A remarkable phenomenon in the shape of a waterspout occurred at High Stoy, the highest point of a range of hills between Melbury and Minterne, on the 7th of June last, about six o’clock p.m.
It followed the road which traverses the crest of the hill, tearing up the largest stones from its foundation. It was preceded by much thunder and lightning, but with little rain, during the previous afternoon. The column of water, which was described as being about the thickness of a man’s body, moved at a rapid rate in the direction of the axis of the hill range, shown by the devastation it occasioned. Holes eight or nine feet deep were dug out in several part of the road, and an overwhelming stream hurled the material down the hill side. The Rev. A. J. Poole, of Stowell Rectory, in his description of it said there was no other evidence of the destructive effects of the waterspout neither on the other parts of the road nor on the surrounding land, and that the holes could not be assigned to the action of a storm, as the height.
The contents of the waterspout were poured out in its passage over Batcombe, Hannaford, and Chetnole on the west side ; Cerne and Minterne on the north. The tumultuous torrents poured down the hill side and took the course of a small stream, which soon overflowed its banks, carrying destruction to everything which opposed Its course.
At Hannnaford Mill much stock was drowned, and at Chetnole Mills the men had scarcely time to escape before they had reached the first floor. Large trees were uprooted and carried down some distance by the force of the stream.
About a hundred yards of Major Wingfield Digbys gardenwall and his greenhouse were thoroughly wrecked. Through his help several school children were promptly rescued from a watery grave. The atmosphere disturbance in the neighbourhood were very excessive; thunder and lightning, accompanied with torrents of rain, occured at Cattistock in the afternoon of the 7th of June. At Melbury there was thunder and lightning without rain. A terrific thunder storm occurred at Langton Herring on the night of the 6th.
At Whatcombe there were heavy thunderstorms that night, which lasted until 11.30 p.m.; the rain was inconsiderable. Mr. G. T. Symons, F.R.S., the eminent meteorologist, regretted that the contents of the waterspout had not been tested so as to ascertain whether the water which supplied it was fresh or salt. Mr. Poole states a lady of his acquaintance saw a large waterspout a few years ago carried up from the sea with one of its spouts hanging over Batcombe Hill, which ultimately became absorbed in the clouds.”