The Colchester Earthquake of 1884
On the morning of Tuesday, April 22, 1884, England was shocked awake by the largest earthquake in its history. It caused considerable destruction in Colchester and other villages in southern Essex County. Based on reports of damage, it was the most destructive earthquake in at least the last four hundred years of British recorded history, and certainly the largest since the Dover Straits earthquake of 1580 (for which the “immoral” London playhouses were blamed and consequently closed for a brief time.)
At 9:18 am, for 20 long seconds, the earthquake struck, centered near in the villages of Wivenhoe and Abberton. Violent waves of seismic energy spread across the countryside. Basing their estimates on contemporary reports, geologists believe the earthquake to be between 4.6 and 6.0 on the Richter scale. The effects were felt across England, as well as France, Holland and Belgium. The Richter scale did not exist at the time, though early seismometers were in use.
The earthquake very likely resulted from movement along a fault in the ancient rocks deep beneath Essex, causing P and S waves to transmit radially through Cretaceous and Tertiary sediment layers overlying the fault.