WHEN the most destructive earthquake ever to hit the UK struck Colchester in 1884 it left a legacy of seismic proportions.

Now known as the Great English earthquake, the natural disaster was around the time rumoured to have killed three residents.

It also left as many as 1,200 buildings damaged.

One of these buildings was what is now the town’s Lion Walk United Reformed Church.

The top of the church tower’s spire crashed to the ground during the tremors, leaving the beautiful Victorian building requiring extensive repair work.

But with the church now set in the surroundings of a busy modern day shopping precinct, you would be forgiven for forgetting the damage ever took place.

However, to mark the moment in Colchester’s history a plaque will be unveiled at the church - marking exactly 135 years on from when the earthquake first struck.

Colchester’s High Steward Sir Bob Russell has worked with church officials to get the plaque ready for its unveiling on Monday at 9.18am.

He said: “I feel that such an important event in Colchester’s evolving history should be recognised, and there is no better place for the earthquake plaque to be displayed than on a building which was significantly damaged.

“The spire of Lion Walk Church was restored to its previous glory as a landmark in the centre of Colchester.”

Although the 1884 earthquake was not the first to effect Colchester, it was certainly the most destructive.

In fact, the natural disaster, which only last a matter of seconds, damaged almost all of the buildings in Wivenhoe which was officially its epicentre.

Scientists believe the Colchester Earthquake measured 4.6 on the Richter scale.


Picture from historian Patrick Denney

This is is not officially the highest reading for an earthquake in Britain, however the damage left behind was the biggest from any underground tremor in Britain and its effects were felt by residents for years to come.

Sir Bob said: “There is an urban myth that several people were killed, including a five-year-old girl whose demise was described in some detail in a book of fiction published in 1976. The author used real photographs of buildings damaged in the earthquake but wrote false accounts as to what had happened.

“It was fake news, to use current jargon.”

“I am grateful to Lion Walk Church for agreeing to allow the plaque to be fixed to the tower, and my further thanks are given to the owners of Lion Walk Shopping Centre who have generously paid for the plaque and will carry out the installation.”

The plaque will be the fourth green plaque the town’s former Lib Dem MP has organised across the town.


One marks a wall in Butt Road where the first air raid on Colchester resulted in a bomb being dropped by the Germans in the First World War in 1915. Another on the corner of Chapel Street and Southway commemorates those who were killed in 1942 during a bombing raid in the Second World War.

The other plaque is at what was the indoor riding school at the former Cavalry Barracks, now the Creffield Medical Centre.

It is to honour Boys Scouts founder, Robert Baden-Powell, who was stationed there in 1888 while a Captain in the 13th Hussars.

Louise Jensen, deputy centre manager at Lion Walk

Shopping Centre, said: “On behalf of Lion Walk Shopping

Centre I am delighted and honoured to be supporting the commemoration of this historic event.”