The Severn Gorge
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The Severn Gorge
Joan Joffe Hall
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"The approach to Coalbrookdale appeared to be a veritable descent to the infernal regions. A dense column of smoke arose from the earth; volumes of steam were ejected from the fire engines; a blacker cloud issued from a tower in which was a forge; and smoke arose from a mountain of burning coals which burst out into turbid flame. In the midst of this gloom I descended towards the Severn, which runs slowly between two high mountains, and after leaving which passed under a bridge, constructed entirely of iron. It appeared as a gate of mystery, and night already falling, added to the impressiveness of the scene, which could only be compared to the regions so powerfully described by Virgil."
"...the flaming furnaces and smoking limekilns [which] form a spectacle horribly sublime, while the stupendous iron arch, striding over the chasm presents to the mind an idea of that fatal bridge made by sin and death over chaos, from the boundaries of hell to the wall of this now defenseless world."
A 1783 account of a meteor sighted over the Severn Gorge
(Samuel More, a traveling agronomist and a friend of John Wilkinson, describes the occurrence in this letter to the great botanist Sir Joseph Banks, who was president of the Royal Society. The letter is in the holdings of the Royal Society.)
Broseley, Salop. Aug. 22, 1783
I flatter myself no Apology is necessary for the Trouble I am now giving you as this Letter is intended to inform you of the Appearance of a very Singular Meteor that was seen in many parts of this Country on Monday Evening Last.
I was travelling on Horseback between the Great Iron Works at Horsehay and Coalbrookdale which are about two Miles Distant from each other the Light from each of these Furnaces was visible when on a Sudden My Companion and myself found ourselves Surrounded with a Degree of bright light that would have enabled us to have read the Smallest Print. We were travelling nearly from East to West and on turning around Saw behind us the Meteor passing with no great Velocity from North to South, it seemed to be elevated about 35 Degrees above the Horison and after I had viewed it a few Seconds appeared to be extinguished in the Air without any Explosion, The Meteor in its form resembled five Balls of Fire distinctly separate from each other the largest which was the foremost was about half the Diameter of the Full Moon at the same Elevation the others decreased till the last seemed not half the Diameter of the first. Some few Sparks attended it I know not exactly the Time it appeared but as near as I can recollect it was about half past nine. The air was so hazy that the planet Jupiter could scarcely be discerned -- As I did not see See the Meteor itself at its first Appearance I can only give You an Account of the Circumstances which attended it from two Different Persons who were lucky enough to have observed them; they both agree that a Cloud appeared highly illuminated above the Edges which they attributed to Lightning and that either from behind that Cloud or out of it the Meteor burst and continued its Course as I have Described it being as near as can be guessed about half a Minute from its first Appearance to its (scratched out) Disappearance -- I have already been informed of its having been seen in many parts of this Country, and here at Broseley which is about three Miles S. West from where I observed it the people thought it passed immediately over the Town, at Willey Furnace about half a Mile S. or S.W. of the Town of the Workman thought it over their Heads and concluded it would burst among the Works. At Bridgenorth also which is nearly eight Miles from this Place (to the Southward) the inhabitants who Saw it concluded it was over their Heads -- How much further it was visible I have not been able to learn but knowing Your Attention to all Matters respecting any curious phenomena has induced me to to give You the best and earliest Information in my power concerning this singularly beautiful Apperance.
I have the Honor to be Sir Your most obed. Servant
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