From the Darlington & Stockton Times of March 25, 1871

“ON Friday evening, the unusual phenomenon of an earthquake was experienced in several parts of the north of England,” said the D&S Times exactly 150 years ago this week.

It is now reckoned that this earthquake was centred somewhere in the North Pennines, possibly Appleby-in-Westmoreland or near Kendal where an “unusual swell” was spotted on Lake Windermere. Seismologists now believe this quake was about 4.9 on the Richter scale, making it the seventh largest of the 19th Century in the UK.

“The miners on nightshift heard a loud rumbling noise and felt the rock shake and thought nothing less than the mine was going to close,” reported the D&S’ Weardale correspondent. “A similar vibration was felt in Weardale on April 22, 1830, but not so alarming as the above.”

There were probably two quakes: a smaller one at about 6.20pm and the main event shortly after 11pm.

In Darlington, chairs shook, beds lifted and house walls were seen to oscillate. People in Stokesley were “somewhat alarmed on feeling their houses tremble with a gentle motion…the shaking of houses was too violent and too evident to the senses to be disputed or gainsaid”.

“From the Thirsk district, the reports speak of the turning out of the people into the street, some half dressed, to ascertain what had happened,” said the D&S.

Middleton-in-Teesdale up in the Pennines produced some vivid reports. “The latter shock was preceded by a sound resembling a heavy rushing wind, followed almost immediately by a sudden vibration of the earth, shaking houses to their very foundation, and causing such rattling of windows and crockeryware, and the oscillation of beds, furniture and other articles that many of the inhabitants who had gone to bed got up in great alarm,” said the D&S.

In Swaledale and Wensleydale “inhabitants (were) startled by the sudden upheaving and undulating motion of their dwellings, which caused some to keep a light burning all night”. In the dales, the D&S said that the shock had a profound effect on the weather.

“There was a sudden and great rise in the barometer immediately after the shock,” it reported. “The atmosphere instantly became very mild and has so continued.”

But in Arkingarthdale (as the D&S always spelled it 150 years ago), the people believed that had been roused from their slumbers by some strange supernatural force. The D&S said that the severe shaking left many in the dale “thinking their house was in possession or visited by some hobgoblin or evil spirits”.