Tuesday 23 November 2021

Dame Partington and The Outrage

 My visit to the barber's this morning was disappointing (though the haircut was up to standard). Hoping for the usual vigorously expressed Jeremiad on the state of things in general, I was instead regaled with a blow-by-blow account of a difficult house move and subsequent neighbour dispute. The weather came up though, as it always does: now that the unseasonably warm period has ended, all the talk is of imminent snowfall, to hit us – here in the mild Southeast – by the weekend. I guess it is the English way always to look forward to worse weather if the current situation doesn't afford enough to complain about.
  It's actually a rather lovely day out there – coldish but sunny, with blue skies. The catastrophists should count themselves lucky they weren't around on this day in 1824, when a horrific gale and storm that became known as 'The Outrage' hit the Dorset coast, flooding the river valleys and breaching the formidable Chesil Bank, destroying some 80 houses and drowning around 50 or 60 people. The other great shingle bank, Hurst Spit, was 'moved bodily forward for 40 yards' (according to the geologist Charles Lyell). Wrecks littered the coast, and the Plymouth breakwater, Weymouth esplanade and the Cobb at Lyme Regis were ruined. At Sidmouth, the Rev. Sydney Smith recalled in a speech in Parliament some years later,
'In the winter of 1824, there set in a great flood upon that town – the tide rose to an incredible height – the waves rushed in upon the houses, and everything was threatened with destruction. In the midst of this sublime and terrible storm, Dame Partington, who lived upon the beach, was seen at the door of her house with mop and pattens, trundling her mop, squeezing out the sea water and vigorously punching away the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic was roused.'
For a while, Dame Partington and her mop became a popular image for those trying to hold back the rising tide of political reform. 

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