The Best of British! This extraordinary witnessed fall merits a longer description of its history and events surrounding its fall, so here goes! The Wold Cottage meteorite is the second largest fall in the United Kingdom - an L6 weighing around 25kg - but this is no ordinary, ordinary chondrite!
The meteorite fell in 1795, landing within two fields distance of a large house owned by one Edward Topham - a poet, playwright, landowner and well respected local magistrate who lived in The Wold Cottage, within the boundaries of a small village in Yorkshire named Wold Newton. Thanks to Magistrate Topham's efforts in always "establishing the truth", this meteorite became the major player in gaining worldwide acceptance that stones do sometimes fall from the sky, and so confirming the witness reports of the Ensisheim fall 303 years earlier, and paving the way for the later L'Aigle fall in 1803.
During the afternoon of 13th December 1795, a thunderstorm was raging over Wold Newton, a very small village perhaps 10 miles outside the coastal town of Scarborough in Yorkshire, England. The peels of thunder and the flicker of lightning were nothing compared with what was about to happen next - a sudden, loud explosion "alarmed the surrounding countryside and created so distinctly the sensation that something very singular had happened." Numerous people also saw a dark object passing through clouds but were unable to identify what it was. However, Topham's shepherd was within 150 yards of the impact and a farmhand named John Shipley was so near that he was forcibly struck by mud and earth as the falling meteorite burrowed into the ground. The stone penetrated through 1 foot of soil and embedded itself into the chalk bedrock to a depth of 7 inches, creating an impact pit over 1 yard across. The stone embedded itself so firmly into the bedrock that it had to be dug out.
When Topham heard about the fall and saw the large stone mass, he became a man on a mission and recorded the following:
"All these witnesses that saw it fall agree perfectly in their account of the manner of it's fall, and that they saw a dark body moving through the air, and ultimately strike the ground: and though from their situations and characters in life, they could have no possible object in detailing a false account of this transaction. I felt so desirous of giving this matter every degree of authenticity that as a magistrate, I took their account on oath immediately on my return into the country. I saw no reason to doubt any of their evidence after the most minute investigation of it."
A monument was erected by Topham in 1799 and marks the exact spot where the meteorite landed. Almost 206 years after the fall, my wife Irene and I set off for Yorkshire to stay at The Wold Cottage and to visit the monument. To add to the atmosphere, another thunderstorm was raging around us as we arrived at the monument. The remaining, singular mass of Wold Cottage is on public display in a sealed glass cabinet at the NHM, London.