Wold Cottage Meteor

The Meteorite

On December 13th, 1795 a huge 56 pound meteorite, the second largest recorded in England, landed two fields from The Wold Cottage, at the time the home of a magistrate named Mr Edward Topham. Fortunately, the meteorite's passage and impact were observed and the statements of witnesses were taken on oath by Mr Topham. The loud explosion "alarmed the surrounding country and created so distinctly the sensation that something very singular had happened". That sensation was strongest of all for Mr Topham's shepherd who was within 150 yards of the spot and one of the farmhands who was so near that he was struck very forcibly by mud and earth as the meteorite plunged into the ground. It cut through a foot of soil and a further seven inches of chalky rock, creating a hole more than a yard in diameter and embedding itself firmly in the rock.

Numerous people saw and heard the meteorite hurtling through the clouds as it passed over the villages, but they were unable to identify what it was. Provincial newspapers carried eye-witness reports of the phenomenon. As the meteorite approached the earth two sons of the vicar of Wold Newton ran up to The Wold Cottage to investigate. Recording the incident, Mr Topham wrote: "All these witnesses who saw it fall, agree perfectly in their account of the manner of its fall, and that they saw a dark body passing 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 compelled to give this matter every degree of authenticity that, as a magistrate, I took their account upon 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."

The bulk of the meteorite was eventually handed over to the Natural History Museum, South Kensington and Mr Topham erected an obelisk on the exact spot where it had fallen. The inscription on the obelisk reads:

Topham Obelisk

Here
On this spot, December 13, 1795
Fell from the atmosphere
An extraordinary stone.
In breadth twenty-eight inches
In length thirty-six inches,
And
Whose weight was fifty-six pounds.
This column
In memory of it
Was erected by
Edward Topham
1799