Scarborough's long history with earth tremors

ONE of the major surprises for a lot of us in the wake of last week's earth tremor was to learn from the experts just how many Britain gets in a year – some 200 on average, of which about 25 are strong enough to be felt in some part of the country or other.

Scarborough gets at least its share. There is a fault under the sea some distance off our coast which causes small tremors quite regularly by British standards, though they aren't generally felt.

There will be local people, however, who do remember the last tremor to shake the town as last week's did.

It also came in the very early hours – at 1.27am on Sunday June 7 1931 – and, also like last week's, it lasted 10 seconds. It was reported by the Evening News at the time to have been severe enough almost to fling people out of their beds. No-one was hurt and damage was only very minor, but some folk were alarmed enough to spend the rest of the night in the open.

That tremor, too, wasn't just a local one caused by our offshore fault. It was felt throughout Britain and also in Europe and Scandinavia.

Old records refer to another Scarborough earthquake whose results – if it was a tremor – were much more spectacular.

On the afternoon of December 29 1737 an acre of pasture towards the cliff edge above the Spa suddenly subsided – complete with five cows which had been grazing there. On the beach below, the sand reportedly rose by six to 10 yards and the Spa House was wrecked.

The area of land that dropped can still be seen today. It is some 50ft or so below the Esplanade, opposite the Crown Spa Hotel.

Whether this was in fact caused by a tremor is open to considerable doubt. The quake explanation rests on "a scientific gentleman" who was an eye-witness to the subsidence. He said that when the land dropped "the ground shook".

But as we all know, Scarborough's cliffs are notoriously unstable – and it could well have been a landslip that caused the ground to shake rather than the other way around.