IN FACT, it was a mini-tornado that swept through the churchyard of St Andrew’s, Hatfield Peverel, in Chelmsford diocese. The Revd Stephen Northfield said that it looked as though a bomb had exploded, felling several trees and breaking gravestones. The church itself had had a lucky escape with the loss of a few shingle tiles from its roof. It was fortunate that no one had been hurt, and the school across the road from the church was untouched.
The swirling wind tore through the village at about midday, as Mr Northfield was driving back from the supermarket, and he says that everything went so black that he could not see the front of his car.
Assessing the damage in the churchyard, he found that five trees had been uprooted, and a cedar of Lebanon had lost half its branches. Half a dozen gravestones were knocked over, and a couple were broken into pieces. The signal box from his garden railway was lost, sheds were devastated in local allotments, a farmer lost his barn and half his cattle feed, and hens were sucked into the air.
The community rallied round to clear up, and about 20 people helped over the next two weekends. Mr Northfield told me that he had never realised that so many people owned chainsaws, and the fallen and damaged trees were quickly tidied away. The gravestones remain more of a problem. Most of them are 18th-century, and have no existing families to care for them, and several of them have been broken beyond repair.