The Rowton Meteorite
A meteorite landing on a driveway in Gloucestershire has been an unusual event, but Shropshire too, has a claim to an exceptional meteorite.
We are fortunate that the events on the afternoon of the 20th April 1876, were reported in some detail in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 1882. Above the village of Rowton, at about 3.40pm “a strange rumbling noise was heard in the atmosphere, followed almost instantaneously by a startling explosion resembling the discharge of heavy artillery.”
“About an hour after the explosion Mr George Brooks had occasion to go to a turf field in his occupation adjoining the Wellington and Market Drayton Railway, about a mile north of the Wrekin, when his attention was attracted by a hole cut in the ground… Mr Brooks probed the opening with a stick and discovered a lump of metal of irregular shape, which proved to be a meteorite, weighing 7 ¾ lbs. It had penetrated to a depth of 18 inches, passing through 4 inches of soil and 14 inches of clay down to the gravel. The hole is nearly perpendicular, but the stone appears to have fallen in a south-easterly direction… It is moreover, stated that when Mr Brooks found the mass “it was quite warm”.
The Duke of Cleveland owned the land where the meteorite fell and, with the assistance of his land agent, Mr Ashdown, his permission was obtained and it was presented to the British Museum where it was analysed.
“When the meteorite reached the British Museum it was seen that it was wholly metallic in structure and was covered with a very thin pellicle of the jet-black magnetic oxide of iron, and only where this had been removed by abrasion with the soil is the bright metallic surface of the nickel-iron revealed”.
The near vertical trajectory and depth to which the meteorite penetrated, are indicative of the greater mass of iron meteorites, compared to rocky types. The article goes on to detail the results of chemical analysis of its composition.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 1882 vol 173 pp 894-896 (copy at LE 12.5 v.f.)
The Rowton meteorite is now kept at the Natural History Museum, London along with the latest one: