Shaking nothing too unusual

IT might surprise you but there are 200-300 quakes in Britain every year. Of course, most are small and go unreported and unnoticed and yesterday it was widely reported that an earthquake like the one at Market Rasen happens once every 30 years or so.

James Marston

IT might surprise you but there are 200-300 quakes in Britain every year.

Of course, most are small and go unreported and unnoticed and yesterday it was widely reported that an earthquake like the one at Market Rasen happens once every 30 years or so.

Earthquakes aren't high in the national consciousness, we don't build earthquake-proof buildings, we aren't waiting for the 'big one' and we don't live close to a region where tectonic plates could give way at any moment.

Nevertheless yesterday's earthquake was big by UK standards and the first of its size for nearly 25 years.

Julian Bukits, assistant seismologist at the British Geological Survey (BGS), said the quake's epicentre was not in an area of high seismic activity.

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He added: “The areas in the UK of high seismicity are Western Scotland, North Wales, South Wales and the midlands. “Seismic activity tends to be focused on the west of the country.”

Britain isn't an earthquake hit spot and is, in the jargon of experts - intra-plate - which means it's a long way from the edge of the Eurasian tectonic plate which meets the North American plate in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Julian said: “We are quite a long way from the earthquake hot spots and we don't get the earthquakes that cause massive damage.

“The type of earthquakes we see in the UK are due to natural geological faults that criss-cross the country. The earthquakes happen due to the stresses and strains and pressures the faults are under in response to tectonic pressures originating in the Atlantic.

“Yesterday's quake was estimated to be about 10km under ground but it is not an exact science and that figure might change. It is relatively shallow.”

Julian said the BGS is currently conducting a survey into yesterday's event and is urging people to take part in providing information on the BGS website.

He said earthquakes do happen in East Anglia.

He said: “The south east is an area of low seismicity but this earthquake in Lincolnshire is also in an area of low seismicity.

“It's an area where we don't expect them but it would appear that they do happen and when they happen they are big earthquakes by comparison.”

The evidence of history suggests that East Anglia is by no means immune to earthquakes - the Colchester earthquake of 1884 caused considerable damage and measured an estimated 4.7 on the Richter scale.

The largest recorded earthquake experienced in the UK occurred in 1931 and measured 6.1. The epicentre was Dogger Bank - situated to the east of Hull - in the North Sea and had little impact on the mainland.

Julian said: “There was a big earthquake in Lincoln in 1185 which was 5.5 on the Richter scale, the epicentre was in the north sea.” The earthquake caused structural damage to the city's cathedral.

Julian added: “There was an earthquake in Norwich in February 1994 which measure 4.0 on the Richter scale. that was very big in east Anglia terms and was felt as far away as Nottingham.”

Julian said quakes on the scale of yesterday's event happen once every 25-30 years.

He added: “This type of earthquake is infrequent and the chances are the next one will happen in a different part of the UK. Within a 25km radius of yesterday's earthquake there have been seven in the last 20 years which is very, very little.

“You cannot predict where the next one will be.”

Have you been in an earthquake? Did you feel yesterday's tremors? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to

The BGS records approximately 200 earthquakes in the UK each year on its monitoring stations. Approximately 25 earthquakes in the UK are felt by people each year

On the 22nd April 1884, at 9.18, an earthquake struck north Essex.

It's epicentre was just to the south east of Colchester near Wivenhoe and Shock waves traveled across England, Belgium and France.

The quake destroyed 1,200 buildings, including the entire villages of Wivenhoe and Abberton. The churches of Breton, Marney, Wivenhoe, Peldon and De La Haye were damaged and Langenhoe church was virtually destroyed.

The Essex County Standard reported: “The awful event came without the slightest warning and lasted from five to ten seconds but in that short period of time, an amount of damage was done to property which it will take weeks to set right, and in some cases destruction is irreparable.”

The British Geological Survey (BGS) recorded an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.2 (ML) on the Richter scale near Market Rasen, Lincolnshire at 00:56 GMT.

DATE : 27 February 2008


LAT/LONG : 53.42° North / 0.35° West

GRID REF : 509.4 kmE / 392.7 kmN

DEPTH : 5.0 km

MAGNITUDE : 5.2 Richter Scale (ML)

LOCALITY : Market Rasen, Lincolnshire

The epicentre is approximately 4 km north of Market Rasen and reports suggest that the earthquake has been felt widely across England, with reports of damage to chimneys in the epicentral area.

Earthquakes of this size occur in the mainland UK roughly every 30 years, although are more common in offshore areas.

This is the largest earthquake in the UK since the magnitude 5.4 ML Lleyn Peninsula earthquake in 1984, which was widely felt across England and Wales.

Seismologist Dr Brian Baptie of the British Geological Survey said: “The is a significant earthquake for the UK and will have been widely felt across England and Wales”.