On this day in history : 13th December 1795 – A meteorite crashes on to the land of Captain Edward Topham, in Yorkshire…. He manages to retrieve and exhibit it….

Edward Topham by John Russell c.1795 – Public domain

As well as his army career Topham – who was born in 1751 – was also an author, poet, journalist, playwright and critic…. He was known throughout fashionable London for his impeccable manners and his unique personal dress-style…. His plays, comedies, epilogues and prologues were performed by leading actors of the day at venues such as Drury Lane and Covent Garden….

Topham also started his own newspaper – The World…. He regularly made his own contribution to its content with his feature The Schools – in which he would reminisce about his days at Eton and those he had met there….

After his retirement he moved with his three daughters to Wold Cottage, near to Thwing in the East Riding of Yorkshire…. ‘Cottage’ is perhaps a rather modest description of the property – as it was in fact a farm with hundreds of acres…. It was his intention to spend his days farming and writing….

It was around 3pm on Sunday the 13th of December 1795 that a meteoric stone unexpectedly fell two fields away from Wold Cottage…. As soon as it was reasonably safe to do so Topham had it dug up – apparently it was still warm and smoking…. It had buried itself in 12 inches of soil and 6 inches of solid chalk rock…. The meteorite weighed 3 stone 13lbs and measured 36 inches in length and 28 inches in breadth…. Part of it was exhibited in the Museum of James Sowerby in London – and it can now be seen in the Natural History Museum….

Wold Cottage Meteorite – Image credit : Chemical Engineer – own work – CC BY-SA 3.0

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