One of the most severe disasters to ever occur in England was the Great Storm of 1703, which caused enormous structural damage, the loss of the entire Channel Squadron of ships, and thousands of lives lost. It was the subject of newspaper articles and books for many years, and towards the end of the 18th Century it was still being discussed, with particular reference to the religious implications. The church had announced shortly after the storm that it was a divine punishment.
The Seventh Day Baptist minister and writer of 39 hymns, Samuel Stennett, gave a sermon on the topic in 1788, which was published the same year, titled A Sermon in Commemoration of the Great Storm of Wind. He provided a useful summary of the effects of the storm.
Of the amazing strength and rapidity of the wind, we may form some idea from a well-attested circumstance near Shaftesbury in the West. A stone of near four hundred weight, which had lain for some years fixed in the ground, fenced by a bank with a low stone wall upon it, was lifted up by the wind, and carried into a hollow way, distant, at least, seven yards from the place…
An account was taken of one hundred and twenty-three who were killed I suppose, by the fall of houses. But the number of those who were drowned, in the floods of the Severn and the Thames, and of those who were lost on the coast of Holland, and in ships blown away and never heard of afterwards; is thought within compass to have been eight thousand. Above eight hundred dwelling houses were laid in ruins, in most of which the inhabitants received bruises, and some lost their lives. Few houses escaped being dismantled of their covering, which is clear from the prodigious rise of the price of tiles; for from twenty-one shillings a thousand it rose to six pounds. Above two thousand stacks of chimnies were said to have been blown down in and about London. One hundred churches covered with lead had their lead rolled up, and hurled in prodigious quantities to distances almost incredible. Stacks of corn and hay innumerable were thrown down, or so torn as to receive great damage. Multitudes of cattle were lost; in one level fifteen thousand sheep were drowned. And as to trees torn up by their roots, the writer before referred to says, he himself reckoned seventeen thousand of this description in Kent; when tired of the number, he left off reckoning. In short, the damage, he affirms, exceeded that of the fire of London, which was estimated at four millions.