Stretchleigh Meteorite

Tristram Risdon (1580-1640) was the renowned author of ‘Risdon’s Survey of Devon’ a tome he worked on solidly between 1605 and 1630. Risdon travelled every inch of Devon documenting the families, houses and towns there. Although he borrowed from Sir William Pole’s ‘Collections towards the Description of the Country of Devon’, his work was largely first hand.
The work was first published in a heavily edited serial form by Edmund Curll in 1714 and then in it’s full form in 1810, a copy of which I possess.
It is a thorough and delightful description and easily readable. There are so many nuggets of information within, many of which would be very useful to the family historian, if only they knew. I used it during my research as the Prideaux family and their holdings are mentioned many times.
There was one entry which attracted my attention, when referring to the Stretchleigh manor, situated in the middle of Prideaux properties in south west Devon, a little south of Ivybridge.

In this signiory A.D. 1623, there fell from above a stone of twenty three pounds weight, which in falling made a fearful noise, first like a rumbling of a piece of ordinance, which in descending lower, lessened, and ended when upon the ground no louder than the report of a petronel; it was composed of matter like a stone singed or half burnt for lime.

A signiory is the land or manor owned and controlled by a seignior or feudal lord.  Seignior is also a derivative of senior, monseigneur, monsieur etc.
A petronel was a firearm of the time.
A culverin was an old musket.
An aerolite is another term for meteorite.

This Stretchleigh Meteorite has been recorded in several pamphlets and books.
In ‘A View of Devonshire’ written in 1630 by Thomas Westcote, gent. stated in very similar terms, the following.

“In some part of this manor (Strechley) there fell from above, 1625*[a probable misprint for 1623]–I cannot say from heaven–a stone of twenty-three pounds weight, with a great and fearful noise in falling, first it was heard like unto thunder, or rather to be thought the report of some great ordnance, cannon, or culverin; and as it descended so did the noise lessen, at last, when it came to the earth, to the height of the report of a peternel, or pistol. It was for matter like unto a stone singed, or half burnt for lime; but being larger described by a richer wit, I will forbear to enlarge on it.”

This “richer wit” had been the author of a pamphlet published at the time.

this aerolite as having fallen on January 10th, 1623, in an orchard, near some men who were planting trees. It was buried in the ground three feet deep, and its dimensions were three feet and a half in length, two feet and a half in breadth, and one foot and a half in thickness. The pieces broken from off it were in the possession of many of the neighbouring gentry.


The Stretchleigh Meteorite has been recorded in a couple of pamphlets and books. In ‘A View of Devonshire’ written in 1630 via Thomas Westcote, gent. said: “I can not say from heaven–a stone of twenty-three pounds weight, with a super and anxious noise in falling, first it used to be heard like unto thunder…”

[Lysons’ Magna Britannia. vol. vi, pt. 2; Devon, pp. 175, 176.] notes that this pamphlet  also describes,

three suns seen at Tregony, in Cornwall, in 1622.

This phenomena likely refers to the optical illusion parhelion, when light interacts with ice crystals in the atmosphere. A halo effect is created, bringing the image of the sun to the right and left of the actual sun. It occurs mainly when the sun is near the horizon. When this phenomena occurred prior to the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross, Edward VI used it in order to rally his troops.

In ‘Contributions towards a History of British Meteorites’, by T.M. Hall. Mineralogical Magazine, volume 3, April, 1879 the author states in reference to the Stretchleigh Meteor and the three suns of Tregony.

In 1869 I called especial attention to the Ermington meteorite in the Transactions of the Devonshire Association*[vol. III, pp. 75, 78.] in the hope of obtaining some clue as to the subsequent history of any of these portions, but so far, my enquiries have been unsuccessful. From the description it is highly improbable that it could have been an iron meteorite, and from comparing the weight with the size it would appear that either the latter must have been very much exaggerated by the writer of the pamphlet, or that Risdon and Westcote must have been mistaken in the weight.

As it is, there appears to be no trace of this meteorite around now. How wonderful to think that there are some stones lying about a garden or a field, with such a history.
The Meteoritical Society has listed the Stretchleigh meteor here.
The site of the meteor fall is 50° 23’N, 3° 57’W.

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