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1820 sydneygazette

Lightning Strike on Government House, Parramatta:
4 November 1820.

On Saturday last Government-house at Parramatta was visited by a tremendous thunder storm. Between nine and ten o'clock in the morning, after an immense burst of thunder, the house was struck in the roof by an electric fire-ball, which descended from one floor to another, until it finally made its passage out, partly by the windows shivering them in pieces, and partly through the solid wall itself, which it perforated in HIS EXCELLENCY the GOVERNOR'S Office, leaving a hole rather larger than that of a musket ball. The lightning entered through a dormant window in the roof thence burst through the upper ceiling, and pulling down the plaister for a space of about a yard square, it struck against the chamber doors with such violence as to drive several of them off their hinges, and to throw them to the opposite sides of the rooms, shattering them, and their casements, in several places; thence ranging along the lobby it descended by the great stair-case into the back hall, where it committed similar destruction as above. Entering HIS EXCELLENCY'S Office it struck the chair HIS EXCELLENCY was accustomed to sit on; but providentially he was at that time on his tour through the New Western Country: this portion of the electric matter, after shattering also an umbrella, passed through the wall and became spent, only afterwards breaking a hole through a pane in a window at the end of the house. The other portion of the electric matter burst through the back windows of the hall, and then became finally expended. Several hundred panes of glass were broken into minute particles by this terrific explosion; and the house was almost in one instant of time left nearly a wreck and full of a suffocating smell of sulphur. Indeed, the smoke was so great, that it was for some time imagined that the house was on fire but this was nothing more than the result of the bursting of the immense ball of electric fire. Perhaps there never was a more aweful visitation of the kind, than this was: and it is matter of astonishment that no personal harm was sustained by any of the numerous family contained in Government-house. Most providentially it so happened, that Mrs. Macquarie, with her darling boy, had that morning breakfasted in an apartment which was the only one in the house not visited by this scourge, and to this cause may be attributed their almost miraculous escape.

The bell wires having attracted the lightning, they were in part melted, and in part broken to pieces, the whole being rendered totally useless. The influence they had, however, shews most strongly the propriety of houses being furnished with regular conductors; and will, iti is to be hoped, induce every householder to avail himself of their benefit forthwith. We have not heard of any other accident having arisen at this time.

Sydney Gazette 11 November 1820 pp.2c-3a.

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