HURRICANES may hardly happen in Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire but Hereford is no stranger to another, equally dramatic, natural phenomenon - more earthquakes are recorded in Herefordshire than in any other county.

This year marks the 74th anniversary of what a West Bromwich seismologist described as "the greatest earthquake in Britain", though it caused no recorded damage in Herefordshire, "remarkable", a report at the time explained, "as Herefordshire is one of the principal centres of earthquakes in this country".

Certainly, Herefordshire's history is full of accounts of earthquakes, with the earliest documented quake dating from 1661, when it was mentioned in a publication entitled A True and Perfect Relation of the Terrible Earthquake.

This reported "that monstrous flaming things were seen in the sky and that phenomena below were interesting. We are told, 'truly and perfectly,' that Mrs Margaret Petmore fell in labour and brought forth three male offspring all of whom had teeth and spoke at birth."

Many have been moved to put pen to paper by the unexpected movement of the earth beneath their feet.

One of these was J Wathen (assumed to have been the local artist James Wathen) in the Gentleman's Magazine in April 1793.

Mr Wathen wrote that, "having 'heard it mentioned that an earthquake had happened at Caplow Hill, two miles from the village of Fownhope ... induced me to walk there on Monday morning as my curiosity was much excited to see the effects of the commotion that had taken place, which altogether exceeded every expectation I had formed'."

On reaching the site, a man and boy provided Wathen with an eye-witness account of the events of the previous week.

"The hedge and the ground he stood upon moved and he heard a noise not unlike a distant hail storm.

"On running from it, he observed a sight, awful and alarming; a large part of the sloping hill, with trees, etc on it moving gradually towards him.

"By the next morning it had buried a horseroad for some hundred yards and on my taking an accurate survey of it, its appearance was that of a very extraordinary convulsion of nature."

It was the publication in the same magazine of an account of the movement of Marcley Hill in 1571 that had apparently prompted J Wathen's report of a similar event at Caplow Hill, although there is no report of Marcley Hill's relocation being the result of an earthquake.

The Hereford earthquake of 1896, which was felt as far north as Carlisle, was the subject of a book by Dr Charles Davison who said that at the time of the quake (5.30am), there was a luminous object in the sky and that it "traversed a large part of the disturbed area".

The 1896 quake, which resulted in great structural damage, was a twin, having one epicentre near Hereford and the other near Ross. Davison refers it to a slip along a fault-plane between the anticlinal areas of Woolhope and May Hill.

Research suggests that Hereford experiences earthquakes approximately once every 40 years and with the last one of any size occurring in 1975 and a small tremor recorded in 1999, it should be at least 10 years before Hereford feels the earth move again.