There has been much speculation recently
as to the identity and indeed the authenticity of the “Angel of the Thames”.
A recent website (see LINKS) has put forward some quite fanciful propositions but seems largely to have ignored the historical evidence surrounding this well-documented phenomenon.
As a historian and amateur investigator of paranormal encounters
I have a unique perspective on the Thames Angel and to set the record straight I have brought together the available images and some of my own research material.
THE GREAT PLAGUE
In 1665 The Black Death hit London. Bubonic plague had been a fact of life in Britain since the Middle Ages. It would occasionally flare up during a hot Summer and 1665 was one such Summer. The Plague was carried by rat fleas, which infested the filthy city. With London’s trade links both internationally and locally it was impossible to keep the disease out.
THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON
Ironically it was another tragedy that put an end to the Plague. Having experienced it’s hottest Summer for years London was tinder-dry when a fire broke out on 2nd September 1666 at the bakery on pudding lane in the City of London. The fire raged for 5 days and destroyed three quarters of the City of London. The rats that carried the plague were effectively wiped out by the fire, putting an end to the Black Death.
Miraculously the fire only killed six people, who some believe died attempting to help others. Their remains were buried at what is now known as Jubilee Gardens in a service attended by King Charles II, who had personally carried fire buckets during the fire to help put out the inferno.
Over the following weeks those working on the rebuilding of London reported “Holy apparitions” in the ruins around the Thames. In all there were six documented sightings, one of them is even commented on by Samuel Pepys, the great diarist.
With a city coming to terms with the combined grief of plague and fire the sightings were seen as a good omen. Some even connected the six sightings with the six who had died in the fire.
Although there were no further confirmed sightings in 1666 this is by no means the end of the story. There have been sightings of Angelic appearances in the same area of the Thames during both the First and Second World Wars, in 1951, the year of the Festival of Britain and at other times seemingly unconnected with any other event. What the sightings do seem to have in common is that they appear in sixes. There were seven sightings in 1918 although one was later was later proved to be a hoax.
The theories, of course, abound. Many now believe the six sightings to be the six dead from the Great Fire. Others say that it is the Angel of Promise. This theory has the most credence because the angel tends to appear at times of peril as a sign of redemption, or the promise of better times. The fact that only 6 people died in a fire which destroyed one of the biggest cities in the world is itself a a blessing after the horrors of the plague. Perhaps the angel or angels were a result of the intense need for a sign of better times. Without fail the genuine sightings are accompanied by reports of a feeling of ease and/or happiness.
Which brings us to the present day. That the recent sightings have been around Jubilee Gardens is not surprising, for it is here that our story began.
There have, this year, been four confirmed sightings of the Angel of the Thames. Because of the abundance of cameras these days all four have been recorded photographically, and through the internet we have a lot more access to any sightings.
Four sightings. Are we to get two more? Is there approaching
peril? Whatever you believe I would certainly be keeping
my eyes peeled around a certain part of the Thames.
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