An Article In Meteorite Times Magazine
Martin Horejsi's Meteorite and Tektite Books

A December Meteorite Fall

Wold Cottage

A "prerogative of often rather flamboyant gentlemen."
With loud sounds described as pistol shots or distant guns at sea, the Wold Cottage meteorite arrived in Yorkshire, England on December 13, 1795 at 3:00 in the afternoon.

Pillinger and Pillinger (1996) wrote in Meteoritics:

"During its first twenty years on Earth, the Wold Cottage meteorite was a prized specimen, a public attraction and sought after for scientific teaching purposes."

Has anything changed in the past 200+ years? I think not.

One way I assess the historical importance of a meteorite is with what I call the Cosmic Debris meteorite index rating. This is simply the number of pages on which the particular meteorite is cited in John Burke's seminal book titled Cosmic Debris: Meteorites in History. In the case of Wold Cottage, the rating is a 10, which is pretty good. For reference, L'Aigle has a score of 11, while Krasnojarsk has a CD index of 40!

My crusted slice of meteoritic nativity weighs 13.7g and holds a label from some old and no doubt historic collection. Any help identifying the origin of the paper specimen lable on this slice is greatly appreciated.

I acquired my current slice of Wold Cottage from Michael Farmer who in turn received it in trade from the Natural History Museum in London back in the good old days when the NHM actually let go of such things.

As printed in a 1796 issue of The Gentleman's Magazine, a witness to the fall...

"dug the stone up from the place where it was buried about 21 inches deep. It smelled, as is said, very strongly of sulphur when it was dug up, and was even warm, and smoked."

And who am I to disagree with a warm smoking meteorite? I wasn't there.

During the great Michael Farmer Meteorite Collection sale, Wold Cottage was one of many historic specimens I was able to pry from his hands with nothing more than large wads of cash.

The crust on the slice is a welcome addition. Over two centuries ago, this black rind of fusioned rock formed in a world just beginning to scratch the surface of meteorites as a science.

I'm not sure what to make of this feature. It appears to me that during the fall, a fragment separated, but did not break off. Fusion crust developed both on- and under the fragment.

Since this sample is little more than a two dimensional slice of a three dimensional stone, one must be creative in thought about how this feature formed, and that it might actually be a rather common feature in meteorites if one sliced stones through odd crustal features rather than with other motives such as pesentation or sample size.

Camouflaged when looked at head-on, the hole is covered by its thickly crusted lid.

Wold Cottage even has its own entry in Wikipedia. However, there is much to be desired from the entry as made obvious by this insightful sentence:

"It was used by scientists as proof that extraterrestrial matter existed, and was made of the same materials as terrestrial matter."

Makes sense to me. But I already know what the author(s) mean having written about his same topic in Meteorite Magazine a few years ago.


How many meteorites have monuments to their fall? Wold Cottage does. This picture, and a wonderful story about a visit to the land of Wold Cottage appears on Rob Elliott's website. Rob graciously let me use this photo and the one below. Please have a look at his other photos and read his wonderful tale.

As you might expect from the name, Wold Cottage is simply a cottage in the small village of Wold Newton. Had the Wold's cottage (captured in the distant center of this picture) been just a few hundred meters up hill, it would have been a much more exciting afternoon because the hot, smoking, 25kg stone from space would have crashed right through the roof of the old home.


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