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Oppolzer records 158 eclipses in which the path of centrality passed over or near some part of the British Isles between 1184 BC August 28 and 1999 August 11. The 28 noted below are those which are recorded as being observed. Obviously, many others were observed, but no record was made or survives. The list is not exhaustive. If you know of records I missed, please tell me! Eclipses which were partial in Britain though total elsewhere are omitted

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The partial phase of the total eclipse of 1927, as seen from Giggleswick in Yorkshire



  • 364 June 16. A total eclipse in North Scotland. This is the earliest recorded eclipse seen from Britain, according to Peter Macdonald in the Journal of the British Astronomical Association, 100,6,1990, p.278. It was seen from Binchester, a Roman fort near Bishop Auckland in Co. Durham. The source has been lost.
  • 594 July 23. A total eclipse in Ireland and northern England. The Annals of Ulster record Defectio solis.i.mane tenebrosum (an eclipse of the Sun, i.e., a dark early morning).
  • 650 February 6. An annular eclipse in North Scotland and Orkney. Tycho Brahe claimed that the eclipse had been seen in England, but no record has been found.
  • 664 May 1. A total eclipse in Ireland and northern England. "The Sun was eclipsed", says the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
  • 733 August 14. Annular eclipse in southern England. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says, "The Sun was eclipsed, and the whole disc of the Sun was like a black shield."
  • 764 June 4. Annular eclipse in Ireland and northern England. The Annals of Ulster record Sol tenebrosis in hora tertia diei (a dark Sun in the third hour of the day).
  • 865 January 1. A total eclipse in Ireland and the Midlands. The Annals of Ulster record, "An eclipse of the Sun on the Kalends of January".
  • 878 October 29. A total eclipse in southern Scotland. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says that there was an eclipse of the Sun for one hour between nones (3 p.m.) and vespers (evening), but nearer to nones, in AD 879. This is probably the eclipse they mean, although the annular eclipse of 880 March 14 (partial in Britain near sunset) has been suggested).
  • 885 June 16. A total eclipse in northern Scotland and Orkney. The Chronicle of the Kings of Scotland says "…an eclipse of the Sun occurred". The Annals of Ulster record, "An eclipse of the Sun, and stars were seen in the sky".
  • 1133 August 2. A total eclipse in northern England. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says; "…the day was darkened universally, and the Sun became as if it were a moon three nights old, with the stars shining round it at mid-day." The chronicler William of Malmesbury also says, “During the eclipse I saw stars around the sun.” The Chronicle says the eclipse occurred in 1135, just before the death of Henry I.
  • 1140 March 20. A total eclipse in the English Channel. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says, "…the Sun and the day were darkened about noon, when men eat, so that they lighted candles to eat by."
  • 1185 May 1. A total eclipse in Scotland. Roger de Hoveden says, "a total eclipse of the Sun was seen".
  • 1191 June 23. An annular eclipse in Ireland and the Midlands. Matthew of Westminster says, "…for the space of three hours…such darkness came over the face of the earth, that even in the day time (for this eclipse began about 9 of the clock in the morning) the stars appeared plainly in the element."
  • 1230 May 14. The track of a total eclipse began in Kent. Roger of Wendover reported that an "extraordinary eclipse of the Sun occurred in the early morning, immediately after sunrise". Many field workers decided to return to bed on account of the "excessive darkness…after about the space of one hour the Sun regained its usual brilliance".
  • 1241 October 6. A total eclipse near Shetland. Holinshed says, "There appeared a right sore eclipse of the Sun, very strange to the beholders."
  • 1339 July 7. A pearl-ring (annular-total) eclipse in Orkney. The Chronicon Angliae of St. Albans said, "there was an eclipse of the Sun immediately after mid-day, and it lasted for two hours. It was eclipsed unto its fourth part."
  • 1406 June 16. A total eclipse in Kent or the Channel. 9/10ths of the Sun was covered in London. "It is stated that the darkness was so great that people could hardly recognise one another." (G. F. Chambers). A French-Spanish fleet, setting out from the Seine to raid the English coast, was alarmed by the eclipse. The crews, unable to see each other, said that the Sun was dying.
  • 1433 June 17. A total eclipse in N. E. Scotland. Black Friday or Black Hour. The darkness was so deep at 3 p.m. that nothing could be seen. Totality in Inverness lasted 4 minutes 22 seconds – not known if this is by calculation or observation. (G. F. Chambers)
  • 1598 March 1. (New Style) A total eclipse in Scotland. Black Saturday.
  • 1652 April 8. A total eclipse in Scotland. Mirk Monday. At Carrickfergus in Ireland, when the Sun was reduced to "a very slender crescent of light, the Moon all at once threw herself within the margin of the solar disc with such agility that she seemed to revolve like an upper millstone". Carrickfergus was only just within the north limit of totality. (J. R. Hind)

Eclipse 1715 Cam

The eclipse of 1715, as seen from Cambridge. Drawing by Roger Cotes.

  • 1715 April 22. A total eclipse in England. Halley observed the corona from Fleet Street (London). Roger Cotes said that three planets and several stars were visible; a "Ring…encompass`d the Moon (with) Rays of a much fainter light in the form of a rectangular Cross".

Eclipse 1715
Halley’s second map of the 1715 eclipse path

  • 1724 May 11. A total eclipse in S.W. Ireland and S.W. England. Generally cloudy in England. Observed from Salisbury.
  • 1748 July 25. An annular eclipse in Scotland. Dr. Thomas Short observed solar surface "mottling".
  • 1764 April 1. An annular eclipse in England. At Ipswich the eclipse "continued annular about 15 seconds"; it began at 9h 8m, mid-eclipse 10h 33m, end 12h 4m. (Gentleman`s Magazine)
  • 1836 May 15. An annular eclipse in Ireland and northern England. F. Baily at Jedburg, Roxburgshire, saw "a row of lucid points, like a string of bright beads" on the Moon`s rim. (Baily`s Beads). The darkness during annularity was "not greater than that caused by a temporary cloud passing over the Sun (but) of a peculiar character…like that produced by the Sun shining through a morning mist."
  • 1858 March 15. A pearl-ring eclipse in England. Generally cloudy. The eclipse was observed briefly in London and from Fotheringay Castle, Northants, where annularity was at 70 seconds past 1 p.m., lasting 80 seconds. Baily`s Beads were seen on the upper and under side of the Moon, around 3/4ths of her circumference. See here.

Eclipse 1927
The 30-mile wide track of totality in 1927

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Totality in 1927, photographed from Giggleswick, Yorkshire

  • 1927 June 29. A total eclipse in northern England. Seen from Giggleswick, Yorkshire. Generally cloudy.
  • 1999 August 11. A total eclipse in Cornwall. Cloudy. One or two people saw the corona through fortuitous holes in the overcast. See here.

The definitive book on past and future central solar eclipses in the British Isles is UK Solar Eclipses from year 1 to 3,000, by Sheridan Williams. For details see www.clock-tower.com/eclipse.htm

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