In the early 19th century, Dr. Weekes was the parish surgeon for the town of Sandwich. From an early age, he had been fascinated by electricity, especially atmospheric electricity. In the late 1830s, he strung an insulated wire - known as an exploring wire - from the tower of the church of St Peter's to the tower of the church of St Clement's, a distance of about 320 metres. He arranged a connection from the centre of the wire, via a neighbour's chimney, to his laboratory, at 43 High Street. To erect the exploring wire, Weekes used an archer, who shot his longbow from the tops of the church towers.
Weekes, having diverted into his laboratory a free supply of atmospheric electricity from passing thunderclouds, was able to carry out experiments in comfort - but most certainly not in safety - with voltages that could at times reach more than 100,000 volts. He got used to electric shocks, but that could not be said of his onlookers.
In William Sturgeon's Annals of Electricity for 1841, Weekes records that: "An interesting and intelligent little girl, about 14 years of age and who was in the habit of witnessing scenes of this description, while handing to me some articles of apparatus incident to my purpose, accidentally stood upon the wire and such was the severity of the lateral shock thereby incurred, that she was sent reeling across the laboratory."
This information is taken from a book, 'The Mysterious Dr. Weekes' written by Alan Twyman and kindly donated to Open Sandwich.
Dr. William Henry Weekes
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