How the elements struck twice

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The Independent Online
In 1994, three men armed with baseball bats and chains smashed their way into a house in Selsey, West Sussex, then fled without taking anything - but not before explaining to the frightened residents that they had broken into the wrong house. That is the sort of exciting place Selsey is.

It is difficult to see what Selsey could have done to arouse the heavens' wrath, not once but twice. The town has just been hit by its second tornado in recent years. It suffered a milder one in 1986. Then last Sunday, gales and heavy seas damaged the town's sea defences.

If this is a sign of vengeance from above, it may have something to do with St Wilfred of York, who built a cathedral in Selsey in 681. Wilfred spent much of his life involved in complex disputes involving the date of Easter and the correct way to shave a priest's tonsure.

The town can boast a large number of elderly residents (more than 40 per cent of the population are over 60), one of the largest caravan parks in Europe, a branch of the Dr Who Appreciation Society and the astronomer Patrick Moore.

When the eccentric Eighties pop group Madness wrote the lyrics to their hit song "Driving in my car", they included the line: "I've even been to Selsey Bill". They chose it well: where else, after all, both rhymes with, and is even duller than, Muswell Hill?

Until the end of the 18th century, Selsey Bill - the promontory on which the town sits - was an island. The causeway to the mainland was completed in 1809.

Between that date and Wednesday night's tornado, Selsey has generally stayed out of the headlines. In 1994, there was a double murder after a karaoke meeting in the local pub - the Star Gazer, named for Moore - and the following year someone found a pounds 15,000 Rolex watch in a swimming pool and handed it in to the police.