September 19th - The Day of the Huntrodds!

For any maths fans visiting the town of Whitby in North Yorkshire, England, there's a very special treat!

Perched on the cliffs high above the town are the ruins of the Gothic Abbey. To reach the Abbey you need to climb the famous 199 steps that were featured in Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula".

Watch out for who you might meet as you go up!

Although the ruins are spectacular, the other church that shares the same cliff top has its own little-known secret.

The front of St Mary's Church looks out over the harbour and North Sea, but tucked around the back is a wooden staircase that leads to a gallery inside the building. Nestled underneath the stairs is a small stone arch that guards a very curious gravestone.

The inscription is almost worn away, but a plaque on the back of the wall tells us what it says. If you're a maths fan, you'll love it!

Let's pick it apart and look at the sums.
  • They were both born on Sept 19th 1600. The chances of sharing their birth month and day are 1/365, but also factoring in the same year, we'll generally assume people getting married are born within 10 years of each other. Therefore the chances of exactly the same birth date for both of them is 1/3650.
  • They were married on the same date. Again this should be a further 1/365 chance, although it may be that they picked the day to coincide with their birthdays? Sadly there's no way of asking them, but of course this massively reduces the chances. Let's say this chance is reduced to 1/10.
  • They both died on Sept 19th 1680. This is the weird one! The chances of Francis dying on any Sept 19th are 1/365. The chances of Mary also dying on Sept 19th are a further 1/365, plus we have to factor in the same death year as her husband, so as above, let's say she was likely to die within 10 years. Therefore the chances of Mary dying on the same day are 1/3650.
  • The chance of all these events happening are:

    1/3650 x 1/10 x 1/365 x 1/3650 =

    1/48,627,125,000 or nearly 50 billion to one!

Of course these sums can't be perfect, especially regarding the wedding date. Also we've ignored leap years (which didn't actually exist in great Britain until 1752), plus the chances should be even longer bearing in mind they both reached an age of 80 years which would have been exceptional at the time.

199 ... another extraordinary coincidence!

The date in question is the 19th of September. We'd usually write this as 19/9, and St Mary's Church is at the top of Whitby's famous 199 steps!

Rest In Peace Francis and Mary

After 80 years, 12 children and for creating
a mathematical sensation, you deserve it!

While the Huntrodds were alive...


Queen Elizabeth 1 died. King James VI of Scotland also became King James 1 of England


Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament


Jamestown was founded in Virginia, the first permanent English colony in America


William Shakespeare died.


Sir Walter Raleigh was executed


The start of the English Civil War (Roundheads v Cavaliers)


Sir Isaac Newton was born


King Charles 1 became the only English monarch to be executed as Oliver Cromwell took over the country.


King Charles II (The Merry Monarch) took over the throne.


The Great Plague killed over 100,000 people in London and the South East.


The Great Fire of London


Construction started on Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece, St Paul's Cathedral

Had enough numbers?

Before you make your way back down the 199 steps, be sure to look round St Mary's Churchyard and see if you can spot

Here are the church and
Abbey during Goth Weekend.

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