Some homes had minor damage, and one man was injured by a collapsing chimney.
The 5.3 magnitude quake struck at about one a.m. local time and was centered about 125 miles (200 kilometers) north of London, the British Geological Survey said.
Julian Bukits of the geological survey called it the most powerful quake in Britain since a 5.4 temblor hit North Wales in 1984. (See map.)
"This was a very large earthquake in U.K. terms, but in world terms average," Bukits told the Associated Press (AP). "This one has been felt throughout the whole of England and southern Scotland."
A man in Barnsley, north of Sheffield, was injured when a chimney collapsed and crashed through the roof into his bedroom, ambulance officials said.
Many people across the region—unaccustomed to such quakes—reported feeling their homes shake.
"It was scary," David Somerset told the AP by telephone from Driffield, around 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the epicenter. He was working on his computer at the time.
"It was a strange sensation as the room, ornaments, and chest of drawers started wobbling and making a loud rumbling noise," he said.
Lincolnshire police said they had received dozens of phone calls about the temblor and that some minor damage to homes had been reported.
"This is a moderate earthquake," Rafael Abreu, of the U.S. Geological Survey, told Sky News from the United States.
He described the tremor as a shallow interplate earthquake. He said his U.S.-based group initially put the magnitude at 4.7 but would likely adopt the 5.3 magnitude rating from his British counterparts.
Bukits said Britain is hit annually with about 200 quakes but only 10 percent are strong enough to be felt. A quake of magnitude 5 is capable of causing considerable damage—particularly in places like Britain, which is unaccustomed to earthquakes.
The epicenter was in Market Rasen in Lincolnshire, a small market town known for its racecourse, the U.S. survey said.
"I was in bed at the time, and suddenly there was quite a big bang and shaking that woke us up," said Laura Bocock, who lives close to Market Rasen in northeast England. "It sounded like someone had hit the bungalow and (I) was quite frightened.
"I couldn't get back to sleep because I was scared it could happen again."
A woman in Notting Hill, a wealthy section of London, reported that her radio was bumping up and down on a shelf for several seconds.
Free Email News Updates
Sign up for our Inside National Geographic newsletter. Every two weeks we'll send you our top stories and pictures (see sample).
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES