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Thursday, 23 April 2015

Weather in Austen's time in detail: 1800-1805

I am rather ambitiously trying to compile as detailed a weather report for the 'Long Regency', and perhaps earlier, encompassing at least 1790 - 1820.  I have a lot of data from newspapers, diaries and letters which is currently in long hand in an exercise book, which I am slowly transcribing.  This is the first tranche, which I hope might be of some use. 
Kathryn Kane's excellent article about the eruption of Mount Tambora HERE also mentions an eruption of 1809 which made the mini ice age worse, but as you will see from the data below, even before that the weather was at times pretty extreme at times! 

An overall dry summer from March - September
Mild at beginning of month, then severe frost and heavy rains with thunder to end of month.
Mostly dry.
Dry winds throughout month. W and SW winds prevailing.
Beef up from 6d/lb to 8d; veal from 7d/lb to 8d; Mutton from 5d/lb to 6d
Mild, some gentle seasonal rain, but heavy rain at end of month.  W and SW winds prevailing
Sunday 4th May violent thunder storms at Windsor, Liverpool, Hull, Northampton, Kettering, Warwick, Lincolnshire etc. Floods after the storm as far S. as London. 
May not as warm as sometimes but generally dry after the storm.
W and SW winds prevailing.
Rain off and on for first ten days of month
Wednesday 4th, rain all morning in London and pouring from 9am -1pm on the Review in Hyde Park; but George III rode throughout it.
Dry and fine after the 10th.
Dry; hot and windy.  Harvest able to commence by the close of the month.  Drought.
First half of month hot and sultry
Tuesday 19th, uncommonly hot but with clouds coming in from NW followed by storm of hail, greatest in Norfolk and across to Baldock.  There was a powerful storm in London, and damage to buildings from lightning.  Storms were experienced from Dorset to East Anglia, some flash floods.  4 men died at Lyme.  The harvest in East Anglia was saved, but not all of it further south.
A dry beginning to the month, then showery.
The first weeks of the month very adverse.
Saturday 8th heavy rains Exeter and Bath; a chaise was washed away near Exeter.
Sunday 9th November dreadful storm of wind in the morning, Stevenage.  The Chartist meeting on Kennington Common was dispersed as much by heavy rain as by the horse volunteers…
Largely temperate for most of rest of month
Frost at the end of November.
Mild for most of month.
Snow fell Saturday 29th which slowed down the Mails.  6’ deep in some places.

Mild, very little frost, wet
Mild but damp, a few frosty nights.
Tuesday 17th inclement weather
Strong winds, and frequent rain.
Falmouth: Tuesday 17th,  wind S, blowing strongly.
Wednesday 18th, wind SW moderate
Thursday 19th, wind WSW and blowing hard [Falmouth wind NW]
Friday 20th wind SW hurricane with rain until 2pm, hail in the evening
Saturday 21sr wind SW hurricane
Sunday 22nd wind SW, blowing hard [Falmouth, wind W, squally]
Monday 23rd wind SW, moderate
Tuesday 24th, wind W, moderate
Prevailing winds W and SW. Dry and cold in North, especially cold on Sunday 12th.
Wet in West of England, with W and SW gales.
First week in May, charming weather, but no dust.  Mild, warm rains and sunny weather, excellent for the crops.  Prevailing winds W and SW.
Largely dry and warm.  Early thunderstorms, at Southwell a woman and child were killed by lightning.
Tuesday 30th, Ball lightning in Hoxton.  Full moon, wind WNW, showers.
Wednesday 1st, thunderstorm, lightning strikes near Bath, woman killed in her own home by ball lightning down the chimney.
In general there were heavy and frequent showers in the early and mid part of the month.
Wind and weather shipping report:
Wed. 1st Plymouth SW, rain: Falmouth NW, fair
Thur. 2nd Plymouth WSW, rain: Falmouth s, heavy rain
Fri. 3rd Plymouth SW, rain; Falmouth NW showers
Sat. 4th Plymouth SW, rain: Falmouth NW fine, later heavy rain
Sun. 5th  Plymouth SW, fair: Falmouth variable, fresh
Mon. 6th Plymouth SE, rain: Falmouth  S, strong, rain
Tues. 7th Plymouth SW cloudy
Showery rain in this month filled the ears of corn in the south, but  in the north and east there was hail and rain that was less welcome.
Wednesday 22nd thunderstorm Suffolk
Thursday 23rd Various thunderstorm, Portsmouth, Richmond, Berkshire [where 2 are killed]. Heavy storm of hail in Reading, also in Elmsett in Suffolk, corn [wheat] beaten down.
Early rain, including some heavy showers clearing around Thursday 6th, wind veering to ENE.
Saturday 2nd, near Stratford, violent thunderstorm and rain, killed 2 men and a cow.  The Royal Cornish Gazette ran an article on how to preserve life from lightning strikes.
Fine and warm for rest of month, though cold at night with mists.
Wed. 26th Plymouth variable, sultry: Falmouth, variable, fine
Thur. 27th Plymouth SSE, sultry: Falmouth E
Fri. 28th Plymouth SSW, sultry: Falmouth E
Sat. 29th Plymouth ESE sultry: Falmouth N
Sun. 30th Plymouth SW fair until evening, then storm, rain and lightning and hail until 7am next morning: Falmouth SW fine, then heavy rain.
Mon 31st Plymouth SW showery: Falmouth, N fresh breeze

Tuesday 1st, Plymouth, westerly wind, fair weather.
Sunday 6th Wellington/Salop thunderstorm and rain lasting 2 hours; dreadful lighting at Coalbrookdale
14th September Thunderstorm, lightning and rain for 2 hours Gloucester.
Generally a lot of rain in the north, but hard, drying winds
A month of mainly fine weather.
Tues.6th Falmouth N, fair
Wed, 7th Plymouth SW rain: Falmouth SE
Thur. 8th Plymouth SW, rain: Falmouth SW
Fri. 9th Plymouth SE, hard rain, incessant rain: Falmouth SW, heavy rain
Friday 9th near Salisbury, in a circle about 3 miles across, clear skies darkened, scattered clouds gathered then ‘exploded’ as a whirlwind arose causing damage to property.  Lightning and thunder lasted 20 minutes, then heavy rain with hail, some stones 3” across. 
Sat. 10th Plymouth SE, cloudy, heavy rain.
Saturday 10th London, fine and warm day until evening when a thunderstorm started, lightning for an hour before any rain, very violent, lasted until 3am Sunday 11th.
Sun. 11th Plymouth SE, fair; Falmouth S
Mon. 12th Plymouth variable; Falmouth, variable
Tues. 13th Plymouth, SW, fair, wheat down to 18/6d from 27/6d a fortnight previously.
Tuesday 20th [full moon 21st] Lunar rainbow observed at Edinburgh on the Western horizon; a full bow for half an hour.
Thursday 22nd very inclement weather.
Tuesday 3rd heavy seas in the channel and storms
Wednesday 25th tempestuous weather, much damage at Margate, destroying Hubbard’s bathing room, Tennant’s shop and Hughes’s hot baths, and broke down portions of the parade in front of Mitchener’s Hotel.
Friday 27th tempestuous weather all around coasts at night, storm NNE to NE, hail and rain.  Ships sunk and driven inshore.
Saturday 28th Shrewsbury, mail delayed by deep snow in parts of Worcestershire and Goucestershire, the coach having often to quit the roads and travel over fields.  Near Marlborough, drifts were several feet deep.
Rain at end of month
Intense frost throughout month

A dry year especially in London and the South
Intense frost but dry throughout the month, but in the south west of the country cold wet weather at beginning of the month, killing newborn lambs.
Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st hurricanes across the land.  In Manchester several houses blown down and 4 people crushed to death. Several vessels on the Mersey foundered as well as houses blown down in Liverpool.  Ships sunk at anchor, much loss of life.  A servant girl near Doncaster killed by a falling chimney.
This great gale extended in a lessened form to the 28th of the month off and on, becoming severe again on the 28th.
 Frost at beginning of month, rain in later part
Prevailing winds W and SW; on the whole fine weather.
Prevailing winds W and SW, fine and warm weather, late showers
Changeable temperature in the onset of the month with cold and severely frosty nights.  Very little rain throughout, and most of month cold.  Prevailing winds W and SW.
Light showers at first but general drought.  Cool weather. ? low 50s F
Drought ends with cold rain throughout the month, cold weather and high winds.  Rain continuous and heavy in later part of month. 
Tuesday 20th Thunderstorms in Scotland, much rain in Aberdeen
Remarkably fine and dry, bountiful harvest
Wednesday 25th Newcastle, thunderstorm with heavy wind and hail.
Fine and very dry on the whole.
Wednesday 8th, sudden storm of wind and rain, then thunder and lightning for about an hour, fairly widespread.
Fine and mild, dry at beginning of month, late mild rain.
Friday 8th Brighton, storm from SW
Wednesday 13th Swansea, a fine day for a balloon ascension
Mild for time of year, some gentle rain
Mild temperatures for time of year throughout

1803 On the whole a dry year but seldom 10 days at a stretch without rain.  However it was dry enough for many springs to dry up, to be replenished after October.
Severe weather following the warmth of the previous month; severe frosts.
Saturday 8th [day after full moon] about midnight a hurricane from ESE, rain and sleet, Newcastle bears the brunt.
Milder weather, frosts largely dissipate after the early part of the month.
Early frosts, then finer weather.  In Midlands, the early frosts were severe.  Prevailing winds W and SW.
Generally dry weather.  In Yorkshire and the north frosty nights between 18th and 20th, then several days stormy and tempestuous.
Sunday 24th wind and light showers on the Sunday promenade in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, with a ‘blush of sunshine’.  Then sudden storms and a torrent of rain scattered the promenaders to Piccadilly to avoid the storm, doubtless with many a blush at suddenly transparent muslin.  Prevailing winds W and SW.
Cold northerly winds at the beginning of the month, but warm gentle rains towards the close, by which time prevailing winds W and SW
Frequent but not torrential rains, but insufficient to relieve drought especially in Scotland [the wrong type of rain, no doubt, as our modern water board would put it.]  Some burning hot days but cold nights.
Monday 6th violent thunderstorm which did damage across the country.
Fine and warm
[Saturday 9th July fire broke out in tower of Westminster Abbey; roof fell in before fire was under control but no damage to monuments. ]
Continuous heat and sunshine.  Rain in North, uninterrupted fine weather in Midlands.  Too dry for some crops to survive.
Unusually fine weather, with late, fine rains
Largely fine, rain at beginning of month, but still something of a drought
[Friday 2nd Astley’s Amphitheatre burned down as well as some houses behind it; Mrs Wood, mother of Mrs Astley, lost her life.]
Wet, especially near start of month, but heavy rains throughout month.
Sunday 13th a most beautiful vivid meteor seen in London and other parts of the country about 8pm.  Some reported a noise like thunder accompanying it.
Tuesday 22nd South Coast, rain, hail, thunder and lightning, W and WSW winds; storms across South.  At Bromswell the storm was preceded by an explosion in the air, followed by a ‘heavy noise’ for a few seconds, striking those observing it temporarily blind from the flash, and a strong sulphurous smell, followed by torrents of rain.
Snow and frost at beginning of month, then thaw and much rain.
Tempestuous weather in the last week of the month especially along the Sussex coast especially Sunday 25th and Monday 26th.  Average temperatures 40.4 ° Fahrenheit in London, and temperature on 24th was 2° higher than on June 24th 1802!

Dry summer continuing well into September with pleasant weather
Much rain throughout the month, but mild temperatures.  Tempest of wind and rain towards the end of the month.
Thursday 19th tremendous gale and storm from SW  Gloucester and other parts of the county; struck in Plymouth on Friday 20th.  Gales along the coast for several days. Damage done to the shipping at Falmouth on the 25th; reckoned a worse storm than the one the previous month.
Dry; frosts and thaws
Largely fine in South with late sharp strong winds and frosty.  Weather in North more severe. Prevailing winds W and SW
Strong frosty winds to open the month, and cold  rains prevailing to near the end of the month.  Prevailing winds W and SW.
Monday 30th Brighton, 2 hours before daybreak a tremendous thunderstorm with hail and rain, thunder and sheet lightning, so loud that many supposed the French had landed and the noise was artillery flashes and reports.
Very fine weather.  Prevailing winds W and SW
Friday 4th Cheshire and Somerset  storm of rain described as tropical in its intensity.  Part of Berchen cliff fell.
Monday 7th Lewes tempest and heavy rains commencing after midnight and finishing between 6am and 7am.
Tuesday 8th foggy at sea; Manchester, violent storm; tornado at Bolton and ball of lightning.
Dry and warm.
Sunday 24th June, Brighton, it was sultry all day; the Steyne had a military parade, and shortly after it was over, around 8pm, a storm with rain and hail until 11pm.  At 10-30 ball lightning came down a chimney but no-one was harmed. It passed out through the window and exploded in a sulphurous reek.  The houses were shaken by thunder.   In Woolwich, the same storm’s lightning set light to the rigging of a sheer hulk.  It struck again and blinded two sailors.  The storm was experienced as far north as Bucks.  In London a woman was killed by lightning in Grosvenor Square.

Dry and warm in South, heavy rains in North.
Wednesday 11th thunderstorm about 3pm of great severity in the region of Glasgow; a girl killed by lightning. Ball lightning and rain.
Sunday 15th violent storm in Norfolk, Suffolk and eastern Essex, ricks set on fire, and two men, a dog and a cow struck dead by lightning, others singed or burned by it.
Tuesday 31st storm on coast of France.
Wednesday 1st heavy gales in the West;  ship driven from mooring
Thursday 2nd thunderstorms in Ireland
 Friday 3rd tempests in East; Thunderstorms Western England and ball lightning at Brailsford.  Vivid lightning Shropshire, and rain heavy enough to damage crops.  2” rain in Hampshire.
Fine dry weather with some rain, but moderate, and mostly in North for rest of month.
Fine weather, still dry on the whole
Friday 14th, Plymouth SSW, cloudy
Saturday 15th Plymouth, sultry until noon then storm of thunder and lightning, lasting about an hour.
Sunday 16th Plymouth, SW, fair.
Monday 17th Plymouth, SW, fair and sultry.  St Lambert’s day celebrated
Tuesday 18th, Plymouth ESE, cloudy and sultry
Before Tuesday 18th: [reported on that date as ‘lately’] Small tornado out of sultry weather at Whitby. [probably the 15th?]
Rain, but mild
Friday 26th Plymouth SSE, fair
Saturday 27th Plymouth SSW hurricane force, blowing up overnight and continuing into the day:  Falmouth, wind S.  Bristol also has hurricane.
Sunday 28th Plymouth SW blow hard and rain: Falmouth wind S
Monday 29th Plymouth SW, rain: Falmouth SE
Tuesday 30th Plymouth SW, cloudy: Falmouth S
Wednesday 31st Plymouth, SW: Falmouth SW
Wednesday 31st Cornwall, storm of thunder and lightning and sudden gusts of wind.  Hereford  dreadful storm of thunder and lightning in the evening, and at around 10pm a tornado that levelled 130 apple and pear trees in a swathe 200 yards in length and 40 yards in breadth. Those to either side were uninjured.  Wind SE and NW changing momentarily.  10 or 12 oaks destroyed in wood at end of the orchards. Before and after tornado, night very dark and calm. Heavy rain fell at intervals and frequent flashes of lightning.
Rain for much of month.
Thursday 1st Falmouth SW
Friday 2nd Falmouth, N
The astronomer La Lande calculated that more rain had fallen in the last 9 months than had fallen in the preceding 27 months.
Sunday 4th, Glasgow heavy wind and swell in harbour such that a ship parted its cables and blew away.
Sunday 18th conjunction of Venus and Saturn.   Gales in the Channel.
Some rain and mild in first half of month.  Dry frosty weather towards close of month.  Average temperature 37° F in London. Heavy snow in middle of month in Scotland, which delayed the London mails on the 20th.

Wet summer in London
Sharp frosts through most of month and continuous rain in the East
Sunday 6th and Monday 7th heavy rain around Chester.   In the south east there were also severe storms and heavy rain and strong wind, and during the Sunday night rain, snow and frost in turn.
Monday 21st The Serpentine being frozen, hundreds of skaters repaired there, but decided it was unsafe.  About 3 pm some score decided to test it, and they skated for a while without mishap encouraging others.  About 50 were on the ice when it gave way simultaneously in 2 places.  4 men fell through, one in attempting to rescue another, and all but 1 were saved using ladders.
Cold, dry weather  through much of month; winds as much from E and NE as from W and SW
Fine, some light seasonal rains at start of month, sharp frosty night at end of month, generally dry.
8th Apr fine bright warm day.
Sharp cold winds from NE; cold, especially at night, often frost in the mornings, wet weather.  Wind veered W at end of month.  As many winds during month from E and NE as from W and SW.
Seasonal rains; heavy showers in Home Counties.  North Easterly winds over much of month caused damage to exposed fruit trees.
Friday 14th Plymouth wind NNW, cold rain:
Saturday 15th Plymouth wind NNW, cold. Falmouth, wind  N
Sunday 16th Plymouth wind variable, some light showers, cold evening: Falmouth wind W
Monday 17th Plymouth wind W, cloudy and cold in the evening: Falmouth wind W
Monday 17th Whitehaven, a torrent of rain
Tuesday 18th Plymouth wind NW, cloudy and cold. Falmouth, wind NNW. Storm in the Yarmouth Roads [shipping lanes near Isle of Wight].
Wednesday 19th Plymouth wind NNW: Falmouth, wind N
Thursday 20th Falmouth wind N
Friday 21st Falmouth wind variable
Friday 28th London about noon, tremendous storm or rain, hail, lightning and thunder, lasting 20 minutes.  Many windows were broken and the streets deluged rising so high in Clement’s Lane, some 2-3’ deep, that a stall was carried away.  The hailstones were the size of marbles. Kingston-upon-Thames, a dreadful storm with torrents of hail and rain. Rain ran off hills, and lightning caused much damage. Floods in low lying areas.
Fine weather, after cold winds and dull weather at start of month,  Average temperature 61.5° F
Monday 22nd Manchester, violent thunderstorm.
Tuesday 23rd Leeds thunderstorm, and what appeared to be two sheets of fire descended on the roof of a factory, but no harm was done.  In Craven a small boy was struck dead by lightning, and fires were started by the lightning in various places.  Cheshire in general suffered storms, also Staffordshire.
Monday 22nd to Thursday 25th Carlisle and other parts of Cumbria much rain fell, rendering the streets almost impassable.  Thunder and lightning off and on.
This summer reckoned to have experienced more thunder than in living memory.
Fine weather on the whole
Rain and thunderstorms in middle of month improved the hops.
Saturday 10th, full moon such as to cause very high spring tides, and for the next three days
Fine on the whole
Saturday 21st Margate, a torrent of rain about noon, spoiling the public breakfast for the fashionable at Dandelion. It brightened for them however by 3pm.
Started fine and dry, but wet at end
Friday 25th hurricane followed by gusty weather Devon.
Tuesday 29th,  weather deteriorates generally
Relatively mild and moist
Severe weather to open, with snow; generally cold wet weather.  Lowest temperature  Tuesday 17th, 20° F, wind SW [Polar maritime returning if anyone cares].  Average temperature 38.3° F


  1. This is an amazing list! Thank you very much for sharing!

    22. July 1805, violent thunderstorm: There should be a plot-bunny in this:
    Has the hero (a wealthy man travelling incognito) been out in the storm, caught a cold and has to be nursed back to health, upon wihich he falls in love with the kind and gentle lady who had taken care for him, not knowing who he really is... ?

  2. Nice plot bunny! And his people are out searching for him, and she, fearing he is on the run, and unwilling to believe him guilty of anything too heinous, conceals her knowledge of him so she can at least warn him... and one of his people finds out where he is, and because of her concealment fears she is a gold-digging harridan and strives to rescue his master/cousin/best friend...

  3. This is an amazing resource, Sarah! I can't tell you how many times in my writing I'm looking up various weather details for whichever part of England my story is set in. I'm from Sunny California. The concept of snow is still 3 parts mystery to me ;)

  4. Haha, my son and daughter-in-law live in California, and I'm sure he at least will be glad to leave snow behind... I'm currently wrestling with expanding 1806-10 now there are more periodicals available. It'll eventually end up in a little pamplet of about 100 - 200 pages and I'll also include things like the dates of Easter for each year, and the date of the full moon, vital to know for when to throw those house parties... don't hesitate to contact me if you need a particular time and place,before I get the whole shebang posted, as I have much more in notebooks than I have as yet online, and I'll see what I have. You can find me at

    1. Thank you, Sarah! It sounds like a big project - but an incredibly useful one, especially to authors. I appreciate your generosity in sharing your research :)

    2. Can't wait for you to publish this one! I shall definitely be buying it. So useful!

  5. You are welcome! I want to do it for my own satisfaction and I should like to share as well. Funnily enough it's less of a problem getting the data than the history of names for writers and re-enactors project, which has stalled a little on being unable to get hold of copies of medieval census reports drom the Holy Roman Empire... my local library, normally very good, let me down on a couple of books I hoped to peruse. I dislike using web sources since I have come across mistakes in the medieval French listings posted online, of the rather fundamental gender kind... having said that, I get by in Old French, but between Anglo Saxon and enough modern German to translate texts on tanks for my other half I'm a bit hazy. Well, actually all at sea. And paleography in German blackletter is seriously difficult....
    The weather project just involves reading through a ton of newspapers from the period, deciphering things like 'Monday last' and 'Monday sennight' and adding this to snippets from diaries and letters. If anyone out there who has access to private diaries or letters 1775-1825 would be kind enough to let me know about any mentions of the weather, I would be truly grateful.

  6. This is truly fascinating stuff. I notice that many of the entries are from Plymouth or other parts of the southwest. I don't know how weather generally travels in the British Isles, so I was wondering if, for example, Plymouth's rain reaches London in three days, or if Manchester is usually 10° cooler than Dover. Can one make generalizations like that?
    I'm so glad you are doing this, and I look forward to the completed work.

    1. No generalisations for the UK, I'm afraid Lillian! It can be snowing in Edinburgh and sunny down south, and vice versa. The whole country is notoriously changeable, and the changes don't change the same, if that makes sense. Rain plans to travel across in one direction, and then changes and does something quite different. It keeps out weather men and women fully occupied!

  7. A lot of both the trade and the military vessels sailed from the south coast so the wind and weather there was vital to know, for a passge through the channel, and the always choppy Bay of Biscay. I have not come across such detailed reports from any of the other major ports; shipping news from them is what ships sailed and what arrived, which is a little frustrating.
    Weather in Britain, in general, moves from West to East and often, especially in Winter, North to South. Falmouth, stuck out into the Atlantic, can be a law unto itself. However, some species of what happens in Plymouth happens next day in London as a reasonable rule of thumb. London may be reckoned to be 1-2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than most of the rest of the country around it and in the South, excluding Cornwall, which may be very warm indeed [flowers like Camellias when introduced would only grow in Cornwall at first; its daffodils are generally weeks earlier than the rest of the country]. London's heat is artificial for being a metropolis bringing it up to the temperature of the South Coast or even above, because of sea breezes. East Anglia would be a degree cooler than London, Shropshire, though not far north, often two degrees for elevation and general situation; Yorkshire and Manchester on opposite sides about 2 degress lower than London, the Scottish borders 3 degrees less, and Scotland 3-5 degrees less. very roughly speaking! I don't know if I shall have enough data to reproduce isobars for people to extrapolate from, but I'm not sure it would be practical as it wouldn't half turn it into a tome!

  8. I'm up to 1809 and got sidetracked onto fiction writing because it pays the vet bills... Lillian, to oversimplify drastically, the predominant winds are from the NW so generally speaking weather starts in the top left hand corner and heads to the bottom right over 1-3 days. Massive over-simplification! It's why I've put in wind directions when I have them, and where I have the next load I'll have readings for a few years from East London [Stratford, where the trains always break down] and Manchester, giving a moderately good picture of what the north/south divide is doing. Working out the isobars for each week would be too challenging, sorry, but there are some times when you can just about do it for yourself by looking at the different wind directions. I will be including a map both of the old counties, and of the principle towns and cities mentioned in weather reports so you can always scan that and shove in wind direction arrows to recreate isobars.