Weather in the archives

Farmers’ Diaries and Journals

Farmers DiariesDiaries kept by farmers provide us with an invaluable source of information about the weather. The success or failure of the farming year and consequently the farmer’s livelihood was dependent upon weather conditions and upon the right balance of weather. A long period of drought, for example, impacted not only on grain yields but also upon grass and the capacity to fatten stock to sell at market. With little in the way of labour saving machinery, every waking minute was devoted, not just to the tasks of farming, but also to all the other work necessary to produce cheese and butter to sell at the local market, to maintain buildings and to feed the family and farm workers.

Farmers’ diaries will therefore generally include regular reference to weather conditions, among notes of tasks carried out and daily life. They can also be good indicators of prevailing economic conditions. Unfortunately they are relatively rare survivals and where they do survive, can sometimes need careful reading and interpretation. The use of dialect words is not uncommon, as is the use of phonetic spelling, and sometimes it may be necessary to say the word out loud to work out its meaning. The weather is also being observed for entirely different reasons to how the ordinary man in the street might judge it. Whereas constant drizzle is an inconvenience for some people, it could be fine growing weather to a farmer depending on the time of year.

The Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service has some examples of farmers’ diaries in its collections.

Contact us for further details at or if you know of any surviving farmers’ diaries, please let us know.

Extracts from this archive source can be found alongside other source material in the Month by Month section, arranged chronologically to show the progression of weather through each month.