Weather in the archives

Estate Records

Estate RecordsUntil the first half of the 20th century Staffordshire was dominated by large landed estates. The management of these estates generated many series of records which are termed collectively as ‘estate records’. These records very much reflect the size and complexity of the estate concerned. Staffordshire Record Office holds a number of collections of estate records from within the County.

Most large estates had a rural base and were therefore very much involved with their agricultural development and management. Some also had home farms which were responsible for providing produce for the house at the centre of the estates.

In addition to the weather journals which are described separately, estate records also contain other sources of information about the weather. The best example for Staffordshire is the collection of the Dukes of Sutherlands’ Trentham Estate. These records include general reports of the Trentham Agency, an excellent and detailed statistical and observational account for the period 1816-1882, (SRO D593/L/6/2-63). The monthly report provides information about the weather in the form of a table giving morning and afternoon temperatures and a brief description of the weather. However these weather tables should not be used in isolation but in conjunction with other information in the report about progress on the estate, much of which could be determined by weather conditions.

Additional examples of specific types of estate records which tell us about the weather are agents’ diaries or memoranda books. Again for Trentham the diary of William Lewis, the local Trentham agent, which covers the period 1816-1837 (SRO D593/L/2/2b), notes the daily weather as well as his daily business on the estate. Labour accounts, which record the disposition of workmen and labourers on estate or farm work, will often include a comment on the day’s weather. The state of the weather determined what it was possible to achieve, particularly at times of haymaking and harvesting. Estate records will also contain information about planting, crop yields, damage to land from flooding and structural damage to trees and estate buildings from weather. Often however this type of information will require a great deal of searching out. 

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.