Weather in the archives

Unusual Weather Events

Staffordshire’s weather has included its fair share of unusual weather ocurrences over the centuries. A number of pre- 19th century archive sources focus particularly on the unusual in commenting on or recording the weather. To the modern reader the language used often seems to be exaggerated. Yet the use of particular words and phrases is interesting and should not be dismissed out of hand. The event is as the writer observed it at the time, or as he or she believed it to be.
The phrase, ‘the greatest in man’s memory’ is a popular one frequently used in descriptions of unusual weather. ‘Five inch hailstones’, ‘two minute thunder claps’ and ‘mighty tempests’ are all descriptions which have been applied to recorded weather events in the county.
Phenomena, such as comets, eclipses and meteors were seen in the past as heralds of bad things to come, including poor weather. Even as late as 1852, an earthquake was considered to have contributed to unsettled weather and flooding in the following week.
There are accounts of storms with huge hailstones, as in June 1715 at Ettingshall and August 1810 at Alton. Dr Wilkes’ account of a hailstorm in 1738 describes it as the greatest ‘in the memory of man’. Fierce storms could also provoke fear and terror, especially where structural damage occurred.

In the 19th and 20th centuries it is the newspapers which contain particularly descriptive and well-written accounts of unusual weather events, such as storms and whirlwinds, on buildings and trees.