Weather in the archives

Dr Wilkes' Diary

Dr Wilkes DiaryDr Richard Wilkes, 1690-1760, came from Willenhall, originally in South Staffordshire. He was ordained as a deacon but abandoned his career in the church to pursue a career in medicine like his brother John. Although Richard Wilkes had no formal medical training, he rapidly built up a fashionable practice based on Willenhall but extending well beyond the town.

The Staffordshire Record Office holds one of Dr Wilkes’ diaries for the period 1736-1738 (SRO 5350). This small leather bound book is a fair copy of what was perhaps a rough daily journal and this makes it exceptionally easy to read. It is mainly concerned with medical matters and local events, which caught his interest and attention. However, it also contains monthly summaries of the weather which makes it a valuable source for weather history at a time when we have little other consistent information. Often Wilkes links the state of the weather to prevalent illness at the time. His style is readable and his observation acute.

A later diary for the period 1739-1754 is in the Wellcome Institute Library in London.

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.