Thursday, 29 December 2011

Jane Eyre II

"I sought the orchard, driven to its shelter by the wind, which all day had blown strong and full from the south, without, however, bringing a speck of rain. Instead of subsiding as night drew on, it seemed to augment its rush and deepen its roar: the trees blew steadfastly one way, never writhing round, and scarcely tossing back their boughs once in an hour: so continuous was the strain bending their branchy heads northward - the clouds drifted from pole to pole, fast following, mass on mass: no glimpse of the blue sky had been visible that July day.

It was not without a certain wild pleasure I ran before the wind, delivering my trouble of mind to the measureless air-torrent thundering through space."

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
(first published in 1847)

I've finished reading Jane Eyre (again) and found lots of beautiful references to the weather throughout the book. I enjoyed it more than the first time i read it - maybe looking for weather descriptions helped. I'm going to write them all out and then see if i can match any days (roughly) with any of the days i'm recording throughout this year with the weather station sited at the Bronte Parsonage Museum... we'll see.

Since finishing the book i've started and am half way through The Cloudspotter's Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. It's a delightful book and pretty funny too - get a copy if you can and try to learn your clouds.

By the way, under no circumstances is anyone allowed to comment on the state of my desk in the background of the image above. It's a work in progress and i know where everything is.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Anne Bronte's letters

"Charlotte is well, and mediates writing to you. Happily for all parties the east wind no longer prevails - during its continuance she complained of its influence as usual. I too suffered from it, in some degree, as i always do, more or less; but this time, it brought me no reinforcement of colds and coughs which is what I dread the most. Emily considers it a dry uninteresting wind, but it does not affect her nervous system."

Letter from Anne Bronte to Ellen Nussey, October 4th 1847

I was at the Bronte Parsonage Museum library again yesterday to look at the original letters that i've found have references to the weather in. To see one written by Anne Bronte was a treat - and as you can see from the images she crossed each of the two pages with her writing to make the most of the paper's small size. It creates a beautiful squared pattern, but it's incredibly difficult to read too.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Haworth Primary School

I'm delighted that as well as the individuals who are collecting weather descriptions for me daily, the local primary school in Haworth have also joined the project and are doing daily weather records too. They have won lots of awards for their vegetable plots at the school, so it might be interesting to see how the weather can effect the crops in the coming year.

Here is the school blog:

It's snowing here in Preston today, by the way.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Temperature Max Min

The weather station that is sited at the Bronte Parsonage Museum collects masses of data every half hour for me for the next year. But, i also wanted to be able to collect personal comments and notes on the weather around Haworth. To do this I recruited 10 volunteers that were given a small kit comprising a thermometer and specially designed cards to note the weather everyday for the whole year too.

It took me ages to decide which thermometer to buy for everyone. I wanted a max and min bit on it - but most of the traditional thermometers have to be re-set manually everyday - so if it's sited outside you have to go out in all weathers to check it and re-set it. I wasn't sure if that would be convenient for everyone and i was worried i was asking a lot during bad weather etc... So in the end i settled on digital thermometers that can be attached to the outside of a window facing inwards - so you can check it in the comfort of your own house. It said they had a max / min setting too - all sorted!

However, i got this email the other day from one of the weather collectors:

Hi Rebecca

I’m starting to get into the swing of daily temperature readings...but find that I am unsure about the timing. I notice that the maximum & minimum readings are updated at 08.00 & 20.00 respectively. My poor brain is having difficulty working out the best time to take readings for each day! Just before 08.00 they are the minimum for the previous night and the maximum for the previous day. Between 08.00 & 20.00 they are the same minimum for the previous night but the maximum reading has reset and is meaningless, as it is just the temperature at the time of reading (assuming it gets hotter during the day). Just before 20.00 they are still the same minimum (unless it’s been even colder during the day!) but the maximum for that actual day. After 20.00 the minimum reading has reset and so becomes meaningless for that day, just recording the temperature at the time of reading. It seems to me that just before 20.00 is the only time that gives the actual temperatures for the previous 24 hours. Oh for a good old mercury max-min thermometer!

Does it matter? Perhaps I am being too pernickety!.. though it would obviously be more consistent if everyone does the same thing, otherwise some will be recording the actual day, some the previous day and some not really the daily max or min at all.

Sorry if that’s confusing. Let me know what you think.


Hmmmm - I didn't want everyone to get confused or bothered about taking readings every day. But i can see that the timings of the max / min are confusing. I've decided to leave it up to each individual to work it out and to write down what they are comfortable with. The temperature readings are only a part of my request of the volunteers and it's their descriptions that i'm most interested in - 10 different viewpoints of any one day throughout this year.
The posh weather station will fill in the gaps with all the technical data - hopefully.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Jane Eyre

"On Midsummer-eve, Adele, weary with gathering wild strawberries in Hay Lane half the day, had gone to bed with the sun. I watched her drop asleep, and when i left her, I sought the garden.
It was now the sweetest hour of the twenty-four: 'day its fervid fires had wasted', and dew fell cool on panting plain and scorched summit. Where the sun had gone down in simple state - pure of the pomp of clouds - spread a solemn purple, burning with the light of red jewel and furnace flame at one point, on one hill-peak, and extending high and wide, soft and still softer, over half heaven. The east had its own charm of fine, deep blue, and its own modest gem, a rising and solitary star: soon it would boast the moon; but she was yet beneath the horizon."

I'm half way through my second reading of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It was during the first reading of the novel (and almost especially reading the chapter that the passage above is from) that I decided I should propose the Weather Project back in 2008. 
Published in 1847 under Charlotte's pseudonym Currer Bell it was an instant success. I have to say that when i first read it i wasn't that keen - it's a bit prim and deeply loaded with morality for me. But now i'm reading it again i'm really enjoying it. Maybe reading lots of Charlotte's personal letters at the same time has helped me get a more rounded view of her personality which in turn has helped me see more in the novel.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Data Collecting

What a berk. I went all the way to the Bronte Parsonage Museum to collect the weather station data on to my little netbook, but i forgot to take the vital cable that connects between the netbook and the data logger on the console. You know - one of those cables with a little thingy on one end and a bigger thingy on the other. Vital to the whole operation.

So, i had to go to the Museum again especially: a train to Hebden Bridge and then a bus ride over the moors to Haworth. As it goes it was a great trip and i spent an extra 3 hours in the Museum library reading through more letters to find references to the weather.

Now i've successfully collected 6 weeks of weather data I'm going to start drawings based on all the numbers and graphs produced.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Charlotte Bronte's Letters

I am in a very lucky position in that I can request to see any letters in the Bronte Parsonage Museum archive that I think are relevant to the Weather Project.

So, after reading through the Selected Letters of Charlotte Bronte I went on Tuesday to see a couple of the original letters that reference the weather.

I got to see and handle original letters! What a privilege - to see the letters so closely, to touch them (with gloves on of course) was absolutely amazing. I was really quite nervous: i wasn't allowed to have pens or pencils on me, plus i was scared i might want to sneeze or cough perhaps (which you'll be pleased to know i didn't).

Charlotte Bronte's writing isn't the easiest to read - it's fluid and spidery and all the ink is faded and shows through onto the other side of the fragile paper. I loved looking at them and i have to thank the Museum for giving me access.

If proof were needed that I have the best job in the world, this was it.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Weather Diaries

Yesterday I went to Cliffe Castle in Keighley to look at the original weather diaries written by Abraham Shackleton of Braithwaite near Haworth. He kept records from 1801 until the end of 1857. Some of the records cover the time that the Bronte family were living in Haworth, so it's been fascinating to see the weather conditions at the time. The diaries aren't on permanent display in the Museum so we had to arrange to see them especially, which made the trip even more exciting.

The books are beautifully hand written with daily records and then month summaries with one book showing yearly averages and comments. He notes rainfall (with rain days), wind strength and direction, barometer measurements and temperature.
Most of the pages are self explanatory, but I can't quite figure all the records out - which units of measurement he was using. He often didn't have a column heading, so it might take some time to work it out.

Visually they are like codes that need cracking - secret messages or puzzles.

I loved going to the Museum and seeing the weather diaries in the flesh and being able to touch and read through them (i had to wear gloves obviously).

See blog entry below too. 

Cliffe Castle

Monday, 21 November 2011

Mr Shackleton

In the Babbage Report of 1850 written by Benjamin Herschel Babbage (see blog post below) there are some references to the meteorology of Haworth:

"Meteorology: No register of the direction of the wind is kept at or near Haworth, but judging from the general prevalence of south-westerly winds in this part of the country, the prevailing winds at Haworth would probably be found to come from that quarter.

Mr Shackleton of Braithwaite, near Keighley, which is about four miles from Haworth, was kind enough to furnish me with the following extract from his register of the rainfall:-

In 1840 31.16 inches 
In 1841 36.21 inches
In 1842 28.02 inches
In 1843 35.90 inches
In 1844 21.17 inches
In 1845 31.23 inches
In 1846 32.44 inches
In 1847 32.27 inches
In 1848 40.38 inches
In 1849 31.66 inches

Average of the above ten years 32.7 inches"

One thing of note looking at the rainfall - how wet it was in 1848 (40.38 inches) which was the year that both Branwell and Emily died of consumption (tuberculosis).

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Babbage Report, Haworth, 1850

Looking at the letters of Charlotte Bronte and seeing how the weather could affect health (see blog post below) it led me to read the Babbage Report of 1850.

Written by Benjamin Herschel Babbage it was a "Report to the General Board of Health, on a Preliminary Inquiry into the Sewage, Drainage, and Supply of Water, and the Sanitary Conditions of the inhabitants of Haworth..."

The report was undertaken after the inhabitants of Haworth signed a petition to the General Board of Health to direct a Superintending Inspector to visit the town and conduct an inquiry.

Some of the points of the report are shocking: 

"the mortality per thousand, it will be observed that it ranges from 19 in the thousand to 30.6, which the latter is a rate of mortality only to be met with in very unhealthy places."

" The average age at death in this hamlet is very low; it will be seen... that it ranges from 19.6 years to 30.8 years, and that, taking the whole 12 years the average age at death is 25.8, which is about the same as in Whitechapel, St.George-in-the-East, and St.Luke, three of the most unhealthy of the London districts"

"It will be seen that the infantile mortality is very great, since 41.6 per cent of the population die before attaining the age of six years"

Babbage reports on the manufactures and trades of the town, sanitary conditions and water supply as well as the highways and burial grounds.

"I found 24 houses lower down in the main street, with only one privy amongst them"

"There are no sewers in Haworth; a few covered drains have been made in some of the streets to carry away the surface water, as for instance, in the upper part of the main street and down Back-Lane, but generally the drainage runs along in open channels and gutters. As a necessary consequence of the want of sewerage there is contiguous to each privy a recepticle for the night soil, in some cases walled round, in other cases fenced in with upright stones on edge; into these midden-steads are thrown the household refuse and the offal from the slaughter-houses, where mixed with the night soil, and occasionally the drainage from pigsties, the whole lies for months together, decomposition goes on and offensive smells and putrid gasses are given out. These midden-steads are uncovered, and the majority of them are nearly full when i examined them. Bad as they are, their situation, in close proximity to dwelling-houses, makes them much more injurous."

The seasons weather conditions are mentioned with connection to the water supply:

"It was stated to me... that about 150 houses are dependant for their supply of water upon the Head well, and that the supply from it is so scanty in the summer time, that in order to have water for the Monday's washing, the poor people are in the habit of going there at 2 or 3 o'clock on Monday morning, in order to wait for their turn, to fill their cans and buckets from the slowly running stream. It was also stated that the water of this well is very bad at this season, and that it is sometimes so green and putrid, that cattle which have been driven there to drink, after tasting the water, have turned away and refused to touch it again."

" the existing drains open into the fields at several points immediately below the main street, and the drainage is led in open ditches to irrigate these fields. Complaints were made that some of this drainage water got into a watercourse, which supplied some detached houses at Mill Hill with water. I should conclude that this use of the drainage matters in immediate vicinity to the houses, would in warm weather prove prejudicial to the health of the persons living in the neighbourhood."

Babbage makes recommendations and suggests remedial measures to address (amongst other things) the bad drainage and water supplies to Haworth. I haven't found when the recommendations were carried out - but having visited Haworth recently I can assure anyone who hasn't been to Haworth that the work has been done.

Here is the report - it's a great read:

Babbage Report

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


I've finished reading the selected collection of Charlotte's letters (a total of 169 letters).
They have revealed a fascinating insight in to Charlotte's life and i've really enjoyed reading them while finding references to the weather.
There are a few references amongst the letters with the majority connecting weather conditions with health and death:

"Dear Ellen

Emily suffers no more either from pain or weakness now. She never will suffer more in this world - she is gone after a hard, short conflict. She died on Tuesday, the very day i wrote to you. I thought it very possible then she might be with us still for weeks and a few hours afterwards she was in Eternity - Yes - there is no Emily in Time or on Earth now - yesterday, we put her poor, wasted mortal frame quietly under the Church pavement. We are very calm at present, why should we be otherwise? - the anguish of seeing her suffer is over - the spectacle of the pains of Death is gone by - the funeral day is past - we feel she is at peace - no need now to tremble for the hard frost and keen wind - Emily does not feel them."

Letter to Ellen Nussey dated 23rd December 1848

"Anne was worse during the warm weather we had about a week ago - she grew weaker and both the pain in her side and her cough were worse - strange to say since it is colder, she has appeared rather to revive than sink. I still hope that if she gets over May she may last a long time"

Letter to Ellen Nussey, c. 12 and 14th May 1849

The weather conditions could have a huge impact on health, and guarding against the wet and damp could become a matter of life and death. 

On the 24th September 1848 Branwell died of tuberculosis. He was 31. Three months later, on the 19th December, Emily too died of tuberculosis at the age of 30. Two weeks later Anne was diagnosed as having contracted the same disease and she died on 28th May 1849.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Cloud Appreciation Society

I joined the Cloud Appreciation Society the other day and i received my certificate of membership through the post. I am member number 28238.

There is a manifesto of the society - which can be found on their website.
The society believes that "clouds are unjustly maligned and that life would be immeasurably poorer without them" and they "pledge to fight ‘blue-sky thinking’ wherever we find it".
I have a badge that i will wear with pride!

I have to say that my appreciation has been properly tested today with the blanket of dank that has smothered Preston all day...

Saturday, 5 November 2011


I while ago, before the official start of this project, I pondered that i hadn't seen many rainbows in the last couple of years.
But, with the start of this project and maybe because i'm watching the weather with more interest, i seem to have seen quite a few and happened to have my camera with me. Rainbows never cease to amaze me with their fleeting beauty.

I've since found a great website explaining all the different types of rainbow and other atmospheric optics - you must take a look:

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


"It is a Stormy evening and the wind is uttering a continual moaning sound that makes me feel very melancholy - At such times, in such moods as these Ellen it is my nature to seek repose in some calm, tranquil idea and I have now summoned up your image to give me rest  There you sit, upright and still in your black dress and white scarf - your pale, marble-like face - looking so serene and kind - just like reality - I wish you would speak to me -."

Charlotte Bronte 

Letter to Ellen Nussey  dated October 1836 

I'm reading through letters by Charlotte Bronte and have found this weather reference in a letter held in the Huntington Library, San Marino in California. I've had a quick look to see if they have a copy on their web database, but it's not looking like it's online. I can feel an essential research trip coming on...*

*Only kidding

Friday, 28 October 2011

Weather Data

While I'm not at the Parsonage the console in the Museum continues to collect the data transmitted from the weather station outside and i then download it all onto my netbook when i visit.
I was nervous the first time - wondering if the datalogger was actually collecting and storing the data or whether I'd got it wrong and nothing was being stored and all information was lost.

But, to my relief it all worked like a dream. And i now have the first two weeks of weather data to look through.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Bronte Parsonage Museum Library

I met with Ann Dinsdale (Collections Manager at the Bronte Parsonage Museum) this week. We met in the library in the museum - a wonderful room with cases full of books and documents - and we chatted about the Brontes and where I might start to investigate their writings on the weather. 

She mentioned that letters from Charlotte Bronte to Ellen Nussey would probably reveal many references to the weather - so I've come away with a copy of Selected Letters by Charlotte Bronte - edited by Margaret Smith and published by Oxford University Press - as a starting point.* I can then see if the Museum holds the original letters and arrange to view them. 

*There were many letters written by Charlotte Bronte: Margaret Smith has edited a massive three volume The Letters of Charlotte Bronte - which the museum has copies of, but as they are so big and I'm not allowed to take them off site, I'm happy to start with the Selected Letters.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Weather Collectors

I was at the Parsonage Museum last week to meet the local weather collectors who have kindly volunteered to gather weather data every day for the next year.

We had tea and cake in the chapel opposite the Parsonage and I gave out 8 weather kits (not everyone could make it to the meeting so i have another 4 kits to give out over the next few days). Each kit has a digital thermometer and record cards - please see blog entries below too.

We then visited my weather station at the back of the museum. Between us we will gather a range of data - from technical readings to personal observations for each day.

It was a lovely day and it was good to meet everyone involved in the project.

(the image above shows me explaining the technicalities of the weather station through the medium of mime)

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Weather Station Installed

We put the weather station up yesterday and it works!

My day started at 5.45 getting up to arrive at the Parsonage Museum before 9am and although the instructions for putting the weather station together mentioned 10 minutes to install it I took until about 10am to figure it out how to get it out of the box and assemble the bits - and it took until after 2pm to get it up and running properly (although that did include a quick trip to the local hardware shop for bits and bobs). It's a beautiful thing with spinning cups to measure the wind speed and an arrow shaped direction indicator, positioned on a galvanised pole and tripod. It is solar powered and transmits the data to a console in the Museum.

In the instruction booklet it said it shouldn't be placed near sources of heat such as chimneys, heaters, air conditioners and exhaust vents and should be at least 30m away from asphalt or concrete roadways. We should avoid putting it near fences or sides of buildings. It should be ideally 1.5m and 2.1m above the ground which should be well drained. It should be away from sprinkler systems and not near bodies of water such as swimming pools or ponds. It shouldn't be under a tree canopy. It can't be anywhere near power cables or you could be in danger of death. It has to be level, plus the console that receives the data has to be within 300m of the weather station...

With all this in mind we've sited it at the back of the Museum and you can see it from one of the windows.

Thanks to Rob for helping install it.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Wuthering Heights

"Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr Heathcliff's dwelling. 'Wuthering' being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there at all times, indeed: one may guess the power of the north wind, blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by the range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun."
Emily Bronte 

I have finished reading Wuthering Heights written by Emily Bronte in 1845 / 46 and published at the end of 1847. I loved the book all over again: i read it in 2008 to inspire me to think of ideas for this residency, but hadn't thought of looking at weather on the first read - so i had to go through it again looking for references to weather.

At the very beginning of the novel it's the weather that forces Mr Lockwood to have to stay at Wuthering Heights kick starting his whole enquiry in to the story surrounding his landlord Heathcliff:
"The business of eating being concluded, and no one uttering a word of sociable conversation, I approached the window to examine the weather.
A sorrowful sight i saw; dark night coming down prematurely, and sky and hills mingled in one bitter whirl of wind and suffocating snow."

There's plenty more references (as you can see from the image of my copy) and i'm going to spend time writing them out and re-reading them.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Weather Kits

The weather kits are now ready to give out. Each has weather record cards to fill in, a pen and pencil and a digital window thermometer.

Everyone who answered the advert calling for participants are now on the list for receiving a kit and they can all start to collect data for the project. As it goes i'll not get over to Haworth to hand them out for a couple of weeks - and at the same time i'll install the weather station - so it'll be early October that the project properly gets underway.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Record Cards

My weather record cards are back from the printers and they look  great.

Part of the Bronte Weather Project involves members of the local community around Haworth being weather data collectors for me. I'm asking people to record the temperature every day for a year, plus I want everyone to write down their daily observations or particular weather notes.

It's a lot to ask: to keep a weather diary for me for a whole year, but i already have 10 willing participants - the ideal amount of people i was looking for. All the record cards for the year will go into a small archive to be held at the Parsonage Museum when the project is over.

So the little kit that each person will receive is nearly ready to hand out and weather data collecting can begin.

Thursday, 25 August 2011


I've been over to Haworth twice this week to continue to get ready for the start of the residency.
I was there on Sunday with Mark Ward - he used to work in Haworth as an official tour guide, so i was treated to a day of information and stories as we walked through the hills. The heather is flowering at the moment: a brilliant purple, vibrant in the sunshine.

I also went over on Tuesday so we could work out the best place to site the weather station and the practicalities involved with installation etc.
Me and Jenna then went to Thornton to meet with David Knowles, the Programme Manager at South Square Gallery, as it's hoped we can collaborate together during the project in some way.
While there we also took a look at the house where Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne were born in the village.

The start of the residency is getting closer... 

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Setting of Ideas

The more I thought about the weather in the Haworth area in connection to the Brontes, the more i knew the idea could be developed into a project.

The weather in the Pennines has shaped the landscape – it can be harsh, brutal, beautiful, and vital. The weather is responsible for the positioning of settlements, of farming methods, of forming unique habitats and influencing wildlife; it can supply drinking water and wind energy; it directly affects our daily routines, our moods, and inspires our ideas and thoughts. 

My idea: I would like to set up a weather station at the Bronte Parsonage Museum and spend time collecting weather data: rainfall, wind speed, cloud cover, air pressure, air quality, sunshine hours, sky trails across the sky etc. By reading all the Bronte texts (novels, poems, letters by Charlotte, Emily, Anne, Branwell and Patrick) it would be interesting to cross-reference the similarities and differences with present day weather readings.

I proposed this idea to Jenna at the museum - and this is where the project started.*

During the whole of 2009 I decided to take temperature readings every day and write a brief description of the weather where i was living in Preston. The images above show the note books i collected the data in.

*Although the idea was set in 2008, it's taken until now, summer 2011, to get the funding together to start the project. I can't tell you how chuffed i am that we're starting this project, especially after such a long time thinking about it...

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Weather

To help me think of an idea I chose Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte as the first Bronte text to read.
It was a good one to start with - it is so gripping and utterly passionate. At the time of reading the novel (in early 2008) i still wasn't sure of what i might think of as a project, so when i finished it i went straight on to read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

It was during this time that i started to think about how, when both Emily and Charlotte referred to the weather, they must have been using their own experiences of being in Haworth with its constantly changing weather conditions. It was here that the idea of looking at the weather and comparing it with the writings of the Brontes (Emily, Charlotte, Anne, Patrick and Branwell) came into my head.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Ideas Brewing

After the first visit to The Bronte Parsonage Museum I went for another trip the same month (Feb 2008) for a weekend walking in the surrounding hills.

It was a cold, crisp weekend with clear blue skies on both days. The light on the moorlands was stark but rich and beautiful. The icicles on the water in the streams sparkled and glistened in the sunshine and the heavy frost coated all the vegetation.

This time spent in the landscape helped me start to think about ideas...

Thursday, 4 August 2011

In The Beginning

This project started 3 years ago...

Jenna Holmes, the Arts Officer at the Bronte Parsonage Museum, asked if I'd like to visit the site and perhaps we could think of an idea and work together.

So, in February 2008 I went for my first visit to the museum and surrounding area to meet with Jenna and to start discussions towards this project.

It's been a long time since that first meeting, but with some patience and determination we have finally been able to get started. It took me a while to come up with an idea, plus raising funding for the project took until now.

This blog will run for the whole project describing what inspired the idea and residency and will report on the writings of the Brontes and any references they made to the weather.