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