Memorable weather conditions in the Village. Whilst researching the history of Christleton Parish, I have often come across stories of weather, and I was thinking of one of these in particular, written by Henry Prescott in 1716, when I was searching for sightings of the Aurora Borealis along Stamford Lane at the end of last month. (You may have noticed that the weather presenters were all talking about sightings throughout the country) I had studied the aurora as a 17year old whilst on a Schools’ Expedition to Arctic Sweden in 1959. I have wonderful memories of that time, recording not only sightings of the aurora, but also Russian Sputniks from a treeless hillside in the Sarek National Park. I haven’t seen the Aurora in the UK, but lots of people have and I attach a few images to this article to illustrate it.
Henry Prescott, a famous Diocesan Treasurer working in the Cathedral wrote in his diary after visits to Christleton;
March 11th 1716 "A sharp but kindly day. Accounts describe a phenomenon in the sky from 8 o'clock until 3 in the morning. Tis called the Aurora Borealis, a light or moisture sometimes dilated, sometimes embodyed into columns, sometimes broken and divided into figures ands strands".
June 9th 1718 "The weather continues disposed to rain. Here the clouds pregnant and dark are broke with long valleys of thunder, a most memorable clap which in the midst of common thunder distinguishes itself and makes all things tremble. The clouds again are ralleyed, and fill the horizon with gloomy terror, the lighting and thunder complete the scene above the shocks of human imitation. Seas break down on these parts and turn the roads into lakes and the streets to rivers".
March 29th 1719 "A meteor appears in the sky".
Other weather stories The following paragraphs about weather are taken from some of the earliest parish magazines and were included in the book “In their words”, a social history of Christleton written by Judy Smith in 2000. The words are those of Rector Canon Lionel Garnett, and give a graphic description of village life.
July 1876 was exceptionally hot and dry. The hay harvest was good, but pastures suffered from lack of rain. The 14th, 15th 16th had almost tropical heat, broken by a severe thunderstorm with prodigious hailstones that did great damage to glass and growing crops. The summer of 1887 likewise was dry with “brilliant sunshine and cheap harvesting. Wheat is everywhere above average; hay and corn well and cheaply got in. It is said that the Irish harvest-men are going home with a pound or two less in their pockets. In contrast the summer of 1888 ”will be remembered as a chilly, sunless and dripping season. July was disastrous to haymakers and holiday makers. We have been saved from drought, but we have lost our summer”
Winters, too, had extremes of temperature. The frosts of 1890 began on November 24th, and, to the time of writing in January 1891 magazine, there were only four nights without frost. “The Dee was frozen over and numbers skaters on it on December 21st, some rash people venturing as far as Eaton” The cold extended well into 1891; winter swallowed up the spring. “The Dee froze again for miles between Christmas 1892 and mid January 1893, with skaters going between Chester & Eccleston. Conditions were even more extreme in 1895, when Canon Garnett wrote, “the long and severe frosts of January and February rank as one of the great frosts of history. A week’s good skating on the Dee and I myself had a day on Windermere, which froze from end to end. The village temperature’s were recorded as 5degrees Fahrenheit, which is 27 degrees of frost, but doesn’t represent the intense cold which prevailed from January 25th to 30th, and February 4th to 17th, aggravated by bitter east winds.
He used the winter’s suffering in February 1879, however to lecture to the Parish. “The long continued frost, coming on top of a general depression of trade, is making a distressful winter, which will be long remembered by the working classes. The evil may not be altogether evil if it teaches a lesson of thrift. Working men, and especially tradesmen, have had plenty of work and wages for several years; in too many case have spent their substance in riotous living and laid no store for the years of famine”