When is a book not a book? When it’s a manuscript! The book fairs have started again and at the very first one I bought a wonderful leather-bound notebook with a record for the weather on every single day between 1887 and 1896. This is a real labour of love; meticulous handwritten notes with temperatures at dawn, noon and dusk, air pressures, the wind direction and a sentence summarising each day. Even better, as the years go on the amateur enthusiast becomes ever more obsessed. He starts to record moon phases, buys a rain gauge in 1889 and even finds some way to record details when he is away from home, entries which are marked in red. You have to love him – but who is he?
The front cover has his initials, AT, which are on top of each other, making him possibly TA. There is little hope of tracing him but I was determined to track down the location. I read quite a lot of it and eventually found references to snow on Butser Hill, fog obscuring the downs and best of all ice on Heath Pond. This all adds up to Petersfield here in Sussex and I couldn’t be happier. I genuinely had no idea where it would turn out to be and when you think about it a weather diary is pretty useless without the location.
So how does the weather compare to today’s warming world? The photograph here shows August, 1891, exactly 130 years ago. He sums it up at the bottom of the page: ‘A remarkably wet month, with very little sunshine.’ I don’t want to tempt fate but I’ve peeked at the next page and September, I have to say, does not look much better. Oh dear…
Finally, I would be very pleased to hear from anyone who can shed light on our mystery meteorologist!
Petersfield, 1891. First edition. Manuscript.