1100CE-1598: Weather History (more UK than Ireland)

From The Booty Website, compiled by MG Rowley (please note this is an evolving history and so the tables below will likely be more up to date on MG Rowley’s website) – published with kind permission –

This site attempts to collect together in one place the most notable events in our ‘weather history’ across the British Isles. It has been built up in a rather ‘ad-hoc’ fashion, initially just for the latter third of the 20th century, then worked backwards as and when I stumbled across data etc., and of course kept up to date as far as possible. I am aware that these data are heavily biased towards ‘UK’ events: I would like to add more for Ireland, so if you spot any significant missing events, please advise me.

I have tried to capture the “notable events”, but I am always open to suggestions! Inevitably, there is some element of subjectivity over what constitutes a ‘significant’ event. Also, the further back in time we go, the scrappier the information & the greater the probability of missing something.

Much of the information contained in these records must of necessity be ‘tentative’ to say the least! Up to about 1000 years ago, we only have archaelogical evidence to reconstruct the record: some Roman chroniclers provide cursory evidence for the Romano-Celtic / British era, but it is not until roughly from AD 800 that documentary records make a major contribution – and of course, the era of instrumental record doesn’t really start until the 17th century, and even then, inconsistencies / errors in the instrumentation make the early record questionable. Prior to the age of scientific enquiry, the climatological data have been reconstructed using ‘proxy’ data, such as tree ring records (dendroclimatology), ice-core sampling, estate records, tales of war and the administration of great kings, monastic lists etc.

Temperature(T) = H/C (warm/cold events); Rainfall (R) = D/W (dry/wet events); Stormy events = S

Date T R S Description Ref:




1100 – 1199
1102 H D
Drought (possible). Also noted as accompanied by ‘excessive heat’. 8
1110/11 C

Long & hard winter (London/South). 8
1114
(annual)

D
Considered to be one of the driest years on record: on the 10th October(OSP) – some sources have the 15th(OSP), the Thames at London was so low that men and boys were able to wade across the river. (Combination of notably low tide & the aforementioned drought). (Some sources have the date as the 15th) [Note that the river had a completely different character to that of modern times.] 8
1114/15 C

Very severe winter: the frost lasted for about 9 to 11 weeks and nearly all the bridges in England were damaged by ice. 6, 8
1116
(annual)

W
A year of ‘excessive’ rains. “The Weather” (Kimble & Bush)
1124/1125
(Winter)
C

Exceptionally severe winter in France & Netherlands may also have affected Britain (probably at least the south & southeast if the Low Countries were affected). 1, 8
1128 C

Severe winter with heavy snow at Easter. Easter Day in 1128 was on the 22nd April, which is near to the latest Easter can fall and it would be remarkable if heavy snow fell in late April nowadays in lowland England. There may be confusion with 1125. 8
1135-37 H D
Relatively dry, with one exceptionally dry year in 1136; a particularly fine (hot & dry) summer in 1136. (It is not clear if ALL three years were dry, or just one (or two) of them.) 8
1141
(May)


S (year may have been 1140): (possibly May 19th, new-style): Welsburn (now Wellesbourne), Warwickshire .. ” a very violent whirlwind (i.e. a tornado) sprang up, a hideous darkness extended from the earth to the sky & the house of a priest was violently shaken, and all of his outbuildings were thrown down and broken to pieces “. Some 40 houses severely damaged, and large hailstones, (noted as the size of pigeons’ eggs) fell, one of which killed a woman (& possibly one other).
This is the first record of a tornado that has been deduced by TORRO, and they assess it at T5 (in a scale that extends from T0 to T10).
TORRO
1141 (or
1142)
C

Very cold weather with snow in December (which year?: Easton, in CHMW notes that it was the winter of 1142/43 that was cold in Europe.) 1, 8
1149/50
(winter / early spring) [but possibly 1150/51]
C

Severe winter: the first authentic report of the Thames being frozen solid – the frost lasted from December to March and the frozen river was crossed on foot and on horseback. Very intense cold began 10th December 1149 (OSP) and continued until (at least) February 19th (OSP). The Thames was frozen over at London Bridge and supported loaded wagons. (Some sources have this as the winter of 1150/1151) 1, 8
1158
(annual)

D
Because of an earthquake (?), the Thames at London was waterless and it was crossed dry-shod. Some sources give the year as 1157. Much more likely that it was a dry year, which just happened to coincide with a minor earth tremor. 8
1175/76
(Winter)
C

Severe Winter; frost & snow 25th December(OS) to 2nd February(OS) in Normandy & possibly in England. [ At this time, under Henry II, much of north-western & western France (in modern-day parlance) was a series of ‘fiefdoms’ of the Kings of England – an inheritance from the origins of the Norman conquest in 1066. This means that contemporary chronicles applicable to Normandy would have been of interest to many on this side of the English Channel. ] 8
1178/1179
(Winter)
C

A cold winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) … does make you wonder if there is confusion here with the 1175/76 event? 1
1193
W
Regarded as ‘unseasonable’ (whatever that means), with thunder & lightning often noted through the year. A ‘wet’ year. (This presumably means that the general opinion was that the climate at this time ‘should’ have been drier?) 8




1200 – 1299
1201
& 1202

W D
Two consecutive ‘wet’ years (but see end this entry). In 1201 specifically, the summer is thought to have experienced severe thunderstorms, notable hail in the London area – mid/late June (some sources have June 25th(OSP)).
In contrast to the foregoing, some sources have 1201 experiencing a notable “heat & drought” episode, but with no location details: harvest over on June 24th(OSP) in 1201 (where?); drought continued through July & August.
8,
LWH
1203
(annual)

W
A year of heavy rains in London. (Year not certain – might be one of the previous years, q.v.) 8
1204/05
(Winter)
C

This winter was one of the severe winters of history and most rivers including the Thames were frozen completely; the frost prevented ploughing and all agricultural work was suspended from 14th January to 22nd March, the winter seed was destroyed and there was widespread famine. 8
1209
W
Old London Bridge built – because of its construction it allowed build-up of water up-river, particularly when debris clogged the gaps. Even without such problems, high water levels could lead to a significant difference between up-river & down-river sides: ‘several feet’ are mentioned. Conversely, tidal rise / fall was dampened by the bridge – decreasing the chance of tidal flooding above the bridge. However, the bridge increased the chance of fluvial flooding upstream. Bermondsey (London) is noted as having experienced flooding in this year. 8
1209/1210
(Winter)
C

A severe winter. (Europe – Easton, in CHMW/Lamb). Severe frost in January and early February (London/South). 1, 8
1212
(summer)

D
A dry summer; a great fire in London. x
1214
(summer)

D
Another dry summer in which the Thames was so low in London that women and children could wade across it. x
1216/1217
(Winter)
C

A cold winter in western Europe / implied parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
1218


Man killed by lightning at Stepney on 2nd February.
Severe thunderstorm with heavy rain on the 29th November.
8
1218/1219
(Winter)
C

A cold winter in western Europe / implied parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
18th October 1220 (or 1221)

S A violent northeasterly gale did much damage in London; the exact year/date is uncertain. 6, 8
1222 H D
Dry. Hot/dry summer in London/South. 8
1223
W
A very wet year with much flooding. 8
1224?
D
A great drought in winter (of 1223/4 or 1224/5?: see also entry below.) 8
1224/25
or 1225/26
(Winter)
C

A severe winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb .. Ref. 1 .. 1224/25)
Severe Winter (London/South .. Ref. 8 .. 1225/26).
Difficult to know if these are the same events, with the year mis-attributed, or two events.
1, 8
1230


St. Pauls damaged by lightning. 8
1232
& 1233



November (both years) – thundery (in a month that is not normally noted for thunderstorms inland). In 1232, London experienced 15 days of thunderstorms. 8
1233
W S Wet summer – heavy rains led to severe and widespread flooding over most of England. Severe thunderstorms on the 10th February [ accompanied by a ‘gale’ ] & thunder occurred on several days in November (see above). This sort of weather would have had major effects upon a mostly rural population, with possible famine, disease. 8
1233/34
(Winter)
C

Long & severe frost from Christmas to 2nd February/Candlemas(OS) (London/South). 8
1235/1236
(Winter)
C

A severe winter in western Europe / implied parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb): this is suspiciously close to the event for 1233/34 ….. 1
1236
W S Very heavy rain January to March: two floods in London in 1236. The first, which flooded Westminster Palace early in the year, was due to heavy prolonged rain.
The second was produced by a high (storm-surge) tide in November, drowned many people and a great number of cattle in the Woolwich area. An inundation in Norfolk by the sea destroyed flocks of sheep & herds of cattle, tore up trees and demolished houses. In one village alone about 100 people died. This must have been a major wind-driven event, caused by a violent depression, very low pressure & high winds.
However, the summer of this year was noted as dry/hot in London/South.
7, 8
1237
(February)

W
Heavy rains in February; the Thames flooded great stretches of the country (presumably roughly downstream of Oxford?). 8
1238
(Summer)
H D
Hot & dry. GPE
1240
D
Dry from January to March. (London/South). 8
1241
(Spring,
Summer &
early Autumn)
H D
March – October, a prolonged drought. Dry/hot from 25th March(OSP) to 28th October(OSP). (London/South) 8
1242
(November)

W
Heavy rain and thunderstorms on 19th November(OS) and on many days thereafter; the Thames flooded at Westminster & Lambeth. 8
1244
D
Dry autumn. (London/South). 8
1249

S Gale on 28th October (London/South?). 8
1250




mid-1200’s onwards C W D
Analysis of agricultural records of the time suggest that after the mid-1200’s, harvests were increasingly subject to failures for various reasons (drought, cold/wet etc.). x
October 1250

S Major North Sea/English Channel storm/flood. Winchelsea on the Sussex coast suffered badly with 300 houses and a number of churches destroyed in a storm on the 1st October, 1250. More generally on this date, a major North Sea gale & sea flood caused great damage to adjacent parts of England, Holland & Flanders.(see also November 1570) 6,
LWH
19th May 1251


Several houses in Windsor, including one occupied by the Royal Family ( Henry III ) were struck by lightning during a severe thunderstorm. 8
1252 & 1253 H D
Both dry years – considered by some (e.g. Brooks), as the driest pair of consecutive years known in the record. The summer (& possibly the spring in London/South) of 1252 was outstandingly dry/hot, with the ensuing drought ruining crops & many people died from the excessive heat.
Spring/Summer 1253 was also noted as dry/hot London/South.
8
1252 & 1253
(Octobers)

W S However (in contrast to entry above), significant flooding also occurred: the 1252 flood (in October) was due to heavy rain & the 1253 one (also in October) was tidal (storm-surge?). 8
1254 C

Severe frost January to March (London/South). 8
1255
D
Drought in spring & summer (London/South). 8
1256-1258
W
Three wet years …. extensive flooding, which led to harvest failures & high grain prices: shortage & starvation / distress for poor people. 8
1258
(June)



June 24th(OSP), River Severn storm flood – many drowned. Not clear if this is heavy rain-water (i.e. a pluvial) event, or a wind-driven storm-surge event – hence no categorisation. LWH
1258 C W
Notably cold/very wet overall: combination of cold/backward spring & heavy autumn rains gave rise to a very poor harvest. (see also above) 8
1259
D
Dry autumn (London/South). 8
1260
(Summer)

D
Frequent & heavy thunderstorms during the summer produced hailstones with a diameter of about 5 cm (2 inches).
However, as often noted with such phenomena, there was a ‘drought’ in the summer London / South – this is not necessarily counter-intuitive as there are many cases of dry seasons throwing up localised severe storms.
8
1261 C

Frost/snow during February (London/South). 8
1264
(May)


S Gale on 13th May (London/South). [ It is just possible there is a link between this event and the one below .. but very unsure about this.] 8
1264
(between May & October)


S 1. Eleanor of Provence (Queen-Consort to Henry III) was frustrated by ‘bad weather’ (dates not known, but has to be late summer / early autumn 1264) in her attempt to bring troops to the aid of her husband’s cause. The Queen’s fleet was trapped by frequent spells of high wind at Sluis, Flanders (modern-day Netherlands, near the Belgian border) before it could cross to the Kent coast. According to Lamb, the 13th century experienced the highest number (by some margin) of “severe sea floods” along North Sea & English Channel coasts. Although the climate across NW Europe was still generally benign (indeed, the peak of warmth of the Medieval Age may have occurred in this century), from the middle of the 13th century, an increase in ‘unsettled’ weather events has been detected by some researchers; the first signs of the descent into the ‘Little Ice Age’. It is indeed possible that the increased storminess was concentrated in the second half of the 13th century, so it was unfortunate that Eleanor attempted the passage of the Dover Strait at this time. (Lamb) 1,19
1269/70
(Winter)
C

A bitter frost persisted for about 10 weeks during this severe winter; the Thames froze solid (thick enough for ‘men & beasts’ to cross over) and was closed to shipping, so that merchandise had to be transported overland between the Channel ports and London. Accounts of this winter included reference to glazed frost; the thaw, when it arrived, was accompanied by heavy rain and flooding. A flood on the Thames noted in February – presumably a combination of heavy rain / inland snow-melt etc., after the events referred to above. 1, 8
1271
W S Gale; no date given. The bell tower of the church of St. Mary-le-Bow was blown down and killed several people. Also this year, from Norwich ecclesastical records a ‘great flood’ in this year, also lightning damaged the cathedral steeple. 8
1276
D
Dry from April to July (London/South). 8
1279
(May)



England (location and exact date not known) … severe thunderstorm, trees uprooted, buildings destroyed or flattened, lakes dried up (?). Possible T4 tornado event (could have been higher given those effects!) (TORRO/JMet)
1280
W S Considerable damage etc., across East Anglia due to floods & storms. (Norwich cathedral records). x
October 1280 C

On the 9th(OS), heavy snow fell in London. In modern-day dating, I suppose we’re talking about mid-month, which would be remarkable in the 21st century. 8
1281/82
(Winter)
C

During this notable winter, the frost (noted as a ‘Great Frost‘ in contemporary records for January 1282) & snow persisted from Christmas to March; the Thames was frozen so hard that people could walk across the river (between Lambeth & Westminster certainly) and the force of the ice damaged five of the arches of London Bridge – some references say the arches ‘collapsed’. 8, 20
1282
W S (month not known, but after the snow above, and some reports of a ‘destructive thaw’ in this year, it would suggest sometime in early / mid-spring); Severe floods in 1282 when a great Gale brought much destruction & loss of life to Lincolnshire & East Anglia. x, 20
1283


Wet summer & autumn in London. 8
1285 H D
Dry/hot summer (London/South). 8
1286
(May)



9th May, 1286 (corrected to new-style calendar) .. thunderstorm with large hail (‘as big as stones’?). Crops levelled, houses damaged, branches of trees broken etc. Squally winds (and a possible tornado, but not certain – though the mention of the large hail tends to support mechanics available for such.) (JMet/TORRO)
1287

S A ‘terrible’ indundation in the East Anglia (particularly Norfolk) coastal areas in December 1287 [probably due to a storm surge]. Houses destroyed, and in the village of Hickling the water was so deep that it overflowed the high altar of the priory by a foot or more. Some 500 people perished in this most fatal of all British floods. 7
1288
(January)


S Tidal flooding on the Thames in January (but whether 1288 or 1289 is open to doubt). 8
1288
(Summer)
H D
Summer: dry/hot (London/South). 8
1288/89
(Winter)
C

Severe winter (London/South). 8
1290
W
Wet summer & autumn in London. 8
1291
D
Dry summer London/South. 8
May 1294 C

On the 14th May(OS), heavy snow fell in London: the equivalent date in the modern calendar would be some 8 or 9 days later. 8
1294
(October)


S The Thames flooded Rotherhithe, Bermondsey, Tothill & Westminster on the 18th October(OSP). No details as to whether this is rainfall-related or a tidal surge. 8




1300 -1399
1302/1303
(Winter)
C

A cold winter in western Europe / implied for parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
1305 H D
A hot, dry summer (London/South). 8
1305/06
(Winter)
C

Severe winter (London/South). A severe winter over much of western Europe. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb): taking these two last entries together suggests a high frequency of blocked / anticyclonic episodes. 1, 8
1309/10 C

London Bridge arches damaged by ice during a severe winter. Thames frozen. A possible frost-fair on the Thames in London; which implies a persistent length of sub-zero temperatures at some time this winter (inferred by the statement in some chronicles that ‘sport’ was held on the river). Usual stories about people walking across the Thames. According to contemporary reports ” dancing took place around a fire built on the ice and a hare was coursed (chased) on the frozen waterway “. 8
1314-1316
W S Several famines occurred during these years (weather assumed to have been responsible, with all three years noted by various historians as ‘very wet’ … it’s a moot point though as to whether all three were really wet, or just the effects of one or two carrying over). Brazell says that the famine of 1316 was probably the last really severe one in England. [ The wet year credited to 1315 may be the origin of the St. Swithin legend. ]
The ‘Black Death’ (Bubonic plague) that ravaged the country 1348 onwards may have some linkage to these precursor conditions – though it is a long time afterwards. Certainly though, in the mid-1300’s, mortality was high due to famine, disease etc.
It is suggested that it was an increase in climatic variability, rather than the absolute temperature & rainfall regimes that caused the problems. There is some suggestion of an increase in extreme events (including wind-storms), however defined.
8
1315/1316
(Winter)
C

A cold winter in western Europe / implied for parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
1321 H D
Hot, dry summer (London/South). 8
1324
D
Drought in summer (London/South). 8
1325 & 1326
D
Severe droughts: rivers & springs dried up & in both years the Thames was so low that sea water penetrated much further up river than usual – for 1326, noted as ‘salty’ for nearly the whole year (presumably in London). 8
Spring 1331
D
In the spring of 1331, there was a drought which lasted 15 weeks, but a few days before 17th June(OSP), when a tournament was due to commence at Stepney, the drought was broken and ‘all the ground was thoroughly watered’. 8
1334

S Tidal flood on the Thames on the 22nd November(OS). (presumably due to wind-driven surge?) 8
1335
(Annual)

W
This year may have been a wet year, but there may be confusion with the floods reported for 1334 (above). 8
1338
(Autumn –
early winter)

W
Very wet from October to December. 8
1338/39 C

Hard frost started in December and lasted for 12 weeks. (London/South). 8
16th January 1342

S This gale destroyed the tower of the Church of Friars Minor in London, and occurred at night. It was associated with a violent thunderstorm – so almost certainly a tornadic event – though of course it may have been associated with a more widely-based cyclonic development. 8
1342
D
“A Great drought (in summer)”: southern Britain certainly, but not known if it was nationwide. 1
1344

S Norwich/East Anglia: at some time in this year, this from Norwich cathedral records . . .” A very high wind, by which the passage-boat coming from Yarmouth was sunk near Cautley, and 38 people perished.” x
1346
May

W
At the Battle of Crécy (dated as 26th August/OS), in NE France, it is claimed that the occurrence of heavy rain / thunderstorm prior to the battle, and the subsequent cloud clearance & bright (low-angle) sunshine was somehow instrumental in the victory gained by the English forces of Edward III over the combined French / Genoese army of Philip, King of France. It is suggested that the damp crossbow strings of the Genoan mercenaries were no match for the English longbows, and that the bright sunshine caused problems for the French forces. I would have thought it might be something to do with better organisation. x
1348
W
Wet autumn & winter. 8
1351
(Easter)



“Black Monday: or Easter Monday, 1351, when hailstones fell that killed both horses and men in the army of Edward III., from the extreme cold. (This would have been 18th April according the Julian calendar in use at the time). x
1352 (or perhaps 1353)
D
Drought, with exceedingly dry summer. Doubts about which year this statement applies to. 8
1353/54 C

Long, cold, hard winter lasting from early December to mid-March (London/South). 8
1356
D
Dry spring. (London/South). 8
1362
W
A wet year. 8
January 1362

S St. Mary’s Wind “: A severe gale / storm (at least as powerful as that of October 1987) from between south and west commenced on the 15th (23rd new-style) January 1362 and lasted for about a week – affecting large areas of southern Britain. A large number of buildings were blown down or damaged, including St. Pancras Church, the church of Austin Friars in London, Norwich cathedral and the (original) Abbey Gateway in St. Albans. Damage also to shipping. The “exceptionally ‘severe gale’ caused great destruction – buildings, towers, trees, wind-mills etc., all ‘thrown down’ according to contemporary chronicles. Noted by English, Scottish & Irish sources.
The “Great Drowning” (‘Grote Mandrenke‘) causing widespread / severe damage across SE Britain – also along the East Coast, and as 60 Danish ‘parishes’ are noted as having been ‘swallowed up’ by the sea, with several thousands dead there, it suggests a rapidly-deepening low moving swiftly across southern Britain and the southern North Sea with a high storm-surge event.
(Might have been a sequence of events I would have thought, with perhaps the main-event on the 15th). This storm is regarded as the severest on record for the area, with the exception of that in November 1703 & possibly October 1987.
7, 8
1362/63 &
1363/64
(Winters)
C

Cold or Severe winters; frost from December to March in the second winter (London/South), which is regarded as the worst of the two when taking the whole of western Europe (Easton in CHMW). 1, 8
1368 (or perhaps 1369)
W
A wet year: there is some doubt about the year. 8
1373
(or perhaps 1374)
(February – March)
C

Norwich cathedral records: ” A deep snow in February that laid upon the ground seven weeks, and on thawing occasioned a great flood.” Given that the listing is under 1373, it may be that in fact the event refers to early 1374, given that church records around this time usually noted the year as beginning around Easter. x
1375 H

Exceptionally warm year (in London/South). 8
December 1382
W
The flood which occurred in December 1382 prevented the King (Richard II / 5 years on the throne) from travelling from Westminster to Windsor where he had proposed to spend Christmas. This sounds like a pluvial flood, due to high rainfall (or melted-snow). Whether the ‘court’ was travelling overland or along the river isn’t known to me. Heavy rain is noted from 18th to 20th December(OSP).
(Richard II .. credited with introducing the handkerchief !)
8
1392


Severe thunderstorms in London on 3rd September. 8
1393/1394
(Winter)
C

A cold winter in western Europe / implied parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
1398/1399
(Winter)
C

A cold winter in western Europe / implied parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1




1400 – 1499
1407/08
(Winter)
C

The severe winter affected most of Europe, and is regarded by climatologists as one of the most severe on record. The frost lasted for 15 weeks and people were able to walk across the frozen Thames. According to Ian Currie (a noted authority on historical weather events), “one of the most snowy & was of outstanding duration”. [ In Europe, ice in the Baltic had allowed traffic between the Scandinavian nations, and wolves had passed over the ice from Norway to Denmark.] 8, usw
1410 C

In this year, the tidal River Thames froze over for 14 weeks. (I think, given the length mentioned, that we have to assign this to winter 1409/10) x
1413
(April)
C

Henry V crowned at Westminster Abbey on April 9th (OS); the ceremony was marked by a very bad snow storm, but people were unable to decide if this was a bad omen or a good one.
[ This may not too significant at this time, as we are approaching one of two ‘troughs’ in the “Little Ice Age”.]
8,
TREF
October 1415
W
Battle of Agincourt (NE France): on the eve of the battle, heavy rain fell and the battleground became water-logged & sodden – this impeded the forces opposing Henry V (particularly those more heavily armoured). Implies that the weather must have been wet for some time before. sev.
1421
(November)


S Notable storm / coast flooding North Sea region. On November 18th, 1421, the south-western part of Holland was inundated: 72 villages were destroyed, 10000 people drowned. (Given the proximity to the English SE coast, this event must have had some impact here, but I have no details as yet.) 1, 7
1422/1423
(Winter)
C

A severe winter in western Europe / implies parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
1423
W
A wet year. (London/South) 8
1426
D
A dry year. (London/South) 8
1428
W
A wet year. (London/South) 8
1430’s C

Majority of winters, [ perhaps 7 or 8 ] contained several weeks of widespread severe weather (NB: ‘weeks’, not the paltry ‘days’ we get end 20th / early 21st centuries.) According to Lamb, an experience not repeated / matched until the 1690’s, in the depth of the Little Ice Age (and certainly not in modern times). 1
1431/1432
(Winter)
C

A cold (possibly severe) winter in western Europe / implied parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
1434/35 (may be 1433/34)
(Winter)
C

A very severe winter: the Thames froze solid (from December to February) and was closed to shipping from Gravesend to below London Bridge, and wine had to be transported overland (or over the ice-covered Thames) from Gravesend to London. [ Some sources have this as 1433/34 ] 1, 8
1438

S Gale on 23rd November did much damage in London. 8
1439
W
A wet year. 8
1442/1443
(Winter)
C

A cold winter western Europe / implied parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
1st February 1444


St. Paul’s cathedral was struck by lightning and the steeple was set on fire. (see also 1561) 8
1445
(March)


S Margaret (of Anjou) [ future Queen-Consort to Henry VI ] crossed the Channel in March 1445 – in horrendous weather; She crossed from Cherbourg to Portsmouth – as they approached the English coast, a storm blew up (probably a thunderstorm associated with a rapidly developing area of low pressure), and the ship wallowed in ‘mountainous seas’. The ship was guided with much difficulty through the Needles Channel to run before the SW wind towards Portsmouth, but the ship was dis-masted and it was beached near Porchester. The storm (i.e. the main area of low pressure) continued for several days, uprooting trees, killing cattle in the fields, causing rivers to overflow and flood low-lying ground. Much damage to roofs and deaths were reported. x
1446

S Notable storms / coast flooding this year in the North Sea region (Lamb): In April, 1446 in particular, a North Sea storm occurred coupled with a significant tidal surge. “Thousands” died in coastal areas of the North Sea. 1
1448
W
Thames flooded Poplar, Stepney and other placed during March. Not known if this is due to a storm-surge or heavy rain (or a combination of both). 8
1457/1458
(Winter)
C

A cold winter in western Europe / implied parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
1460
W
The wet summer was claimed to be one of the worst for 100 years. 8
1464/1465
(Winter)
C

A cold winter over western Europe / implied parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
1473-1479
D
Droughts with very hot summers occurred in the three successive years 1473-1475; assumed to be applicable to South/Central England only. (In the period 1473-1479, there were 5 fine summers in this seven year period: 1473, 1474, 1475, 1477 & 1479). 8
1480/1481
(Winter)
C

A cold winter in western Europe / implied parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
1483
(October)

W
1. An extraordinary flood of the Severn (near Worcester) in October prevents the Duke of Buckingham from crossing to attack Richard III, the duke’s army disperses, and he is taken and beheaded. (var)
1485




1488 C

Great snow & frost (where, when ??) 8
1490
D
Drought (London/South). 8
1498
D
A dry year (in London/South) 8




1500 – 1599
1502 (late winter, spring) C W
Possibly ‘wet / cold’: Prince Arthur, Prince of Wales at Ludlow (Welsh Marches) and contracted TB – died there allowing younger brother Henry (VIII) to succeed. (This area not normally exceptionally wet in a standard ‘westerly’ climate, so suggests, perhaps, some ‘abnormal’ synoptic pattern.) var
1503
D
Dry summer (London/South). 8
January 1506 (OSP) C

Severe frost. Thames frozen throughout January; horse and cart could cross the frozen river. The sea was also frozen at Marseilles. This implies that it must have been bitterly cold (and persistently so) since at least late December. It often needs some period of strong east wind as well to remove the heat from the water. (LWH) 8,
LWH
1510/1511
(Winter)
C

A cold winter in western Europe / implied parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
1513
( July)
H

July 21 (OSP) – England: ‘Hot Wednesday‘. Several killed by heat. LWH
1513/1514
(Winter)
C

A severe winter in western Europe, including many parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb). From (LWH) “Thames frozen” in January 1514: carts crossed from Lambeth to Westminster. This would imply extended period(s) of sub-zero temperatures, together with persistent, and perhaps strong east winds.
1, 8,
LWH
1516 H D
Hot & dry (London/South). More generally, there was a drought with very little rain falling for 9 months . 8
1517
(January)
C

A ‘great frost’ started on the 12th January (OSP). A severe winter (1516/1517) across England – Thames frozen. LWH
1517 H

A very hot summer (London/South) 8
1523
(November)
C

England – cold winter (began?). Frostbite. Deaths by cold. LWH
1527/1528
W
Probably the ‘wettest’ pair of consecutive years since weather chronicles began. 1527 is regarded by some climatologists as being significantly wetter than 1258. In particular, in 1527, rain fell over ‘England’ (no specifics) every day from April 12th (C?) to June 3rd (C?) 8,
LWH
1529
W
Thames in flood on 2nd October. 8
1534/35
(Winter)
C

Frost lasting from November to February; Thames frozen below Gravesend (which presumably means it was also frozen up-river from this point; the river below Gravesend is at the head of the Thames estuary – so perhaps only ice along the shore-line, rather than being completely frozen all the way across?) 8
December 1536 & January 1537 C

Severe frost. Thames frozen in London: King Henry VIII, with his queen (Jane Seymour .. who was to die late in the year [1537] after giving birth to the future Edward VI) rode on the ice-bound river from London (probably Whitehall) to Greenwich. 6, 8
1537
W
A wet summer. 8
1538-1541 H D
1. These four years apparently experienced drought, with 1540 & 1541 particularly dry – in both these latter years, the Thames was so low that sea water extended above London Bridge, even at ebb tide in 1541. Three successive fine / warm summers from 1538-1540: the weather in 1540 was so fine that picking of cherries commenced before the end of May and grapes were ripe in July.
2. General warmth over Europe during the spring & summer of 1540. For England, there are several references to a hot summer, with great heat & drought; also many deaths due to the ‘Ague’. (The next warm summer of equal worth is possibly that of 2003!)
(also noted in usw via Holland .. ” 1540 is described in contemporary chronicles as the ‘Big Sun Year’; the lower part of the Rhine from Cologne into the Netherlands is ‘dry’ – it didn’t rain over Italy, with Rome dry for something like 9 months. Forest/city fires, with many people dying of heat stroke, heart failure etc.”)
3. 1541: as indicated above, another drought year with rivers drying up (must have been quite extreme given that the previous year was notably dry). Cattle / other livestock dying for lack of water: dysentery killed thousands.
8, usw,
LWH
1542
(Summer)

W
A wet summer. 8
1543/1544
(Winter)
C

A cold winter in western Europe / implied parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
1545
(June)



June 25th (OSP) – England – hail – “fist-sized” stones, Lancashire. LWH
1545/1546
(Winter)
C

A cold winter in western Europe / implied parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
1547 C

Intense frost at the end of the year [December?] (London/South). 8
1551
(December)


S Tidal flooding in the Thames, as far up-river as Millwall, in December. (This would imply some form of storm-surge event, though heavy rains inland might also have been a contributory factor.) 8
1552
D
Drought (London/South). 8
January 1552

S 5th & again 8th – 15th: Great windstorms all over western Europe, with thunder, hail, North Sea storm surges & sea/coastal floods. 6
1555
W
A wet year: Westminster flooded after great storm of wind and rain in October (or possibly September – some doubt about attribution and calendar usage here). 6, 8
1556
D
The drought of this year was reputed to be responsible for a 6-fold increase in the quarterly price of wheat. Springs failed – implies a ‘significant’ event, particularly if the entry for 1555 above is correct! 8
1558 H

Very hot summer (London/South). 8
1558
(July)



Sneiton, Nottinghamshire. A severe thunderstorm with large hail (described at the time as having a circumference of 38 cm*, which means a diameter of 12 cm / or around 4.5 inches!), destroyed houses & churches; the bells were thrown into the churchyard and some sheets of lead were carried over 100 metres. Trees uprooted. A child was lifted and carried about 30 metres then dropped: his arm was broken and he later died from his injuries. 5 or 6 (some accounts say 7) men were killed in the same area. On either the 17th or the 21st July, 1558 (7th July OS, so probably 17th NS).
[ * Hail sizes when reported in the historical record are always difficult to assess; it may not be diameter, or circumference that is being reported, but an aggregate of several stones, or even the depth on the ground. However, in this case, given the death toll, the damage and the obvious possibility of a tornado being present, the hail certainly had the potential to be of massive proportions. ]
(JMet / TORRO,
LWH)
June 1561


St. Paul’s steeple struck by lightning – causing fire-damage (see also 1444); this was long before the days of lightning conductors which were first suggested by Benjamin Franklin in 1752). 8
January
1563


S On the 19th (possibly the 14th) January, 1563 (NSP), at Leicester, Leicestershire. A tornado of possibly T6 force (estimated wind speeds ~170mph) caused considerable damage. JMet
1564
(September)


S Tidal flood in the Thames on 20th September. This would imply some form of storm-surge event, quite a severe storm no doubt for this early in autumn? 8
December 1564 and January 1565 C

Severe, prolonged frost (set in 7th December 1564/OSP). The court (of Elizabeth I) later (21st/OSP) indulged in sports on the ice at Westminster (perhaps one of the first occasions a great frost had been treated in this way: but see also 1309/10 which contradicts this). Football & other games were played on the ice.
(In the depths of the Little Ice Age, this would not have been too unusual; the reason the event is noted is because the Queen & Court were involved: it would have been an impressive sight!)
Thaw set in circa 3rd (old-style)/13th (new-style) January 1565 – accompanied by a notable Thames flood: A notably ‘unhealthy’ fog followed this thaw.
The winter of 1564/1565 was notably severe as regards depth of cold – amongst the top 10% of bitterly cold winters in the millenium. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb).
1, 6, 8
July 1565


26th: Severe thunderstorms with hail. 6
1565
(December)


S Thames flood, probably tidal (& therefore storm-surge related), on 24th December(OSP). 8
1566
(Summer &
early Autumn)

D
Drought all summer & ‘harvest-tide’ (London/South). 8
1567
(Winter)
C

Severe winter (London/South). [ Is this 1566/67 or 1567/68? Most often, the year of a great winter is that in which January falls ….] 8
1567
D
Dry summer (London/South). 8
1568 H D
Excessively hot with drought (period not given, but presumably includes late spring & much of summer; London/South). 8
1568/1569
(Winter)
C

A cold winter in western Europe / implied parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
1569
(October / November)



October 30th (OSP, therefore ~9th/10th November NSP) Nottinghamshire – tornado 60 yards wide, lasted 7 minutes – destroyed all in its path.
[ The phrase ‘destroyed all in its path’ is a difficult one to interpret without knowing exactly what was in the way! A relatively weak tornado would destroy hay ricks, poorly built cottages etc., but if solid, brick or ‘high-status’ wood structures are meant, then this might be at least a ‘moderate’ tornado (on the TORRO scale.)]
LWH
October & November 1570
W S 5th October(OS): A tidal flood affected the Thames estuary as far up-river as Erith: extending from the Humber to the Straits of Dover. The high tide was associated with severe gales and the flood was aggravated by heavy rainfall.
11th November (new-style; known as the ‘All-Saints’ Day storm, so must have been 1st November old-style): The greatest North Sea storm / flood (after that of 11th October 1250 q.v.): coastal changes; cities drowned on the continent.
[ 1570 is noted as being a year with Notable storms / coast flooding around the North Sea region; Great cities flooded, and many peopled killed. ]
1, 6, 8
1570/1571
(Winter)
C

A severe winter in western Europe / implied for parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
October 1571

S Gales & sea flood in Lincolnshire & in the Fens: many ships wrecked, houses destroyed, cattle perished. 6
1572/73
(Winter)
C

Hard frost from early November to about mid-January (London/South). [ Also a cold winter much of western Europe.]
November 1st (C?) England – cold winter begins. Deep snows & freezing rains to January 6th (C?).
1, 8, LWH
1575/76
(November / Winter /
early Spring)
C

Europe – cold winter, Rhine frozen. Great snow until April.
[ I’ve included this as it might imply that some part of Britain / the British Isles experienced cold weather too. At the very least, there would have been short-period incursions of bitterly cold air into the SE of England.]
LWH
1577
(March)


S A tornado T6 (possibly T7 though this now thought to be less of a possibility) on the 27th (new-style calendar corrected from the Julian) at Patrick Brompton, North Yorkshire from historical records. Destroyed cottages, trees, barns, hayricks and most of a church. (TORRO)
1578
(October)



October 24th(C?) – A ‘marvellous storm and tempest of lightning, thunder, rain & hail of six inches at Exeter’. [ Six inches! Is this diameter, because if so, it is a huge stone measurement – might be circumference. ] (from Devon Co.C web-site) x
1579
(February)
C

10th(OSP): Thames flooded by melting snow, deposited fish in Westminster Hall.
14th(OSP): 4-day snowfall 14th to 18th(OSP) with N. wind, deep drifts: many people & cattle lost.
6
1579
(May)
C

Snow 1 foot (~30cm) deep in London [ location not specified, but ‘London’ was a relatively small area – compared to today ] after 5-hour fall on the 4th (not clear if this is ‘old-style’ dating). 6
August 1582


Severe thunderstorms & very “big” hail in Norfolk. 6
1583 H D
Drought, very hot / dry summer (London/South). 8
1586
(October)


S October 8th (OSP) – England – gale – Houses & trees destroyed.
[ For the time being, I’ll assume this is a ‘widespread’ storm event, and not a tornado – though from the brief description above, that is not clear. ]
LWH
1586/1587
(Winter)
C

A cold winter over western Europe / implied for parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
July & August 1588

S In July, 1588 the King of Spain dispatched a huge fleet of warships into British waters with the aim of engaging and defeating the English Navy. By the 8th August (new-style) the Spaniards finally accepted defeat (in the sense that they realised that they were not going to make the Spanish Netherlands and collect the army of invasion) and were running for safety. The Spanish fleet attempted to escape by sailing through the Strait of Dover and ‘north-about’ round the British Isles. The synoptic situation for the summer as a whole has been described by Hubert Lamb as ‘winter-like’ & also by contemporary reporters. It was during the summer that the Armada was (first) coming up from Lisbon (then controlled by Spain) through the Bay of Biscay. Also, the circuit around Scotland and west of Ireland was plagued with further ‘un-seasonable’ storms, and it was not until the later part of September that the stragglers could head directly for Spain. (For more details see an article by Lamb in the November 1988 issue of ‘Weather’). It is arguable that the notably stormy weather (due no doubt to an unusually strong & southward – displaced jetstream) was as much a factor in the defeat of Spain’s ambitions as the Royal Navy!
29th July: Spanish Armada entering the English Channel with SW wind after repeatedly stormy, often NW-N winds on the Atlantic coasts between England & Portugal since 9th May.
31st July: Squally WNW wind: thereafter mostly light W winds in Channel until 8th August.
8th August: Armada defeated off French coast (Gravelines), carried northwards by strong SW winds in North Sea.
24th August: Severe Atlantic SW gales 24th Aug – 3rd September, completed the break-up of the Spanish Armada, now northwest of Ireland and west of the Hebrides.
6
1590
(possibly 1591 or 1592)

D
A dry year (London/South); Drought so great that horsemen could ride across the Thames at London Bridge. [ see also below ] 8
1590/1591
(Winter)
C

A cold winter in western Europe / implied for parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
1591 (or perhaps 1592)
D
A drought so great that horsemen could ride across the Thames at/near London Bridge & the River Trent was also said to be almost DRY. These accounts would imply a dramatic lack of rainfall (and winter / early-spring snowfall), not only during this year, but for the previous year as well – hence the possible confusion over dates. Taken with the dry weather noted for earlier years (above), and the cold winter – it looks as if this period was often visited by anticyclonically-driven drought episodes. 8
1594
(March
or April)


S March 30th (C? – might be Julian dating, therefore more like April 9th NSP) – England – gales – 1000’s of trees fell. LWH
1594
(Summer / Annual)
C W
Wet & unseasonable summer – extensive flooding of fields etc., with loss / spoiling of crops across England: probably the year (1594) referred to in Wm. Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. (This latter was set in Ancient Greece, but it is obvious from the writing that the weather-type was influenced by events in ‘middle – England’!) 8
1594/1595
(Winter)
C

A severe winter in western Europe / implied for parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
July 1596

S 11th: period of frequent severe gales in Scotland set in and lasted until 16th August: many ships lost on the east coast. 6
1598 H D
Great drought & very hot (?summer) (London/South). 8

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Where possible, I have listed the sources above, but remember that these often simply quote others – refer to the original work for a full bibliography.

1. Climate, history and the modern world.
H.H. Lamb
Methuen
1982

2. Woodlands.
W. Condry
Collins
1974

3. The Observer’s Book of Weather.
R. Pearce
Warne
1980

4. World Climate from 8000 to 0 B.C.
[ Proceedings of the International Symposium held in 1966 ]
Various contributors
Royal Meteorological Society
1966

5. British floods & droughts.
C.E.P. Brooks & J. Glasspoole
Benn
1928

6. The English climate.
H.H. Lamb
English Universities Press
1964

7. The Elements Rage.
F.W. Lane
David & Charles
1966

8. London Weather.
J.H. Brazell
HMSO (Meteorological Office)
1968

9. Contemporary Climatology.
Henderson-Sellers & Robinson
Longman Scientific
1986

10. The climate of the British Isles.
P. B. Wright (Ed: Chandler & Gregory)
Longman Scientific
1976

11. Regional climates of the British Isles.
D. Wheeler and J. Mayes
Routledge
1997

12. The Bude Canal
Helen Harris & Monica Ellis
David & Charles
1972

13. Weatherwise
Philip Eden
Macmillan
1995 (and updated)

14. The Weather Factor
Erik Durschmied
Hodder & Stoughton
2000

15. Shell Guide to Britain
(ed.) Geoffrey Boumphrey
Ebury Press
1969 (but data checked / amended against later sources)

16. The Penguin Atlas of Medieval History
Colin McEvedy
Penguin Books
1961

17. The Daily Telegraph “Book of the Weather”
Philip Eden
Continuum
2003

18. “Climate in Everyday Life”
C.E.P. Brooks
Ernest Benn
1950

19. “Encyclopædia Britannica (Multimedia ed.)”
(various)
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
1999

20. “The Long Summer”
Brian Fagan
Granta Books
2004

21. “Weather”
Abercromby & Goldie
Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd.
1934

22. “Weather Men”
Bernard Ashley
Allman & Son
1970

23. “Historic Storms of the North Sea, British Isles & NW Europe”
H. H. Lamb
Cambridge University Press
1991 (paperback)

(Source abbreviations:
CEPB = Climate in Everyday life/Brooks;
CET= Central England Temperature series (Met Office / Hadley Centre);
CHMW/Lamb = Climate, history & the modern world/HH Lamb);
CUMB = Chronicle of Magistrates, Cumbrian Genealogy (homepages.Tesco.net/~rolygrigg/);
DWS/MWS= Various Monthly/Daily Weather Summaries (UK Meteorological Office);
EWP= England and Wales Precipitation series (Met Office / Hadley Centre);
GPE = Philip Eden’s articles in the Daily Telegraph & elsewhere;
LW = London Weather/Brazell;
LWH= Landmarks of World History web site (www.phenomena.org.uk/);
RJP = Bob Prichard’s summaries of the 20th century; var.
RMS = Royal Meteorological Society ‘Weather Log’;
TEC = The English Climate/Lamb;
TREF= Web site: http://www.timeref.com
usw = contributors to uk.sci.weather newsgroup);
VOLC= Volcanoes/Decker & Decker; )


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