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Gordon Hensman's Weatherview

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: December 20, 2013

  • Skating on the continent in the 17th century,

  • The memorial to the crew of the Solomon Browne

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The Black Country –

Birthplace of Industrial Revolution

Weather in Dudley 1st-10th December 2013


This was a mild spell for the time of the year, but unusually, it was also very dry with little rain falling despite a usually high frequency of Atlantic depressions in early winter.


1. Mean maximum 8, 46.5F

2. Anomaly +1.3

3. Mean minimum 3.4, 38F

4. Anomaly +1.0

5. Average of max. & min. 5.7, 42.3F

6. Anomaly +1.17. Highest/date 9.6, 49.5F 8th

8. Lowest/date 0, 32F 5th

9. Number air frosts * 010.

Number grass frosts 2

11. Lowest grass/date -2.2, 28F 6th

12. Mean 30cm soil depth 6, 43F

NB*. To record a frost the temperature has to fall to -0.1 or less.

CORRECTION: The mean maximum temperature in November 2013 was 8.8, 48F - not 18, 64.5F, as reported last week.


13. Days with rain 2

14. Total fall 2.3mm

15. Wettest day 2mm 6th


16. Mean relative humidity at 9h 83%


17. Average at 9h 1028mb

18. Highest/date 1033mb 1st, 2nd

19. Lowest/date 1019mb 5th


20. N 2, NE 0, E 0, SE 0, S 0, SW 2, W 2, NW 3, CALM 1


9th 1849 The South Shields lifeboat "Providence," sank with the loss of twenty out of the twenty four crew. The First Lord of the Admiralty was the Duke of Northumberland whose seat was at Alnwick, the county town of Northumberland, not far away. He was so horrified that he offered a prize of 100 guineas for the design of a lifeboat which would right itself if it capsized. It was won by James Beeching of Great Yarmouth, with more improvements added by the Master Shipwright of the Royal Navy, James Peake. The new design incorporated high end-boxes fore and aft, a heavy iron keel and eight one-way self-relieving drainage tubes making the boat self-baling.

1886 What is reputed to be the worst disaster in the history of the RNLI, took place in the Irish Sea when a merchant vessel, "Mexico", ran aground off Southport. Three open rowing boats were launched with a crew of 44 – one from Southport and two from Lytham St. Anne's. The second Lytham lifeboat rescued 12 sailors. The Southport lifeboat capsized even though it was self-righting, drowning 14 of her crew. The following day, the first Lytham's lifeboat was washed ashore with the loss of 13 of her crew.

10th 1784 The Reverend Gilbert White of Selbourne, Hampshire, was one of the earliest observers of nature (natural history), in the countryside in the south of England. He produced an invaluable record in the second half of the 18th century.

Not only did he observe the fauna and flora, but also the weather. He noted that on this day, after a very heavy snowfall on the 7th and 8th, the sky cleared and a "great frost" developed. He was intrigued to note that it was colder in his garden than it was 200 feet higher up:

"On the 10th, at eleven at night, though the air was perfectly still, Dolland's glass went down to one degree below zero." This is equivalent to -18C, 0F.

"A circumstance that I must not omit, because it was new to us, is, that on Friday, December the 10th, being bright sunshine, the air was full of icy spiculae, floating in all directions, like atoms in a sunbeam let into a dark room ...Were they watery particles of the air frozen as they floated, or were they evaporations from the snow frozen as they mounted?"

Although he did not know it, he had discovered that in windless, clear conditions, cold air flows like water to collect at the bottom of valleys – because it is heavier than milder air. We call such spots frost hollows.

"I must not omit to tell you that, during these two Siberian days, my parlour cat was so electric, that had a person stroked her, and been properly insulated, the shock might have been given to a whole circle of people."

He had observed – indirectly – that very low temperatures prevent the air from holding much invisible water vapour. Incidentally, it's the same reason that you get chapped hands in winter, even though it appears to be so damp outside.

11th 1662 It seems that CharlesII introduced ice skating from Holland on this day. He was observed by Samuel Pepys, who "... did see people sliding with their "Sckeates", which is a very pretty art."

12th 1891 I thank my lucky stars that I did not live in the great Victorian Age, I like my creature comforts too much for that! Everyone then had to suffer ill health without the medical knowledge we now have (horror of horrors! – No dentists! Think of the suffering, think of the agonies!).

Winter was a real killer in those days of no central heating and often for poor children – no shoes! Pneumonia was the old folk's friend – taking them out of their suffering. Yes, it was better if you were rich with servants at your every beck and call, but even then all had to brave the many poisonous substances entering their lives when there was general ignorance about their effects – both mercury and arsenic were widely used in both medical applications and cosmetics ...it goes on and on. Only the hardy survived childhood, and most people endured a life of drudgery.

So it is amazing (or, alternatively, it is not surprising) that Great Britain developed a number of sports and gave them to the world – football is probably the most widespread, and is eagerly followed everywhere.

Attention all footie fans! There were no grossly overpaid and pampered footballers then – on the contrary they played for the love of the game in a way unknown nowadays. On this day Burnley were playing Blackburn Rovers in a First Division match. The weather was freezing with a great deal of snow on the ground and as the match went on the wind grew stronger with heavy snow showers.

The Blackburn players walked off the pitch simply too cold and numb to play – and they were used to cold damp homes. Only the Rover's goalkeeper, Herby Arthur was left. He successfully appealed for offside when one Burnley player passed to another. What else could the referee do? With no one to pass to, Arthur tried his best to waste time until the referee called it a day. Burnley won 3-0.

13th 1981 We are all familiar with 'Queen Elizabeth slept here,' when visiting a stately home. But occasionally more humble abodes can claim this distinction – and even more interesting, there is pub/hotel which can claim that our present Queen occupied – and maybe dozed off in – one of their rooms.

The pub is the Cross Hands in Old Sodbury, Gloucestershire. The Queen and her entourage were on their way back to Windsor after a visit to Princess Anne, the Princess Royal who lived not far away. The weather was dreadful, with a raging blizzard storming across the Cotswold Hills, making road travel hazardous.

The Queen had arrived in two royal Land Rovers, containing two chauffeurs, two detectives, a lady-in-waiting, and a staff aid. The landlord, Robert Cadei, had actually sent the staff home – not anticipating the arrival of any customers with a blizzard drifting the snow across the roads. In any case, there was only Room 15 vacant. So it was hastily prepared for the Queen, and the pub became unique in being the only one in the United Kingdom to have a room that has been occupied by a reigning sovereign.

14th 1999 There was 3cms of lying snow, snow showers and a maximum temperature of 1, 34F, falling to -1.4, 29.5F in Dudley.

1987 The temperature failed to rise to freezing point in Dudley.

15th 1944 Many readers will remember the music brought over to this side of the North Atlantic by the Americans during the last war. Probably the best known band leader was the immortal Glen Miller ( I can't get String of Pearls out of my head now). The weather was poor with patchy fog and low cloud when Miller drove to RAF Twinwood, Bedfordshire, intending to fly to Paris to entertain Allied troops in a Christmas concert.

He boarded the single engine aircraft and took off onto low cloud. The aeroplane was never seen again. Needless to say there are endless rumours as to his fate – no-one will ever know.

16th 1890 A record was established for the dullest month ever in London. Out of a possible 242 hours, Westminster recorded no sunshine whatever! It was a very foggy month, reputedly the foggiest ever known in London, and that is saying something in Victorian London which was notorious for pea souper fogs of stinking slime, choking people's lungs.

The capital had grown very rapidly during the 19th century with open coal fires the only method of heating. The dreadful polluted atmosphere was noted back in the 16th century when John Evelyn published his pamphlet Fumifugium, describing the effects of burning sea coal which made London ..." the face of Mount Etna, the Court of Vulcan, or the suburbs of hell."

Believe it, or believe it not, the Savoy advertised rooms with a 'splendid view of the Thames in fog!'

17th 1663 Until the Thames Embankment was constructed during the 19th century, by the Victorians, lower lying parts of London were frequently flooded at high tide, especially with storm surges, the knowledge of which was not yet grasped. On this date Whitehall was inundated.

Jonathan Swift wrote, "We now have a fine frost, and walk safe from dirt; but it is like life at court, very slippery." There were few paved roads in those days, and they were usually deep in mud during the winter, so a hard frost to freeze them was welcome.

18th 1683 I am not sure if Lorna Doone, by R. D. Blackmore is very well known nowadays. It tells the story of a romance set on Exmoor. However, although it was written in 1869, it was set during what is generally accepted as the worst winter ever, and it set in on this date:

"An odd white light was on the rafters, such as I have never seen before ... I spread the lattice open; and saw at once that ... all the earth was flat with snow, all the air was thick with snow ... for all the world was snowing.

"That night ... many men were killed and the cattle rigid in their headropes. Then I heard that fearful sound, which I never had heard before, neither since have heard ...the sharp yet solemn sound of trees, burst open by the frost-blow."

The Thames froze over for two months, and incredibly, the English Channel froze over completely joining Dover and Calais!

19th 1981 A screaming gale brought tragedy to the little coastal village of Mousehole, near Penzance, Cornwall. In an attempt to rescue the crew of the Union Star cargo ship, eight miles of the coast, the lifeboat Solomon Browne was launched from Penlee Point.

With almost uncanny prescience, the Coxwain, Trevelyan Richards, only allowed one member from each family to sail with him. He set off with a crew of twelve to the stricken vessel. All were lost!

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