Weather Reports in the Uffculme Parish Registers

Transcribed by Jean E. Harris

[Taken from the Uffculme LDS film (0917548), the transcription by the Devon & Cornwall Record Society - C.A.T. Fursdon pub. 1927. In December 1989 I sent typed copies to the DFHS and they published these in the Devon Family Historian, vol. 56 May 1990 (pgs 10-16). These weather reports by the old vicar also appear in the book "Uffculme, A Peculiar Parish" (pgs 129-134).]

Parish of Uffculme, Devon

The Deep Snow in the Year 1776

On the Saturday Night, between the fifth and sixth of January, it began to snow and continued without the least Intermission 'till Monday Night, with a violent strong Wind from the North East which was succeeded within the Course of a few Days by other snow storms, the Wind still blowing violently from the same Point.

In Consequence of which, the Roads, which ran in the Direction from North to South, were completely filled: and all travelling through them entirely stopped, and in many Places the Lanes could not hold the Snow, but it was driven over the Hedge into the Field on the Western Side, & no wheel Carriages of any description could possibly be used.

The Gates were obliged to be opened & the Stiles to be pulled up in order to preserve an Intercourse between the Town and the different Parts of the Parish, and those Who died were obliged to be conveyed to the Church Yard across the Fields and over such Gates & Stiles as were not opened or removed.

In the wide and public Road, called Collard Lane, which connects the commons of Hackpen Hill and Dunkeswell Slade, no living Animal either passed or could pass for the Space of more than five weeks, Hares & Mice excepted.

Vast Numbers of Sheep were buried under the Snow, particularly on the Kentisbear Side of the Whetstone Hill, many of which perished and Mr Christopher Mountstephen of Hanland Farm had two dug out alive. One, the first died, but the last survived though it was incapable of standing and to be fed with Milk from a Spoon, and as it began to recover strength the whole of its Fleece fell off & it became absolutely naked.

A great number of Lives were lost in different parts of the Kingdom and one Man was frozen to Death as he was returning across the Hill from Wellington to Culmstock.

On the Forest of Exmoor a great part of the Horses died, as they retreated for Shelter to the Vales in which they were buried, and it was reported that in some of them the Snow was drifted to the Depth of thirty feet. Not only the Horses but even many of the Hares died on Exmoor from Want of Food & Sir Tho: Dyke Ackland had Numbers caught at Hillerton after the Snow was melted which were sent & turned adrift in the Forest in order to restore their Breed.

A little below & to the left of Culmstock Beacon towards the public Road from Blackdown Gate, the Snow was drifted to a vast Depth which did not entirely disappear 'till nearly the Middle of March, and so deep a Snow and so intense a Frost particularly in February were never before remembered by the Oldest Men living.

The above Account is strictly and literally true.

                                                      Ja s Windsor Vicr

A Most destructive Frost in the Summer 1787

In the year 1787 on the evening of the sixth of June about an Hour before Sunset there was a Storm of Hail & Sleet. This was Succeeded by one of the severest frosty Nights ever known at so late a Period of the Year.

A preseeding (sic) Spring had been unusually mild, and Vegetation was remarkably forward a single Night blasted all the tender crops and destroyed the Fruits of the Earth. The tender Vegetables such as Kidney Beans & the pods of the common Pea together with the Berries which were large were entirely cut off.

A great part of the Fruit of the Trees which were nailed to the Walls and had attained a considerable size experienced the same Fate, & the Apples of which the crop was very scanty, but which (where any were growing) were nearly as large as ripe cherries every where dropped off.

The shoots of the Walnut & Ash Trees appeared as if scorched with fire, but the Highest Lands suffered less than the lowest and most sheltered Vales, which is invariably the Case in Hoar Frosts in Winter.

A remarkably deep Snow in the Month of April 1790

On the Night between the tenth & eleventh of April in the Year 1790 it began to Snow, and continued without the least intermission 'till the next evening, the Wind blowing violently from the North-East and the Ground every where bore the Appearance of the Depth of the Winter and in many Places exposed to the Wind on the Western Sides of the Fields the Snow was drifted to the tops of the Hedges.

For a considerable Time preceeding, the Weather had been remarkably dry, the Wind blowing from the NorthEast with dry frosty Nights.

A Snow at so late a Period excited great and groundless Alarm for the Crops of Spring Corn which were sown, many of which had begun to vegetate but as a thaw immediately commenced Vegetation was remarkably rapid & notwithstanding in many Places on the Western sides of the Fields the Barley & Oats were dragged & harrowed into the Earth together with the Snow and the greatest loss which it occasioned was to the Breed of Hares & Rabbits. The Young of both died in vast numbers & on the East side of Tidborough Inclosures on Hackpen Hill the Snow was not melted from the ground at the Beginning of the Month of May

A very late Snow in April 1809

On Thursday the 20th of April last it snowed almost the whole Morning but it melted nearly as fast as it fell except on cold Bottom Grounds which remained covered for many Hours after its falling, it rained a good deal in the succeeding Night, but in the Morning of the 21st it changed again to Snow which fell to the Depth of more than five inches where not drifted on level ground, and of course much Higher or exposed situations.

In Bristol the Snow was reported to have been nine inches deep on the Surface of the Ground and the Mail Coach which ought to have arrived at Cullumpton on Friday Evening did not reach that Town 'till eleven O'clock on Saturday Evening full twenty five Hours later than usual.

In a few Days the Weather changed to a clear unclouded Sky and within three Weeks of the above mentioned Snow the Heat was really oppressive & Vegetation was never known so rapid.

May 20th 1809                                                Ja s Windsor

Remarkable Seasons

In the year 1798 it began raining on the 29th June (Peters Fair Day) and continued to rain for thirty days more or less every Day, which occasioned all the mown Hay to be completely spoiled, and the unmown from being over ripe, to be but little better than Straw, & the Corn Harvest was of course very late.

The Winter which succeeded, was unusually long and severe. The Frost setting in early November, and the Ground was covered with a deep Snow from the Beginning of January 1799 'till March.

The Spring of that Year was the latest ever known, and the Apple Trees were in full Bloom at the beginning of June: but the Crop proved a very plentiful one. The Rain which fell during this Summer was more frequent and much heavier than ever remembered by anyone living and the Fields during the Months of July, August & September were as high as they usually are in the Winter.

A very great part of the mown Hay was washed of the Land in the Vale, and a greater so covered with mud as to be of little value.

Not a Blade of Hay on the 12th of August was carried off the Common Land in this Parish, which for time immemorial had on that day been thrown open to be depastured.

During the whole of the Summer the Nights were unusually cold, & the Frosts more severe than ever before known.

Many Sheep and more Lambs after being shorn either died or caught such violent Colds, as never to recover from them.

For about ten days towards the end of August and in the beginning of September the Weather was remarkably fine when it commenced raining again more violently than before

Scarely any of the Corn was then ricked and the Harvest was not finished 'till late in December, which it was much aided by a Dry Frost.

During the Winter, which on the whole was a very mild one, the Hogs were obliged to be fed on boiled Corn, as it was to soft to grind.

In low lands and in clay Soils, a very great Pary of Potatoes when taken up, were found to be rotten from excessive Moisture and the Prices of all kinds of Food were unusually High. But the Summer of 1800 was as remarable for its drought & Heat, as the preceeding one, for Cold & Moisture, as in that Year for fourteen Weeks from May to the Night of 19 August there was not Rain sufficient to lay the Dust, when ther was a violent Thunder Storm, and the Wheat Crop (of which but a small quantity could be sown from the excessive Wet of the former Autumn) suffered most severely, form the Blight or Rust.

All these Causes combined produced the great Scarity of 1801, when in May & June, Wheat where it could be purchased, sold at 22s pr Bunel, Barley from 12s to 14s and Potatoes at 14s pr Bag.

The Poor, were obliged to live on Milk, which at the Request of the Magistrates and Inhabitants, was sold to them by the Farmers and salted pilchards were delivered out to them weekly by the Overseers at the Workhouse instead of their Pay, as the usual Articles of Food, Bread, Cheese, Bacon, etc could not be purchased with Money and the Bakers were authorised to sell mixed Bread made of Potatoes, Peas, Wheat, Barley, Beans or Oats.

The scanty & bad quality of their Food, caused a putrid Fever among the Poor of whom great Numbers died, & the burials this Year were more numerous than in any other.

From the very high price that Potatoes bore in the Spring an unusual quantity was planted and as the Summer of 1801 was a very productive one, they sold in the Spring of 1802. White at 1s and Red at 1s 6d pr Bag and immense quantities were given to the Cattle which could not be sold at any Rate. Wheat sold at 12s & Barley at 3s pr bushel, and in the succeeding Year as vast quantities of Land were tilled in consequence of the high prices of Corn, Wheat sold from 6s 6d to 7s pr bushel & Barley from 2s 6d to 3s pr bushel. A Proof that a great scarity of Corn & consequent high Price will in a short time, produce a Plenty, & consequently a low one.

                                                      Ja s Windsor. Vicar

For a very considerable Part of the Period of Scarity from the Harvest of 1799 'till that of 1801, the Poor were prevented from starving in the Cities and large Towns of this Kingdom by the provident Care of the better Sort who raised large sums by Subscription which were expended in the Purchase of the coarser Joints of Meat which were boiled down in Furnaces, and the Soup which was made from them was thickened with a small quantity of Potatoe and Pea Meal & sold daily to the Poor under the Inspection of Parsons named for the Purpose in quantities proportioned to the Number in each Family and at even below its cost.

In many Parts of the Kingdom the unthinking Multitude had Recourse to Rioting which only increased the Calamity they meant to redress, & many paid the Forfeit of their Lives.

One man was hanged a Bovey Heathfield, near Chudleigh, for being foremost in breaking into a Mill, and another at Taunton for ....ning and selling a Bakers Bread without the Owners Permission at a Price which he considered a fair one (viz. 10 for a Quartern Loaf which cost the Baker more than double that sum).

The Women of this Parish conceiving an Idea that its Produce ought to be consumed within it seized a Cart Load of Butter and retailed it in the Market Place at a Price fixed by themselves.

Fortunately for them the Driver of the Cart, being a Stranger could identify only the Persons of two of them, one of whom was imprisoned for a long Time in the high Goal at Exeter and the other absconded & never again returned.

And in every Instance the most active Persons were sure to meet that Punishment which in all Ages has ever been the lot of those who have attempted to redress their grievences by Riot and Tumult.

1808 - A most remarkable Hail & Thunder Storm

The Weather for many Days previous to the 15th of July 1808 had been remarkably hot, the Sky for several Days preceeding was cloudless and the Labourers in the Hay Fields were greatly oppressed by the Heat, as there was not the least Breeze of Wind to refresh them, but it continued a dead calm. Towards the Noon of that Day light clouds began to appear which regularly assumed a deeper & darker hue and about four in the Afternoon the Lighting became visible and the Thunder was heard at a great Distance but never loud.

The Lighting continued 'till Dusk, the Flashes succeeding each other quicker than ever before witnessed by anyone. As the evening advanced they became more visible, and about eight o'clock 'till late at Night were almost without Intermission, from ten to twelve some heavy showers fell, but they were but of short Duration and the Thunder whilst they lasted not in the least remarkable, but in the adjoining County of Somerset the Destrustion occasioned by the Storm was unprecedented and most probably exceeded in the narrow space in which it fell any which has fallen in any Part of this Kingdom.

The following Extracts are taken from the Dorchester & Sherborne Journal for the 18th of November 1808. A general Account is first given of its extent & the Appearance it exhibited and afterwards follows a particular Account of its Ravages among which the following are the most remarkable.

From Suddon House (a Mile West of Wincanton) Mr Mellhuish gives the following Particulars of the Storm there and in that Neighbourhood: I observed, says this Gentleman, the Storm about six o'clock P.M. coming from the S.W.. The evening set in unusually dark for the Season of the Year, a servant of mine, who was unloading Hay near the House, was struck violently on the Arm by a Hailstone, which surprised us all, as we had not at that Time conjectered what was near us. About a Minute after I discovered two or three Hailstones about the size of a Pigeons Egg. In a few Minutes after one of the larger Dimensions fell by my side with such velocity that striking on the ground it dashed to Pieces and the different Fragments rebounded as high as my head. In about seven or eight minutes more the Hail descended in one dreadful Storm fraught with Destruction.

In the N.W. side of the House, sixty panes of Glass were broken. Apples sufficient to make forty hogs heads of Cyder destroyed, seven Acres of Oats and the unmown Grass beaten down as flat as if a heavy Roller had repeatedly passed over it one way. The Impression of the Hail on the ground was as though the Head of an Iron Bar had been forced upon it.

(Hock) Farm, a Mile from hence, sustained much Injury in Corn & Apple, as did Hatherley Farm, about the same Distance, so also the Parishes of Chanton, Holton, Maperton, Clapton, Bratton, Shepton Montacute etc felt the direful Effects of the Fury of the storm.

The Thunder was tremendously awful, not "Peal on Peal Resounding", but one incessant Roll for three Hours, with out one moments intermission the Element all on Fire, Flash answering Flash from different Parts of the Hemisphere. It seemed as if the Magazine of Heaven had been opened, and all its Artillery let loose upon us.

Vegetation, disrobed of its Beauty, bending beneath the Pressure of its Affliction, appeared mourning the general Loss.

It must be some considerable Time before the Trees can recover, as the Hail descended with such Velocity as entirely to strip or loosen their Bark, not one escaped. Providentially no lives were lost.

At Castle Cary the Hailstones were of the size and Form of Split Nutmegs, but one was measured after it had been carried two miles; whose Circumference was eleven Inches.

At Batcombe one Hailstone is stated to have measured thirteen inches & half.

At the village of Tanstow the Clouds, at the Commencement of the Storm appeared on complete "Hurly-Burly" running towards each other in every Direction, and again receding according to the Principles of Electricity.

Col Horner of Nells Park writes that the Lighting was almost Incessant, that the Severity of the Hail Storm lasted about a Quarter of an Hour, Hail Stones generally from seven to eight inches and a Quarter circunference, that he had more than 3000 Panes of Glass broken in his House, Hot Houses, Garden Glasses etc..

Very many Rooks, Pigeons and Pheasants killed; his Pine Plants and other Exotics destroyed, Wheat and Barley cut off & unmown Grass beaten into the Ground.

From the Village of Malls, Mr Trussel writes Wheat, Oats and Barley entirely destroyed as were all the Garden Vegetables, unmown Grass beaten down flat, the Roads & Lanes strewed with Leaves and Branches of Trees. Wher ever a Hail Stone struck a Tree or large Branch the Bark was struck off. Every Pane of Glass exposed was broken to Pieces. Two Days after the Storm, Hail Stones were taken from a Ditch which measured from six to seven Inches in Circumference.

A Crop of Turnips also five Acres literally beaten into the Ground, and the Field dotted allover by Hail Stones as if with the end of an Iron Bar, in numberless Instances to the Depth of two Inches. The Bark of several Branches which I gathered from an Hedge had Wounds an Inch and half in Length. In short, such a scene of Devastation my eyes never before saw and I trust never will again.

J.Paget Esqr of Newbury House, two Miles N.W. of Nells informs me, a Farmer's Boy on the neighbouring Down, was so battered by the Hail that he was black & blue. Near the same spot a Hare was knocked down by the Haik and taken up as dead. A young Farmer in attempting to run from the Stable into the House, was so Stunned by a blow from a Hail Stone, that he could only save himself from falling by catching hold of a Gate, In different Parishes many score Acres of Corn almost entirely destroyed.

At Highwood Farm in the Parish of Hemington, a Flock of Sheep which had been lately shorn, were so bruised by large Hail Stones that the Contusions produced Suppuration and the Sheperd had such Difficulty in curing them. The Cattle running to the Woodside for shelter expressed their Feelings by the most piteous Moanings. Not only the Windows of the House were broken with violence, but the outer Door of ancient Oak was so battered, that numerous Impressions of the Hail Stones still remain, and cosequently will as long as it shall be a Door.

At the Village of Pitney, Upton & Long Hatton, Apples sufficient to make Hundreds of Hogsheads of Cyder were beaten down. Wheat, (Oats), Peas, Barley & Potatoes to the value of one thousand Pounds destroyed. Windows beaten to Atoms.

The Destruction of Corn & Apples near Ashcroft is very great. The Gentleman is supposed to have lost one hundred Hogsheads of Cyder.

The Letter from which the Foregoing Account is taken (among a vast number of other instances of the mischievious Effects of this tremendous & awful Storm) thus concludes;-

"Imperfect as my Account of this awful Phenomen must necessarily be, yet it will appear to be more extensive in its Progress, and but are injurious in its Effects on the Produce of the Earth, than any other that is either remembered or recorded yet, it is highly consolatory to observe, that not a single human Individual perished by it! We shall ascert that it may not ever have been an Instrument or --dus in the Hand of Procidence nor merely of recalling his Creatures to the necessary sense of their Weakness and His Power, but also of averting some still more extensive, more effective, more dreadful Calamity.

                                                      Yours etc A.Crocier

I declare the above to be correct Extracts.

                                                      Ja s Windsor. Vicr

Two Horse Chestnuts were planted in the Churchyard, one on the South side of the Church, and the other near the Tower, on the 25th day of October 1809 being the day set apart for the general Jubilee to commemorate the commencement of the fiftieth year of the reign of his Majesty King George the Third.

The Nuts from which the Trees sprang dropped from a Tree in His Majesty's Gardens at Richmond, were picked up and planted at Bridwell in the Parish of Halberton in the Year 1801 by Rd Hall Clarke. They are to be called the Jubilee Trees, and it is hoped they will not be injured or removed as long as they produce a green leaf.

Present at the planting (signed)

                                                      Richard Hall Clarke
                                                      Ja s Windsor, Vicar

The Tree near the Tower was, in the night between the 28th & 29th of October broken off by some unknown, ill disposed Person, and on the 31st of October 1809 another was given by Mr Clarke which was the Produce of a Nut of the same kind, and planted in the same Pit in my Presence.

                                                      Ja s Windsor, Vicar

In the Month of March 1817 The Sycamore Tree was planted in the Street, between the Workhouse and the Vicarage by the
                                                      Rev d Ja Windsor, Vicr.