Tuesday, May 4, 2021

It’s Always Sunny in Regency England

Well, no, no it isn’t, any more than it’s always sunny anywhere. Even the driest places on Earth occasionally experience a rain shower (except for the Dry Valleys in Antarctica, which haven’t seen rain in millions of years, apparently, but I don’t intend to set a story there 😊). But I recently caught myself slipping into the habit where every day in my books is a perfect sunny day, and my characters take strolls and sit in open carriages wearing nothing more than a muslin dress and a spencer. It seemed appropriate when I was talking about the Dorset seashore in August, but November?

Ahem. No.

Fortunately, there’s an intriguing site now parked under Weather Web. Researched meticulously by Martin Rowley of Dorset, it pulls together reports of weather in England for centuries, including 1800 to 1849. For example, based on recorded observations, we know that 1805 was a dry summer in London but 1807 was a wet one. January 1810 saw 10 days of fog in London. And January 1820, when George III died and Prinny became king (though he wasn’t officially crowned until later), the weather was terribly cold. Tunbridge Wells, in Kent, recorded 10 degrees below zero at one point.

One of the most intriguing events is recorded on December 14, 1810. On that day, at Old Portsmouth in Hampshire, what is believed to be the strongest tornado ever reported in England touched down. It barreled through Old Portsmouth and on to Southsea Common, blowing down chimneys, peeling back roofs, and levelling houses. Meteorologists believe it was a T8 on the TORRO scale, with winds exceeding 213 miles per hour. Miraculously, no deaths were associated with it.  

Now, I may not be able to pinpoint the weather in Dorset in November 1804, but I can be reasonably sure it rained, a lot, and the weather hovered between 40 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, requiring me to study lots of lovely shawls, pelisses, cloaks, and redingotes in which to wrap my heroine.

Writing historical novels is such a difficult thing. 😊

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