The weather has filled column inches since the invention of the newspaper. It’s topical, and readers seem keen to find out whether the current heatwave (or other weather event) breaks any records, and where in the country is worst hit. There’s a curious satisfaction, it appears, from discovering that your locality is breaking all former records.
‘It was 91 degrees here yesterday.’
‘We had 93.’
Attitudes to what might be appropriate clothing during spells of high temperatures have changed markedly. In the summer of 1868 the Falmouth Packet and Cornwall Advertiser found it necessary to comment on ‘a tremendous violation of proprieties in an almost uniform divestment of coats whilst employed in the public service’. Any man wearing a pair of white trousers ‘causes him to be stared at by every one with whom he comes in contact’.
By 1933 when the mercury was over 90 degrees for several days in August, clothing protocol had become sufficiently relaxed for the Grantham Journal to note ‘the enjoyment of the young holidaymakers on the promenades at the seaside in their pyjama suits and bathing costumes’, although it also reported the old country folk blaming the weather on ‘them there wylesses, airiplanes, and the clocks telling lies’. The same year was the scene of what would, fifty years earlier, have been seen as a scandalous dereliction of duty when Mr Justice Goddard at Bristol Assizes declared, ‘If anybody cares to take off his wig he may do so’, removed his own, and was quickly followed by counsel and clerks to their evident relief.
The most celebrated heatwave of recent times was in the summer of 1976 when sustained high temperatures and lack of rain drew unheard of claims from the printed press. Normally ponderous council meetings were raced through in under twenty minutes in Aberdeen, the Liverpool Echo reported that diners were defying head waiters and ‘insist not simply on being jacketless but also on going tieless too’, and holiday bookings to Siberia doubled in one month.
‘Four weeks without rain here.’
‘Five where we are.’Posted in Blog, Historical records Tagged documentary records, history lesson, house detective, house history, old documents, old newspapers