Drought, Project Updates, Volunteer Project

What have our volunteers been up to?

An update from Alice on what the volunteers looking at weather in diaries and letters have been looking at and what they are finding.

Elizabeth Hervey Diaries

We have already done a couple of blogs on the Elizabeth Hervey diaries (see here and here), and they are turning out to be a fantastic source of weather and late 18th Century gossip. I have two volunteers, Joyce and Nicky working on these diaries at the moment- there are 30 odd years’ worth of diaries to get through, so even with two of them, we’ll be here a while! It looks like we might collaboratively write a new short biography of Elizabeth towards the end of the project, as new details about her life emerge.

It would be possible to have another person working on these diaries as well, so get in touch if you are interested!

Out letters, general from William Lewis

Pete started off working on a volume of William Lewis’s outletters. William Lewis was the agent for the Trentham estate, and managed the day to day running land throughout Staffordshire and Shropshire on behalf of the Marquess of Stafford.

Pete discovered that these did not contain references to the weather, and only a very small number of references to water management, none of which related to Staffordshire. He therefore summarised the contents so that we could update the catalogue entry for this volume, and moved on to William Lewis’s memoranda book. See our updated catalogue entry here!

William Lewis Memoranda Book

Pete has now moved on to look at William Lewis’s Memoranda Book, which contains brief notes on activities on the estate and daily weather. The highlight from this so far (from my perpective!) has been the description of a ‘fine blowing day and a great drought, much grain has been carried today’, which occurs during a generally wet period. It seems that in this case, ‘drought’ is being used as a synonym for ‘dryness’, relating to the drying effect of the wind, which has allowed the harvest to be collected, rather than to a long term hydrological extreme.

Out letters from William Lewis to James Loch

I’ve been working on diaries and letter on a Thursday morning as well, doing some of the shorter and more piecemeal work, or working on things that need a little more decision-making/interpretation to get anything out of them. I am currently looking at the letters between William Lewis and his boss, the chief agent for Lord Stafford, James Loch. These contain interesting snippets of information regarding unemployment and social unrest in the early nineteenth century as well as documenting the ‘Improvement’ of the estate.

Fragment of a diary of Rev. Thomas Unett

One of the sources I have looked at is a short extract (about a month’s worth) of diary written by the Reverend Thomas Unett. It is a lovely little extract, written by Thomas for his wife while she was away, detailing the children’s lives, what they ate, where he’d been and generally what was going on in his life (including, of course, importantly, the weather). This diary is particularly unusual, because it gives descriptions of the weather etc while Thomas is at home (in Staffordshire!). Most of the other sources we are looking at are written while the author was away from home. We also discover from diary fragment that our diarist Richard Wilkes Unett, son of Rev. Thomas Unett was called ‘Wilkes’ by his father.

Richard Wilkes Unett Diaries

Jan is making excellent progress working through the diaries of Richard Wilkes Unett. ‘Wilkes’ (as his father called him!) was a committed diary writer, and records the weather nearly every day. The diaries are also giving us interesting insights into his life stationed in Scotland with the army and his interest in gardening.

Richard Wilkes diary (on microfilm)

The diary of Richard Wilkes has been extensively described in the Staffordshire Record Office’s catalogue, however, as part of this project I would like to transcribe all of his descriptions of weather and musings about the implications of the weather on health. This could be done from the microfilm copy of the diary. If you are interested in this project, send me a message using the contact us page.





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