Weather Girls at Wisbech’s Peckover House

Janet Crockford at Peckover House
Janet Crockford at Peckover House

The gardeners at Peckover House are carrying on a tradition of weather recording that goes back more than a hundred years.

When Lord Peckover began measuring rainfall in the garden in the 1880s, he could hardly have known that so far into the future these measurements would still be recorded.

“The equipment may be a lot more high tech these days,” said gardener Jenny Windsor, “but it is being used in the same tradition of weather recording that Alexander, Lord Peckover and his daughter Anna Jane were so committed to.”

These days a much wider range of data is recorded; measurements for rainfall, temperature, air pressure, wind speed and direction are all collected to produce daily, monthly and annual reports.

In contrast, Victorian equipment consisted of a simple rain gauge, but its data went to create the records still referred to today by meteorologists.

Lord Peckover’s readings, along with many more from around Britain, were sent to the British Rainfall Organisation, who published their first records in 1860.

This data led to a much better understanding of rainfall patterns across Britain. The position of the original rain gauge in the garden can be seen from the Ordnance Survey Map of 1887, and records still exist of readings the Peckovers took between 1881 and 1927.

More recent measurements serve to remind us of just how much rain gardeners and householders across Fenland have had to cope with. 2014 was the wettest year since the Peckover gardeners recommenced the keeping of records in 2005, with over 900mm (approx 35”) of rainfall. The wettest day was 8th August, with a record 70mm falling that day.

“The data has helped us to identify weather trends,” continued Jenny, “such as long periods of dry weather followed by long downpours. Temperature and wind speed measurements are very useful to us too, helping us to decide when to open the cold frames or to prepare for high winds in the garden.”

Measurements recorded by the Peckover weather station are fed through to the displays by the Georgian stables, where all visitors to the house and garden are able to see them.

The garden is open for visitors to enjoy between 11am and last admission 4pm, Saturday to Wednesday until early November.