Traveling in the Peak District of England recently, I had the opportunity to visit Chatsworth House – the seat of the Dukes of Devonshire. (For a pop culture reference, check out the 2008 film “The Duchess”.) While I went mainly to see the historic home and beautiful gardens, I was pleasantly surprised to spot a meteorological instrument shelter and Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder on the lawn behind the palatial house.
Weather observations have been made on the estate since the 1700s. Even with updates to the instruments over the years, that makes it – as far as I know – one of the oldest, continuously operated personal weather stations around. Some of the highlights from its long history include:
- Coldest temperature was -19°C (-2.2°F) on February 24, 1947
- Wettest month was December 1914, with 23cm (9 inches) of rain
- Driest year was 1780 with 49cm (19.3 inches) of rain
- Darkest month was December 1930, with barely 7 hours of sunshine
- Sunniest month was July 1989, with 255 hours of sunshine
- The Great Storm of 1962 destroyed hundreds of trees on the estate
Given their substantial stake in agriculture, landowners of the 18th and 19th centuries wanted a better understanding of weather and climate. Their extensive records helped build a foundation for what would later become the science of meteorology. Today, they provide detailed local climate histories. At Chatsworth, observations are still taken every morning at 9AM.