These coming days should be the warmest days of our summer, when all the main crops of food grown in Britain should be ripening for harvest. Prolonged wet weather can mean crops are spoilt. In this age of global food production and delivery, local weather variations seem less important, but in the early 19th century it was critical time for food production.
There were no weather satellites to predict long-term weather patterns and local people relied on their knowledge of the weather patterns in their area to plan harvest times. This understanding was helped by readily visible shared information gained from indicators such as weather vanes.
The word ‘vane’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘fana’ meaning ‘flag’. Weather or wind vanes have been in use for over 2,000 years. They are decorative features placed high on buildings. When caught by the wind they swivel to predict the coming weather by indicating the steadiness and direction of any breezes. In Brighton, for instance, wind from the South West might mean warm rain, while a change to wind from the North might mean cold weather coming.
In the entrance to the Royal Pavilion can be seen the dragon weather vane from the old Clock, or Water Tower, of the Royal Pavilion. The Tower was added to the building in 1816, to house the great water tank needed to provide the pressure to supply piped water to the rooms in the Royal Pavilion. The vane stood on top of the tower 35 feet above the roof line and was clearly visible from North Street, providing weather information to all the inhabitants of Brighton, whether fishermen, farmers or visitors.
The tower stood behind now what is Pavilion Buildings, but the building was demolished in 1888 as it was thought to be unsafe. Only the weather vane remains as a golden reminder of times Past.
Janet Brough, Paintings Conservator