400 years of extreme weather in Sheffield

A rainbow forms in the morning sunshine over the city of Sheffield.
A rainbow forms in the morning sunshine over the city of Sheffield.
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THERE’S no weather like Sheffield weather!

A history of storms, tornadoes, swelteringly hot days and devastating floods is revealed in a new book which compiles over 400 years of the city’s most weird and wonderful weather events.

From moorland fires in 1826 which saw 1,500 acres of land go up in flames, to freak 90mph gales in 1962 that left four people dead and thousands homeless, the tome lists many of the most extreme meteorological occurrences to strike the region.

Penned by Gaynor Boon and Adrian Middleton of the Sorby natural history group, Sheffield’s Weather also concludes that year-round temperatures in the city have increased since 1990.

One of the earliest weather events included in the book dates from December 1726, when a bitterly cold snap resulted in walkers losing their lives travelling from Sheffield to Hathersage.

May 1811 saw a thunder and hail storm ‘beyond precedent’, in which a whirlwind uprooted seven trees at Beauchief and ‘pieces of ice encrusted with frozen snow’ smashed 10,000 panes of glass.

A report from the Leeds Intelligencer tells of the moorland fires of 1826 around Sheffield.

“There must have been 1,500 acres of land burnt and burning,” it said. “The ground for miles was in flames. The inhabitants of the houses in the neighbourhood are in great alarm.”

A gale affecting the eastern Pennines wreaked havoc in Sheffield on February 16, 1962, with wind speeds hitting 96mph.

Trees were uprooted and over 100,000 buildings were damaged, while four people were killed and 6,000 left without homes.

Unusually hot weather also plays its part in the records - in August 1864 water was supplied to Sheffield on alternate days due to drought, while later in 1975 and 1976 summer temperatures soared to nearly 30 degrees Celcius, exposing ruined villages at the Ladybower reservoir.

A year later, in 1977, Sheffielders reported a rare phenomenon known as mock suns, where the sun’s rays are bent by ice crystals in the air, creating the illusion of more than one sun in the sky.

Last winter’s heavy snowfall brings the records up to date - Weston Park experienced drifts 38cm deep in January and temperatures plummeted to minus six.

The horrific floods of June 2007 are recorded as the worst for over 100 years, leaving 48,000 homes without power and forcing the RAF to deploy helicopters to rescue stranded residents.

Floods also caused devastation in 1864 when the Dale Dyke Reservoir burst at Bradfield, killing 240 people.

Sure to be included in the next edition is this year’s freak storm on April 23, during which an inch-and-a-half of rain fell in an hour along with large hailstones.

“Whatever we think of the weather, its extremes will always catch our attention,” Gaynor and Adrian write.

n Email sorbyrecord@sorby.org.uk for copies of the book.