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Home > Weather in History 1300 to 1399 AD

(T: warm/cold events; R: dry/wet events; S: 'stormy' events)

 Date T R S  Description  Ref:
 First third 14th century (Winters) [ Researchers suggest that the frequency of 'severe' winters across Britain during the first three decades of this century was unusually high. Also, analysis of agricultural records, estate reports, tax returns etc., also points to frequent wet / cool summers with failures of harvests and impact on survival of livestock. Probably by extension applies at least to continental NW Europe. See individual entries below ... not exhaustive!]  25, x
 A cold winter in western Europe / implied for parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb)  1
 1305  A hot, dry summer (London/South). Modern researchers think that the summers of the first decade of the 14th Century were often dry or very dry & probably often warm as a result; as often happens though, this 'fine' mini-era followed a spell in the mid-1290s when summers were less than ideal with possibly one or two chillier such-named seasons. [See: 'Weather', May 2014, Pribyl]  8
 Severe winter (London/South). A severe winter over much of western Europe. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb): taking these two last entries together suggests a high frequency of blocked / anticyclonic episodes.  1, 8
 1309/10  London Bridge arches damaged by ice during a severe winter. Thames frozen. A possible frost-fair on the Thames in London; which implies a persistent length of sub-zero temperatures at some time this winter (inferred by the statement in some chronicles that 'sport' was held on the river). Usual stories about people walking across the Thames. According to contemporary reports " dancing took place around a fire built on the ice and a hare was coursed (chased) on the frozen waterway ".  8
 1314-1316  Several famines occurred during these years (weather assumed to have been responsible, with all three years noted by various historians as 'very wet' ... it's a moot point though as to whether all three were really wet, or just the effects of one or two carrying over). Brazell says that the famine of 1316 was probably the last really severe one in England, and historians have estimated that over this period, approximately half-a-million people died (roughly 10% of the population) of causes related to famine, which represented approximately 10% of the population. [ The wet year credited to 1315 may be the origin of the St. Swithin legend. ]
The 'Black Death' (Bubonic plague) that ravaged the country 1348 onwards may have some linkage to these precursor conditions - though it is a long time afterwards. Certainly though, in the mid-1300's, mortality was high due to famine, disease etc.
It is suggested that it was an increase in climatic variability, rather than the absolute temperature & rainfall regimes that caused the problems. There is some suggestion of an increase in extreme events (including wind-storms), however defined. Some evidence that as well as excessively damp conditions, temperatures were depressed.
[Additional references: Lucas, 1930: "The Great European Famine of 1315, 1316 and 1317"; Kershaw, 1973: "The great famine and agrarian crisis in England, 1315-1322" and others ]
 A cold winter in western Europe / implied for parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb)  1
 A storm noted as having affected both the Netherlands & England - 23rd (OSP).  GOTT
 Wet, cool summer and disastrous harvest. [from ...; haven't found any other sources for this.]
[The period 1313 - 1323, with exceptions (see 1321 below) are though to have been categorised by indifferent-to-poor summers, with low TEMPERATURES and above-average RAINFALL; reported in 'Weather', May 2014, Pribyl]
 (see text)
 1321  Hot, dry summer (London/South).  8
January OSP)
 At Stepney, a sequence of damaging floods began on New Year's Eve 1323 (OSP), with a "mighty flood proceeding from the tempestuousness of the sea, which overflowed all the banks; as the waters ebbed they tore a great breach in the wall, allowing subsequent tides to flow across the land." [Dugdale 1662: The History of Imbanking and Draining 2nd Edition, London 1777), quoted in reference.]  25
 Drought in summer (London/South). Possibly the start of ten or so years of warm, often dry summers [As noted in 'Weather', May 2014, Pribyl].  8
 1325 & 1326  Severe droughts: rivers & springs dried up & in both years the Thames was so low that sea water penetrated much further up river than usual - for 1326, noted as 'salty' for nearly the whole year (presumably in London).  8
 Roofs Blown Off at Croxden Abbey, 23 December 1330 (OSP) From the Croxden Chronicle . . . " On the night preceding Christmas Eve at twilight, a very strong wind blew up from the west, and took the roofs off the Abbey buildings and from buildings throughout the country in a terrifying way. It tore many of them from their foundations and uprooted oaks in the woods, and countless apple trees and pear trees in the gardens, in a remarkable way."
Reference: William Salt Library The Abbey of St Mary, Croxden, Charles Lynam, including extracts from The Croxden Chronicle [Staffordshire]
[This may be the same storm that brought down the steeple of Wrexham church (St. Giles); the whole church was re-built. ]
 Spring 1331  In the spring of 1331, there was a drought which lasted 15 weeks, but a few days before 17th June(OSP), when a tournament was due to commence at Stepney, the drought was broken and 'all the ground was thoroughly watered'.  8
 1334  Tidal flood on the Thames on the 22nd November(OS). (presumably due to wind-driven surge?)  8
 This year may have been a wet year, but there may be confusion with the floods reported for 1334 (above).  8
(Autumn -
early winter)
 Very wet from October to December.  8
 1338/39  Hard frost started in December and lasted for 12 weeks. (London/South). Also, from the 'Annals of Dublin' ( .. "So great a frost was this year (AD 1338) from the 2d of December to the 10th of February, that the river Liffey was frozen over so hard as to bear dancing, running, playing foot-ball, and making fires to broil herrings on. The depth of the snow that fell during this frost, is almost incredible; yet it is agreed, that such a season was never before known in Ireland".  8,
op. cit.
 16th January 1342  This gale destroyed the tower of the Church of Friars Minor in London, and occurred at night. It was associated with a violent thunderstorm - so almost certainly a tornadic event - though of course it may have been associated with a more widely-based cyclonic development.  8
 1342  "A Great drought (in summer)": southern Britain certainly, but not known if it was nationwide.  1
 1344  Norwich/East Anglia: at some time in this year, this from Norwich cathedral records . . ." A very high wind, by which the passage-boat coming from Yarmouth was sunk near Cautley, and 38 people perished."  x
 At the Battle of Crécy (dated as 26th August/OS), in NE France, it is claimed that the occurrence of heavy rain / thunderstorm prior to the battle, and the subsequent cloud clearance & bright (low-angle) sunshine was somehow instrumental in the victory gained by the English forces of Edward III over the combined French / Genoese army of Philip, King of France. It is suggested that the damp crossbow strings of the Genoan mercenaries were no match for the English longbows, and that the bright sunshine caused problems for the French forces. I would have thought it might be something to do with better organisation.  x
 1348  Wet autumn & winter.  8
 1352 (or perhaps 1353)  Drought, with exceedingly dry summer. Doubts about which year this statement applies to. An ecclesiastical record from Winchester (Bishopric) notes that there was a 'great heat . . . lasted for the whole summer' and ' meadow . . . not mown due the heat and the drought in summer', in Wargrave (Berkshire); and from same source we have . . . ' spring corn was short and grew badly due to the drought': this in Farnham (Surrey). Modern researchers have attributed this to 1352. [Titow J, 1960: Evidence of weather in the account rolls of the Bishopric of Winchester]
> This may have been part of a period in the 1350s that are thought to have experienced benign (or perhaps dry/drought - warm) summers; not necessarily a 'good' thing of course to a society that required to live off the produce of the land.
 1353/54  Long, cold, hard winter lasting from early December to mid-March (London/South).  8
 1356  Dry spring. (London/South).  8
 Storm/flood - 24th (OSP)?  GOTT
 NOTE! This applies to Paris but I've included it because it is such a famous 'nearby' event, and it must imply that the airmass was unusually cold across at least the southern British Isles.
"Black Monday: or Easter Monday, 1351, when hailstones fell that killed both horses and men in the army of Edward III., from the extreme cold. (This would have been 5th April according the Julian calendar in use at the time & also note that this applies to Paris, not Britain!).
 1362  A wet year.  8
 January 1362  " St. Mary's Wind ": A severe gale / storm (at least as powerful as that of October 1987) from between south and west commenced on the 15th (23rd new-style) January 1362 and lasted for about a week - affecting large areas of southern Britain. A large number of buildings were blown down or damaged, including St. Pancras Church, the church of Austin Friars in London, Norwich cathedral and the (original) Abbey Gateway in St. Albans. Damage also to shipping. The "exceptionally 'severe gale' caused great destruction - buildings, towers, trees, wind-mills etc., all 'thrown down' according to contemporary chronicles. Noted by English, Scottish & Irish sources.
The "Great Drowning" ('Grote Mandrenke') causing widespread / severe damage across SE Britain - also along the East Coast, and as 60 Danish 'parishes' are noted as having been 'swallowed up' by the sea, with several thousands dead there, it suggests a rapidly-deepening low moving swiftly across southern Britain and the southern North Sea with a high storm-surge event.
(Might have been a sequence of events I would have thought, with perhaps the main-event on the 15th). This storm is regarded as the severest on record for the area, with the exception of that in November 1703 & possibly October 1987.
 7, 8
 1362/63 &
 Cold or Severe winters; frost from December to March in the second winter (London/South), which is regarded as the worst of the two when taking the whole of western Europe (Easton in CHMW).  1, 8
 1368 (or perhaps 1369)  A wet year: there is some doubt about the year.  8
 Modern researchers believe that this decade often experienced DRY or VERY DRY summers. [Lamb & others/see 'Weather' May 2014, Pribyl]  (See text)
(or perhaps 1374)
(February - March)
 Norwich cathedral records: " A deep snow in February that laid upon the ground seven weeks, and on thawing occasioned a great flood." Given that the listing is under 1373, it may be that in fact the event refers to early 1374, given that church records around this time usually noted the year as beginning around Easter.  x
 Storm/flood - 9th (OSP); probably affected English coastline, certainly affected Dutch coastal communities.  GOTT
 Storm/flood - 8th or 10th (OSP); probably affected English coastline, certainly affected Dutch coastal communities - where noted as a 'terrible storm'.  GOTT
 1375  Exceptionally warm year (in London/South).  8
 December 1382  The flood which occurred in December 1382 prevented the King (Richard II / 5 years on the throne) from travelling from Westminster to Windsor where he had proposed to spend Christmas. This sounds like a pluvial flood, due to high rainfall (or melted-snow). Whether the 'court' was travelling overland or along the river isn't known to me. Heavy rain is noted from 18th to 20th December(OSP).
(Richard II .. credited with introducing the handkerchief !)
 Possibly a major drought, at least for areas based on the SE of Britain: it was reported that streams/springs dried up and "the deepest wells" also failed. The dry episode is noted as having lasted until early September (the reference has 8th September OS). [Westminster Chronicle 1381-1394 (Hector & Harvey, 1982)  (See text)
 Possibly a series (or at least a higher-frequency) of warm, dry summers.  x
 1392  Severe thunderstorms in London on 3rd September.  8
 Storm/flood 21st/22nd (OSP).  GOTT
 A cold winter in western Europe / implied parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb)  1
 A cold winter in western Europe / implied parts of Britain. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb)  1

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Research by and published with permission of Martin Rowley