hope's whisper
bronte parsonage museum 2011 - 2012

In October 2011 I sited a digital weather station in the garden of the Bronte Parsonage Museum to collect weather data for a year.
Through collating both historical and contemporary weather records and cross referencing them with descriptions of weather in the Brontes' letters, poems and novels I spent time exploring the influence the weather had on their lives and work.
Taking into account the location of Haworth with its situation on the edge of moorland, the project looked at this unique habitat and how it was originally formed by the weather; how this finely balanced ecosystem is integral to the health of the planet; and how climate change could threaten the moorland landscape in the future.

Solar powered digital weather station installed in the garden at the
Bronte Parsonage Museum

wuthering graph01
A sorrowful sight I saw; dark night coming down prematurely, and sky and hills mingled in one bitter whirl of wind and suffocating snow'
(Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)
pencil on graph paper 2012, A1 in size

hope's graph01
At times I hear the renewal of Hope's whisper'
(a letter written by Charlotte Bronte to Ellen Nussey)

pencil on graph paper 2012, A1 in size

From drizzle and mist, storms and gales, thunder and lightening, to sunshine and rain the Bronte sisters referenced weather types in their novels that I put into eighteen different categories.
Working out the percentage of each category, the findings were presented in three individual colour wheels: one novel for each of the Bronte sisters.
Films, TV dramas and book cover illustrations all provide us with the popular perception of a weather beaten, wind swept and rain lashed Bronte landscape. However, when the percentage data was visualised in the form of colour wheels it became apparent that each Bronte sister wrote about far more types of weather than just rain, snow and wind.

Chesney Jane Eyre

Chesney Wildfell Hall

Chesney Wuthering H
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Each gouache and pencil on paper 2012

By reading their letters it became apparent just how much the weather affected their personal lives. Living in a time before Tuberculosis was recognised as a contagious disease, or before any cure and effective treatment was developed, the Brontes were acutely aware of the devastating effects of consumption (Branwell died of TB in Sept 1848, Emily died of it in Dec the same year and Anne died of it in May 1849). They often wrote about the weather in relation to the illness of a sibling: in this respect the weather could be a matter of life or death.

anne letter02
"You say May is a trying month" 1849 Anne Bronte
Screen print, marker pen on paper 2012

charlotte letter01
"At times I hear the renewal of Hope's whisper" 1849 Charlotte Bronte
Screen print, marker pen on paper 2012

chesney bronte 01
Until Charlotte's Death
Screen print on paper 2012

chesney bronte 02
Until Emily's Death
Screen print on paper 2012

To add to the weather data collected via the digital weather station, I also wanted to gather personal accounts of the weather for the duration of the project: individual descriptions from a relatively small area, every day for a year. How does the weather affect our daily lives and routines, how can it make us feel and what thoughts might it provoke? To achieve this a small group of ten volunteers were enlisted to help, all of whom live locally to the Parsonage in the villages of Haworth, Oxenhope, Ponden and Stanbury. Each volunteer was given a Brontë Weather Project kit consisting of an outdoor digital thermometer, specially designed weather recording cards and brief instructions. The ‘weather collectors’ were asked to note the maximum and minimum temperature every day; the location and time of recording; plus to give their own comments and description of the weather.

chesney kit
Record collecting started on Tuesday 18 October 2011 and ran until Monday 5 November 2012.

A total of 2334 hand-written cards were completed during this time. These record cards provide an invaluable source of personal weather notes and observation that can be cross-referenced with the weather station data.
chesney card 01

chesney card 02

chesney card 03

chesney card 04

chesney archive 01

The Bronte Parsonage Museum website

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