During a miserably cold and wet stroll around the golf course in Wanstead Park I happened upon the remains of Wanstead House – basically a deep excavation where the basement and kitchens once were.
As a freezing cold mixture of rain, sleet and snow fell, gradually thawing the remnants of last night’s snow, I wondered what the weather was like when this magnificent building last stood. Luke Howard’s entry in The Climate of London revealed that the weather on this day 200 years ago was remarkably similar.
Wanstead House around 1819 just before its destruction
February 1st 2019
As I stood and tried to imagine what the house must have looked like it occurred to me that 200 years is a mere blip in time in the history of the Earth. People come and go, buildings rise and fall but the weather goes on and on.
* There’s a fascinating extract on Wanstead from James Dugdale’s The New
British Traveller (1819) that you can find here.
** This video clip shows the site where Wanstead House once stood.
The Battle of Waterloo and Wanstead are not often mentioned in the same sentence. However, with the marking of the 200th anniversary I have been noticing more and more reminders of the Duke around the area’s roads.
As well as Wellington Road we have Wellesley Road which, I would imagine, planners named in honour of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, rather than his feckless nephew, William Pole Tylney Long-Wellesley, who frittered away the fortune of his wife, Catherine Tylney-Long, heiress to an estate that included Wanstead House.
It is noted that Long-Wellesley celebrated his uncle’s victory with a fair in the grounds of Wanstead House. Though the park was later left devastated by the clearance of thousands of trees, sold to help clear Long-Wellesley’s debts, it is interesting that a line of oaks, estimated to be 200 years’ old this year, stand in a line close to The Temple. I wonder if these were planted to mark Wellington’s victory?
Wellington, who was recently voted the 15th Greatest Briton in the BBC poll, must have enjoyed Churchillian popularity following the victory over Napolean. But, according to many historians, the battle was a close-run thing – some historians have said that heavy rain on the eve of the battle helped Wellington’s defensive battle policy against Napolean’s aggressive tactics.
Scientists have been able to map the weather conditions of the battle that was taking place 200 miles to Wanstead’s south-east. Weather conditions in Wanstead for the day, according to Luke Howard were: “Maximum: 74F, minimum: 51F, hygrometer 52%, wind: SW, rain in the night, rather cloudy.”
He makes a comment about a solar observation – the figure 28 has been seen on the surface of the sun: “There is now on the sun’s disk the most extraordinary configuration of macula or spots that ever was seen. They present, when viewed through an astronomical or inverting telescope, the exact resemblance of the figures 28. If viewed through an erect telescope they will of course appear inverted but equally distinct; the 2 in particular is perfectly formed.”
A full scientific explanation of the Battle of Waterloo can be found on the following link