Manley's Hut
Manley's hut at noon on 5 January 1939, reproduced<empty> by permission of Durham University Library from Manley Papers, GB 033 MAN 8/139.

Weather Station
Great Dun Fell site, showing the measurement<empty> platform with the Civil Aviation radar building in the background. Centre for Atmospheric Research, University of Manchester.

Helm Wind Correspondance
Marriott’s diagram of the formation of the Helm<empty> Wind – Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society VOL. 15 NO. 70, 1889, reproduced by permission of the National Meteorological Archive, Exeter.

Eastgate Roman Altar
Original Location: Great Dun Fell
Current Location: Durham University Library, Special Collections Theme: Other
Period: Modern
Date: c.1939

What is it?
Photograph of the first weather recording station on the top of Great Dun Fell, taken in 1939.

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
At a height of 847m (2,782 feet), Great Dun Fell is the second-highest hill in the North Pennines, lying two miles south along the watershed from Cross Fell, its higher neighbour. The first weather recording station here was established in 1937 by Gordon Manley, Curator of Durham University Observatory, who later became President of the Royal Meteorological Society.  Manley also ran an observing station at Moor House above Teesdale. 

Manley’s original hut was erected in a small hollow at the highest point on the escarpment and, during the first winter, Manley visited the hut weekly and then fortnightly after discovering that the instrument clock would run for 14 days.  His aim was to discover more about the Helm Wind – England’s only named wind – which results from the particular landscape around Cross Fell.  Published accounts of the Helm Wind appeared in historical and geographical guides for the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland from the late eighteenth century and in 1794 the local vicar was reported to have had to leave the area because of its effect upon his health. During the nineteenth century, there were numerous reports of damage caused by the intense wind descending from the Cross Fell escarpment to the Eden Valley.

Why is it important?
Manley recorded the first series of mountain weather observations to be made in England. His observations at Great Dun Fell still constitute the longest unbroken set of mountain temperature records in the UK.  He also successfully interpreted the Helm Wind in hydrodynamic terms.  His book Climate and the British Scene published in 1952made climatology easily accessible to non-academic readers.

More recently, experiments on Great Dun Fell have focused on cloud microphysics – the altitude and local climate mean that the site is in cloud for approximately two thirds of the year and, as it is remote from populated areas, air masses are generally clean. This research has added to our knowledge of air pollution, acidification of the atmosphere and the ground, eutrophication and climate change.

Further Information

    Text References:
  • Troublesome Wind – a self guided walk in the North Pennines.  Royal Geographical Society.  www.discoveringbritain.org
  • ‘The Helm Wind of Cross Fell’ by Lucy Veale and Georgina Endfield, Weather – January 2014, Vol 69 No 1.
  • Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Manchester

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