Hartland Point Weather Station

Regular Met Office inspections of the weather station, its equipment and condition , and reporting standards, took place over the years. The Inspection reports were summarized (extensively) then archived after the Hartland Point Station ceased.

The majority of the content of this page is taken from the Summary of the Station History Files.

I have omitted the majority of entries on repair and replacement of equipment, as well as problems with telephone and other communications, and commentary on changes in level of recording required, but present here a few of the entries with "human interest" - or that are just plain interesting!

The beginning of the Hartland Point Coastguard Station

In 1922 The report of the Inter-departmental Committee on the civil duties of the Coastguards recommended extensive alterations of existing coastguard stations to accommodate the proposed coast watching force. 2,200 was allocated for new buildings to serve the station at Hartland Quay, and within 2 years, the Coastguard Cottages on the edge of Stoke were constructed.

In 1923 a Coastguard reorganisation was projected. By 1926 Coastguard facilities had been erected at Hartland Point, and in 1930 a Marconi XM B1A radio transmitter and receiver were installed, and flagstaff erected there.

A major review of Coastguard was instituted in 1931, and the Coastguard Station at Hartland Quay was permanently closed in 1932

Weather reporting starts at Hartland Point

With the closure of Hartland Quay Coastguard station, Coastguard services moved to the facility at Hartland Point, but the Weather Reporting stopped, the last being issued in February 1932.

It is unclear whether any full weather station functioned on the Hartland peninsula for the next few years - there are no records in Archive.

In December 1937, "abbreviated observations" commenced from the Hartland Point Coastguard Station, at Latitude 51° 1' N Longitude 4° 32' W, 299 feet above mean sea level.

As part of the commissioning process, the Air Ministry Meteorological Office undertook Barometer calibration and adjustment in March 1938. As part of this process, they record the Barometer position as Latitude 51° 1'N , Longitude 4°32'W, and 305ft - 92.96m - above Mean Sea Level.

The Coastguard Station was described as a single storeyed brick building, built on a very confined headland plot and bounded by a 60 foot square wire fence.

Monthly returns commenced in April 1938 and data were published in the Meteorological Office Monthly Weather Report and Daily Weather Report from July 1938.

By June 1938, the Station was equipped with a mercury Barometer, a Stevenson Screen with thermometers, a 5 inch rain gauge , a sunshine recorder , and a grass minimum thermometer. Visibility points ranged from 27 yards to 40 miles. Wind speed was estimated (Beaufort Scale) and wind direction was judged by a hand held flag.


The end of the Hartland Point Coastguard Station

It was learned in the winter of 1981 that the Coastguards were expected to move about 2 miles inland to a site of RAF married quarters in Hartland village. PSA were to supply a structure for the anemometer at the new site at no cost to the Meteorological Office. A site was found for a cloud searchlight on land owned by Mr P May, Elmtree, Hartland

Weather reporting finishes at Hartland Point

Weather reporting continued from this Station until 0900GMT 15 March 1983 when the Coastguards transferred their activities to their new station at RAF Hartland, where observations were resumed from 15 March 1983.

In May 1983 Met Office advised SWEB that the supply of electricity to the cloud searchlight (at Hartland Point) was no longer required. There was difficulty in obtaining a final reading as the key to the plinth housing the meter could not be found... With the final account settled the cloud searchlight was ready for transfer to a new site although difficulties in securing a new site caused much delay.


Problems with recording weather at Hartland Point

Over the following years, it was often noted that the high headland position caused erratic direction and often strongly gusty winds , very prone to downdraught. This made estimating wind speed and direction very difficult, and made the ascent of the hydrogen filled balloons (used for observing cloud height) erratic leading to cloud height obtained being misleading. It was considered in the early years that an anemometer would be inappropriate due to cliff eddy effects

The cliff edge position was also noted to affect pressure readings with the gusty eddies leading to erratic and variable lowering of Barometric pressure

Rain gauge positioning was not ideal, due to proximity of a building. However the only available alternative positioning would put the rain gauge so close to the cliff edge that rain collection would be significantly interfered with by cliff winds.

Equipment provision and problems

Cloud height balloons were in use by 1943

The grass minimum thermometer was reported broken from time to time ( by cows in 1958 !) and replacement time was sometimes lengthy.

At the 1959 inspection, two stays were fixed to the thermometer screen to prevent it swaying in high winds

In May 1961 an anemometer and vane were installed at 300ft above mean sea level 44ft and 42ft respectively above ground level, and 28ft from buildings.

The use of hydrogen for cloud base balloons had ceased by the 1961 inspection

Two grass minimum thermometers were broken during gales in October 1961

in the June 1963 inspection it was confirmed that the anemometer dials were affected (increase of 10-15 knots)when the Coastguard R/T was used. It was recommended that Coastguards should hang a notice below the dial "Do not read unless R/T is switched of".

In May 1965 the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works was asked to install a Cloud Searchlight (the hydrogen-filled cloud balloons had not been used since 1961)on Trinity House's old water catchment at Hartland Point Lighthouse

The cloud searchlight became effective 18 November 1966. The baseline was 730 feet. "The bulb burned out after 24 hours, and the second bulb didn't last much longer. The particular batch of bulbs was suspect and were returned to the manufacturer by Stores"

At the 1968 inspection, the Inspector "thought recent troubles with bubbles in minimum thermometers was due to vibration in high winds

Aconcrete slab was provided for concrete minimum temperature recording to be commenced 1 December 1968

The grass minimum thermometer was broken in the storm of 16 January 1974

In July 1978 the Met Officer advised the District Works Officer, PSA Exeter, that a vehicle had broken 3 of the anemometer guy wires. There was also rot in the telegraph post holding the mast.

The maximum thermometer was broken during a gale on 19 January 1979

In September 1979 the technicians advised Met Office that the upper part of the anemometer mast had been bent about 15-20° from the vertical, probably by something backing into one of the guy wires - again.


The Coastguards

Mr Curry, Station Officer , attended a course at MOTS Stanmore for auxiliary observers in Autumn 1960

Mr W J Curry, Station Officer , left Hartland Point 8 June 1962 on transfer to St Just Coastguard, Cornwall

Mr H E Hales was the new Station Officer in September 1962 Mr G Lewis, one of the Coastguards, attended a course for auxiliary observers at the Met Office Training School Stanmore in the Autumn of 1964

Mr Fenton, one of the Coastguards, attended a course for auxiliary observers at the Met Office Training School Stanmore in the Autumn of 1967

Mr H Gibson had become Station Officer by 1972,

Mr N A McWhinnie had become Station Officer by September 1975. The Station was assessed as excellent at the Inspection.

Mr T C Shute, who had attended a course for auxiliary observers at Shinfield Park, was noted to be one of the observers in October 1977

In 1978, Station Officer was Mr A.Gwilliam, and full time coastguards included R.Clarke , K.Gaston, A.Arden , B.Reynolds and M.Jackson

Pay and remuneration

It wasn't just the Met Office Inspectors who were unhappy with things (technical, in their case ) at the weather station - the Coastguard expressed unhappiness about money from time to time !

In 1948 the Screen needed repainting. An estimate was sent, but no approval received, so the job was not done. The inspector suggested the repainting be undertaken by military personnel as the one shilling per hour offered for the job to the coastguard "caused resentment among keepers in these times of high wages".

At the 1950 inspection there were "complaints regarding inadequate rates of met remuneration" , in particular for discrepancies in some of the forms involved.

Payments were increased for provision of aero reports and cloud base balloons with effect from April 1956

Fees were increased in April 1961

in October 1962 Eagle Star Insurance Company requested rainfall readings 1-14 September 1962 in connection with an insurance policy. They offered reimbursement of expenses for this. The new Station Officer Mr H E Hales replied to the company and forwarded the a/c to the Meteorological Office who billed the company, and told the Station Officer to forward all future such enquiries to the MO who would raise a bill, but noted the Coastguards could not be reimbursed.

In March 1964 the Cornwall River Board asked the Station Officer if he would submit rainfall readings to them on monthly stamped addressed postcards. Met Office welcomed this, but told Station Officer that the Met Office could offer no remuneration.

Rates of pay were increased in April 1965

A letter from a private enquirer for met information was passed to HQ by the Station Officer in May 1965. "The Station Officer said they had quite enough to do, and unless the enquirer was prepared to pay either the Met Office or the Coastguards, he must seek elsewhere".

Observations ceased October 1972 "following a dispute between the Coastguards, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Civil Service Department regarding the disposal of fees for met reports. The reports were resumed March 1973 pending settlement of the dispute."

Rate of payment increased again October 1974

The yearly fee was increased in January 1977 and again in June 1977 following an increase in the rate for relaying another station's (Lundy) observations


Hartland Point communicating with others

In 1943, reports from Lundy Island were received by R/T and passed to the Met Office at St Eval

By October 1955, Reports were being passed to RAF Chivenor by telephone, but due to fears that this would interfere with receipt of life-saving messages, an additional phone line was sought

A new auxiliary reporting station was established on Lundy Island 1 October 1971 which passed its 3 hourly aero reports to Hartland Point Coastguards by R/T

With the closure of the Met Office at RAF Chivenor at the end of August 1974 observations (together with those of Lundy Island) to Plymouth Met from 1 September 1974

At the September 1977 inspection it was noted that the Daily Register showed variations in standard between observers, which was to be expected as there were a number of auxiliaries at the station. There were rumours of a move to Chivenor, leaving the lookout manned by auxiliaries

In March 1978 the Station Officer was informed of a change in the availability of prepaid addressed envelopes. In future only one large envelope would be provided for use each month and this would be used for statistical returns, completed barograms and sunshine cards.

The Editor of a new local paper "Hartland Times" was given permission by Met Office on 6 May 1981 to approach the Coastguards for weather statistics, provided no mention was made of the Meteorological Office

Plan of meteorology enclosure as at 8 July 1981