Local Rainfall Reporting Stations

These submitted their rainfall records to the Met Office (or its predecessors). The earliest record in Archive dates from 1884, from Hartland Abbey.

Hartland Abbey

I have not found a precise site location for the rainfall gauge , but presume it was somewhere about Hartland Abbey, NGR SS240248. Indeed in some records the station is referred to as 'Hartland Abbey Gardens' - this location would be NGR SS245248 , or Latitide 50.996267 , Longitude -4.5012990

Records are held at the Met Office Archive for the period 1884 – 1926 , though this is an incomplete series.

Mr Gilbert Sleep was the recorder / observer at Hartland Abbey, having become head gardener for the Abbey in 1881. He died 28 August 1932 and is buried in St Nectan's Churchyard, Stoke.

In 1884 a 'Register of Rainfall' was submitted from Hartland Abbey. The observer was not recorded, though the hand is the same as the following year, when it was signed by Gilbert Sleep. On the 1884 submission form was printed: "Accurate observers of rainfall will oblige by sending a copy of their record to Mr G.J.Symons, of 62, Camden Square, London, N.W., for insertion in his annual tables of 'British Rainfall', which now contains returns from about 2,000 stations."

The format of the printed form changed the next year, when it bore the instruction:"It is requested that this form be filled and returned as soon as possible to G.J.Symons, Esq., F.R.S., 62, Camden Square, London N.W." ; also "This return (if not closed by wafer, wax &c.), requires only Half-penny Postage."

Gilbert Sleep signed the annual submissions of monthly rainfall in 1885 and 1886, but there is then a gap in the Met Office Archive until 1906, when the observer does not give their name, though the hand is that of Gilbert Sleep who, by 1908, again puts his name.

In November 1898 the Hartland Chronicle printed its first rainfall report, which was from Gilbert Sleep at Hartland Abbey. The Chronicle (later the Hartland and West Country Chronicle) published rainfall reports in more or less every issue thereafter. These were usually (at least, until 1927) from Hartland Abbey alone, but sometimes other reporting was added.

By 1925, rainfall submissions are to "The Meteorological Office, British Rainfall Organization, 62 Camden Square, London NW1." The raingauge is noted to be a 5" funnel, 1'6" above ground and 222ft above sea level. Gilbert Sleep signs again.

The Hartland and West Country Chronicle (formerly The Hartland Chronicle) reported rainfall figures for " Hartland" in many issues, but for January 1927 it gave figures for "Hartland (Abbey Gardens)" and also for "Hartland (Fosfelle)" , with only "Hartland (Fosfelle)" thereafter. However it neither mentions the recorder(s)'s name, nor explains the change of rainfall station.

   Gilbert Sleep   

Mr. Gilbert Sleep came from Cargreen, Landulph, and became head gardener for the Abbey in 1881, residing at Mill Hill. When the new Mills were built in 1888, he moved down to the old miller’s house, often called Glen Cottage. He retired from the Gardens in 1926 after 45 years’ service being succeeded by Mr. Thos. H. Bolton the present head gardener
(Hartland & West Country Chronicle, Issue 416-417 Sept 1932)

About 5 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 15th, Mrs. Emmanuel Beer, of Rosedown Farm, was returning from Abbey Gardens in her donkey trap, giving a lift to Mr. Gilbert Sleep head gardener, to his home at Glen Cottage, Hartland Mill. After passing the New Lodge, at a steep place just above Bow Bridge, they met children coming home from school. The donkey shied and upset, breaking one shaft off and splintering the other, itself struggling legs up. Mr. Sleep, who has been ill a long while, got his collar bone broken and was severely cut as was also Mrs. Beer, who was kindly conveyed by Mr. W. J. Pillman in his motor car to the residence of Dr. Rd. Kay, M.B.
(Hartland & West Country Chronicle, Issue 295 1921)

... A member of the Cottage Garden Society Committee and for several years past its Chairman, he only missed one exhibition before the present year. He had often been judge at other Shows. For several years he was Wesleyan Trust Steward, and was a Trustee up to the time of his death. He had been obviously failing in health the last month, but only took to his bed less than a week before his death Sunday morning, 28th (August 1932) aged 77. The funeral at Stoke on Thursday afternoon was largely attended.
(Hartland & West Country Chronicle, Issue 416-417 Sept 1932)

His wife, Mrs J Sleep, had died aged 79 years 'after a long illness' on May 3rd 1930, at Glen Cottage, Hartland Mill was buried in the Churchyard Wednesday afternoon, 7th May."... it was a coincidence that she arrived in Hartland May 3rd, 1883, and died May 3rd."
(Hartland & West Country Chronicle, Issue 392. May 1930)


   Richard Pearse Chope   

Pearse Chope
Richard Pearse Chope (1862 - 1938)
in his summer house at Fosfelle
Richard Pearse Chope, Esq., B.A., J.P., printer and antiquary, was born Sept. 21st. 1862, the eldest son of Mr. Thomas Chope, yeoman, of Farford, Hartland.

In 1881 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, and in 1884 he obtained First Class Honours in the Mathematical Tripos, and graduated as a B.A.

He became an Assistant Examiner in the Patent Office in 1884. He was appointed Deputy Examiner in early 1903, and later in the same year was promoted to Principal of the Abridgments and Printing Branch of the Patent Office.

He lived in London during his 38 years at the Patent Office, retiring on October 17th 1922, though spending as much time as possible at Farford.

An ancestor bought Farford in 1721. His father’s cousin, Rev. T. H. Chope, was vicar here more than 47 years. By 1922 Richard Pearse Chope was the owner of Farford where he was born, and had acquired other farms, Hescott (1907), Blegberry (1912), Fosfelle (1921), possessing about a thousand acres.

Retiring on pension he occupied Fosfelle, the early home of his friend John Lane (died 1926), adjoining and overlooking Farford, his birthplace.

He was appointed as a County magistrates in 1923 and on Jan. 29th 1924, he took his seat on Bideford County Bench for first time.

He was elected President of the Devonshire Association in July 1926 and his Presidential Address at Bideford was on “Hartland Abbey.”

At Easter 1932 he became Churchwarden and held office until 1935.

His output in print, as writer, editor and publisher was prodigious .

He is buried in St Nectan's Churchyard, Stoke.
(taken from his Obituary in the Hartland & West Country Chronicle, Issue 481-483 July 1938)

CHOPE.—Feb. 8th, at Fosfelle, Hartland, Richard Pearse Chope, B.A.,J.P., aged 75.
(Hartland & West Country Chronicle, Issue 478-80, March 1938)

I have been unable to find a description of the rain gauge site and position , but take it to be at Foselle, Hartland , NGR SS264237 , Latitude 50.986576 Longitude -4.4746964

In 1927, a return was submitted for "Hartland - Fosfelle "(now to "Air Ministry Meteorological Office British Rainfall Organization". A handwritten comment notes that the "January (1927) Records were taken at Abbey gardens, and absent from 18 to 25 July when heavy rains of 1" in 20 hrs." It notes the rain gauge as having a "House 20ft high and 20yds W of gauge", with the site "latitude 50°59' longitude 4°28' " The Observer is RP Chope - Mr Richard Pearse Chope

RP Chope continued to submit records from Hartland - Fosfelle until 1936 when the submission, still to "Air Ministry Meteorological Office British Rainfall Organization" is signed as substantially from "The Late R P Chope" and latterly "R H Cook". (I have not yet reconciled this entry with RPC's date of death)

Richard H Cook continued as submitting observer until the document for 1954, whereon "RH Cook" is crossed through, and Mrs L J Chadder (?) signing, with a change of handwriting of data entry for December.

In 1959, the Hartland - Fosfelle submission (still to "Air Ministry Meteorological Office British Rainfall Organization") notes the rain gauge as " 5" funnel, 1ft above ground, 480ft above sea level" and signed as observer by Mrs C J(?) Chudder (?) This is the last submission from Hartland-Fosfelle in the Met Office Archive.

Clovelly Court

Most records of Clovelly rainfall are housed at the Met Office Archive who store Rainfall records from 1927 – 2005 (missing data 1933-38, 1940-43 , and incomplete 1981-2005) , though some is available from other sources.

Diary reports from 1910 ( in a Clovelly Archive and noted to me by archivist Stephen Hobbs) are made of monthly rainfall totals by Harry Tuke.

By January 1915 the Met Office Archive has records of observer "H Tuke" submitting data to "British Rainfall Organization" from "Clovelly Court Devonshire"

Harry Tuke was for some time Head Gardener at Clovelly Court. It seems the rain gauge was in the Gardens at the Court as by 1920 the record was from "The Gardens Clovelly Court" with submission to " Meteorological Office British Rainfall Organization". This would give an approximate location as NGR SS309250, or Latitude 51.000273 , Longitude -4.4103093

Around this time the Rainfall submissions form was altered to reflect the passing of interest to the Air Ministry, ("Air Ministry Meteorological Office British Rainfall Organization") though it seems the British Rainfall Organization continued to collect the data, but as copies of record sheets submitted to the Air Ministry.

Records continued to be submitted by Harry Tuke until 1929. Thereafter the submitting observer was S Wilson, Head Gardener of Clovelly Court Gardens. He noted in the immediate environs of the rain gauge it was "50 yards NW to the church and 60 yards W to the Court". This seems a little odd, as the church is south west of the Court.

Unfortunately the Met Office Archive then has missing records for the period 1932 - 1938, and in 1939 the records, still to "Air Ministry Meteorological Office British Rainfall Organization" has as observer " G Chick, Head Gardener" (Sidney Montague Wilson was still head gardener in October 1936).

After a further gap in the archive the 1944 record is from "Observer J C Hilton, Estate Office, Clovelly". James C Hilton was Agent of the Clovelly Estate.

There are more gaps on the archive until for 1962 the submission to "Meteorological Office, Air Ministry" has observer James C Hilton crossed through and Clovelly Estate Co Ltd inserted. In January 1962 the archive then shows a change from annual reporting of rainfall to a monthly postcard addressed to the "Director-General, Meteorological Office (M.O.3b), London Road, Bracknell"

Many of the submissions do not note observer name, though from 1967 to 1974 S.W.Bennett is the observer if this is noted.

In 1969 the postcard address changes to "The Chief Engineer, Devon River Authority, County Hall, Topsham Road, Exeter", until 1974 when it changes to "South West Water Authority, Directorate of Resource Planning (Rainfall Section), County Hall, Topsham Road Exeter"

On 1st November 1979 the site of the rain gauge is changed (though not recorded to where)so the "Clovelly Court" Rainfall Station record is terminated, and restarted as "Clovelly Court No 2" from January 1980, still by the "Clovelly Estate Co Ltd" but thenceforth with no note of observer's name. The record postcards in archive bear neither postage stamps not addressee after this date, though in 2012 the recipient is "Devon Area Environment Agency".

Archived records stop here, and at present I do not know when recording ceased, or indeed whether it continues in some form.

   Harry Tuke   

In the Kelly's Directory of Devon, 1902, pp. 140-41, Harry Tuke is noted as head gardener to F. Hamlyn esq.

April 14th 1915 .The Late Mrs. Tuke.—The funeral of the late Mrs. Tuke, wife of the head gardener of Clovelly Court, took place on Friday last, in the Parish Churchyard. Deceased, who was 53 years of age, and much respected, succumbed after a short illness and the greatest sympathy is felt in the parish for the bereaved husband and their only son, now a Sergt. in the Territorials stationed at Tavistock.
(Hartland & West Country Chronicle, Issue 223 May 1915)

According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, in 1916 Harry Tuke was living at The Gardens, Clovelly Court, Clovelly, Devon when his only son, Serjeant William Abraham Brenchley Tuke serving with 2nd/4th Bn.Gloucestershire Regiment was killed in action 19/07/1916, Aged 21. According to the Western Times 07 September 1916, Sgt William Tuke was a certified school teacher, trained at St Luke's College.

A Clovelly archive noted that in 1930 "Old Mr Tuke the gardener retired after 40 years and some rooms above the stables have been made into a cottage for him, one room to be used as a Sunday School" . He was succeeded as head gardener by Sidney Montague Wilson.

TUKE —July 27th, at Court Stables, Clovelly, Harry Tuke, formerly head gardener, 80. Mr. Harry Tuke, aged 80, of Court Stables, Clovelly, whose funeral took place at Clovelly on Thursday, was a retired head gardener, and was employed by Mrs. Hamlyn at Clovelly Court for over 40 years. He had been a widower for a good many years, and he also lost his only son (a student at St. Luke’s College, Exeter) in the late war. Mr. Tuke was a member of the Parochial Church Council, a Ruri-Decanal Conference representative, and a sidesman at All Saints’ Church for many years.
(Hartland & West Country Chronicle, Issue 461-2 August 1936)