22nd July 1911. If You Don’t Like the Heat…

The 2018 summer in Britain is set to break some kind of record for dryness and sunshine, which brings to mind one of the hottest summers of the 20th century that of 1911, when although public health had improved since the last great hot summer of 1868, there was still a marked increase in the death rate, especially among babies and small children, from gastric and other disorders.

During July 1911, afternoon temperatures regularly reached more than 86F (30C) with Today July 22nd seeing the hottest temperatures with highs of 96F (35.6C) at Greenwich Observatory, and 97F ( 36.1C) at Epsom, Surrey. The average maximum temperature for the whole of July was 81.7F (27.6C) recorded at Camden Square, London.

Nude bathing in London’s Regent’s Canal. 1911.

Girls in Serpentine, Regent’s Park, London. 1911.







Though the last ten days of the month saw localised thunder storms, the fine settled weather lasted through to the second half of October, but early November brought a different kind of extreme, this time delivering severe gales and exceptionally high tides.

Two intense depressions tracked from mid Atlantic past the western and northern Isles of Scotland between November 3rd and the 6th delivering a severe south to south-westerly gale with an average wind speed of 70 mph.

Western Scotland bore the brunt in Clydeside, as it coincided with high tides, with forests in Argyllshire and Perthshire, along with woodland by Loch Lomand suffering ‘indescribable destruction’.

Further south damage was done at the airfield on Port Meadow, Oxford with all the aircraft sheds wrecked, several ending up on the lines of the nearby Great Western. Heavy rain accompanied the storm and not surprisingly Seathwaite in Borrowdale, said to be the wettest place in Britain, getting 3.68inches (93mm).

Repeated heat waves during July and August are often accompanied by high humidity meant that these months comprised the hottest ‘high summer’ in the Central England Temperature (CET) record between 1659-1983.

July 1911 remains the sunniest calendar month on record over England and Wales with monthly aggregates exceeding 300 hours over much of the Midlands, East Anglia, south Wales and southern England with many southern towns seeing 350 hours.

The CET of each month was 64.8 F (18.2C), a figure which was only exceeded in both July and August 1995. It is possible that the heat might have contributed to widespread industrial unrest in 1911, with riots in London, Liverpool, south Wales and Belfast, but probably this is too simplistic.




Topical Press Agency/Getty Images.


Phillip Eden. Weather Watch. Daily Telgraph, Sat. July 16th 2011.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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