The Donation of the Hunter Valley Meteorological Journals to the UON
On the 3 May 2016, during a site visit to the former residence of the Hunter Valley Research Foundation on the banks of Throsby Creek, three sets of Hunter Valley meteorological journals dating from 1843-1907 were donated to the University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections (now Special Collection) by Brigid McCarthy, former Librarian from the Hunter Valley Research Foundation.
These records documented historic weather records from stations located in the Hunter Valley, and of such significance and importance to rival the Belfield Climate Records of Algernon Henry Belfield in Armidale.
The Belfield Climate Records Project (2009-2019)
The Belfield Climate Records are historical weather diaries (dating from 1877-1922) of New England grazier Algernon Belfield have now been internationally recognised for their high quality in a new publication from the UK’s Royal Meteorological Society. The results — published in the Royal Meteorological Society’s Geoscience Data Journal — found that the Eversleigh records are on par with official observations from the Bureau of Meteorology. The article can be accessed here: https://rdcu.be/bQo8v or here: https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/gdj3.80
The records have also been accepted for the International Historical Weather Data Base ACRE, one of only four locations in Australia to meet the International Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth Initiative (ACRE) requirements.
The Team assembled around the Belfield Climate records included one of Uni of Melbourne’s rising STEMM stars, and 2014 Eureka Prize recipient, Dr Linden Ashcroft, who was at the time a PhD Candidate at the Uni of Melbourne and a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Climate Change (C3), Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) Avinguda de Remolins, Tortosa, Spain keeping a watchful eye on the project’s early stages later becoming its prime investigator. Conjoint Professor Howard Bridgman in the UON’s School of Environmental and Life Sciences led the project from its inception, and with the help of citizen scientist volunteers from across the world, shepherded the “scientific” digitisation from the physical records to excel spreadsheets for deeper analysis, as well as Dr Ken Thornton, UON Historian, who studied the history of the man behind the record-keeping, Algernon Henry Belfield. William Oates, Archivist at the University of New England, and Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist at the UON provided the care for the original records, and ensured their digital accessibility to researchers.
Digitisation of the Hunter Valley Weather Records (2018)
The Hunter Valley Weather records were digitised and uploaded to the UON’s Hunter Living Histories site on the 10 January 2018. See: https://hunterlivinghistories.com/2018/01/10/hv-climate-data/
Who recorded the observations?
Thanks to the work of UON PhD candidate and Wyndham Family descendant, Don Seton Wilkinson, the recorder of these meteorological journals was identified. Wollong, NSW, near Mount Vincent was the home of Charles Wyndham, 9th son of George and Margaret of Dalwood, and his wife Emily, neé Glennie. The weather records were signed by “M. Wyndham”, presumably Marion, eldest daughter of Charles and Emily and dated from June 1891 till end of 1907.
The Digitisation of the Wollong Weather Records from 1891-1907 (the first part)
By the 25 August 2020, the Wollong weather records had been scientifically digitised, (meaning transcribed into excel spreadsheets to create a scientific data set), by a team of climate scientists and volunteers under the leadership of UON Conjoint Professor Howard Bridgman and published on the Hunter Living Histories Website here: https://hunterlivinghistories.com/2020/08/25/wollong/
The one mystery that puzzled Howard and the team; why did the meteorological observations come to a sudden halt at 1907, since they knew that Marion Wyndham lived until 1929? The answer came through in a matter of weeks with an email from the Local Studies Librarian at Cessnock City Library.
The Arrival of further Wollong Archives from Cessnock Library (the second part)
Whilst in the stacks of the library, Kimberly O’Sullivan uncovered three boxes of original archives of the Wyndham Family containing the rest of the weather ledgers recorded by Marion Wyndham from 1908 up until her death in 1929. The ‘Wollong’ archives also included the personal diaries of Marion Wyndham (dating from 1872-1928) and Mona Arline Wyndham (1893-1963), all written while living at ‘Wollong’; as well as journals, personal correspondence between members of the extended family and to outside business partners, financial records, and farm diaries.
Howard’s response was to this treasure trove was:
“MAGIC!! I cannot tell you how happy we are to receive your email.”
The three boxes arrived at the University’s Special Collections on 3 March 2021.
Box lists for ‘Wollong’ records (prepared by Kimberly O’Sullivan):
1. Annual rainfall observation sheets for ‘Wollong’. 1 June 1891 to 24 March 1951.
2. Summary of annual rainfall records. 1922 – 1948.
3. Copies printed from microfilm of meteorological observations taken at the property. January 1948-September 1956 (with gaps).
4. Handwritten weather notes i.e. working records; many are scraps of paper. Dates most indecipherable.
5. Handwritten weather notes from a ledger, described as ‘meteorological observations’. These are pages from a ledger, not a ledger. January 1928 – September 1956 (with gaps).
Box 1 Item 5 Divided into three parts:
Meteorological Observations at Wollong, Mount Vincent. 1928-1940 (Between 1st January 1928 and 31st December 1940):
Meteorological Observations at Wollong, Mount Vincent. 1941-1949 (Between 1st January 1941 and 31st December 1949):
Meteorological Observations at Wollong, Mount Vincent. 1950-1956 (Between 1st January 1950 and 30th September 1956):
6. Location of rainfall stations at ‘Wollong’ description and sketch by B. Wyndham. 1939.
7. Correspondence and circulars from government weather bureaus. 1907-1954 and undated.
8. Monthly remarks re: meteorological observations. 1938-1951.
9. Rainfall observations. 1 June 1891 – 24 March 1951.
10. List of ‘Wollong’ title deed holders. 1839-1915.
11. Handwritten page ‘Journal of Expedition to the Sea Coast’. Undated
12. Folder of photographs of the Wyndham family, some personally identified, or identified as being at ‘Wollong’, others unidentified.
Personal diaries of: Marion Wyndham (1872-1928) and Mona Arline Wyndham (1893-1963), written while living at the property ‘Wollong’ at Quorrobolong.
Marion Wyndham dates of diaries: Diary 1: January 1906-December 1908; Diary 2: January 1909 – May 1913
Eighteen diaries written by Mona Arline (Arline) Wyndham (1893-1963), nee Peryman, writing as ‘Mrs. F. Wyndham’. Dates of diaries: 1930, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942 (x 2), 1942-1943, 1943, 1943-1944, 1944 (x 2), 1944-1945, 1945, 1946, 1946-1947, 1947-1948, 1948-1949, 1949.
1. Black and white photo of unknown young girl and cat.
2. Sepia photo of large formally dressed group of men and women arranged on the step of a building undated but c. 1890s-191 Os.
3. School work book with brown paper cover with word ‘Arithmetic’ written on cover. On the inside cover are the words ‘Lucy Emily Glennie August 6th 1861′
4. Brown paper cover of book with the word ‘Journal 1855-6’, cover only, no book
5. Journal of Aldred Glennie, undated.
6. Correspondence to and from Mona Arline Wyndham (Arline) (1893-1963), a.k.a. Mrs Frederick Wyndham, nee Arline Peryman and her daughter Heather Wyndham. Date range of correspondence: 1940-1946
7. One letter to ‘Mrs. Glennie’ 1881.
8. Mixed correspondence from multiple people, needs sorting and dating.
9. Correspondence to and from Marion Wyndam (1872-1928). Date range of correspondence: 1883-1909.
10. Papers of Alfred Glennie (c.1810-1870), including original ordination papers. Date range of papers: 1850-1868.
11. Correspondence to and from Alexander Glennie Wyndham (Glennie), a.k.a. A.G. Wyndham (1881-1948) Date range of correspondence: 1908-1930.
12. Accounts: 1860-1868 ‘Records by Mrs. Alfred Glennie’.
13. Cheque book buts from the Estate of the Late Lucy E. Wyndham. Formerly Lucy Emily Glennie. Date range: 1923-1924
14. Joint Bank of Australasia passbook for Mesdames M.A. Holmes and L. E. Wyndham. Date range of passbook: 1892-1893. Joint account at the Maitland branch.
15. Joint Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited passbook for Alexander Glennie and Bessie Wyndham. Date range of passbook: 1918-1922. Joint account at the Maitland branch.
16. Handwritten farm diary in small black journal listing lambs born, marked and died. Date range: 1906-1931. Author unknown, property unknown.
17. Handwritten stock book of ‘Wollong’ cattle compiled by Bessie Wyndham in 1888. Cover: ‘Stock Book of ‘Wollong’. Back: ‘Bessie’s cattle’.
18. Small card with cover, inside pages x 2 and back cover notifying of church services in the Mount Vincent area for Easter Day [Easter Sunday] 12 April 1925. Churches in this area were: Christ Church mt Vincent, St. Paul’s Kurri Kurri, Pelaw Main, Hedon [sic] Greta and Buchanan. Annotated by an unknown person with additional details about Holy Communion places and times.
19. Children’s story book. Series name ‘Picture Story Books’ title ‘Good Lady Bertha’s Honey Broth’ by Alexandre Dumas. Published London 1846. Inscription inside cover ‘Lucy Emily Glennie from Her Uncle [indecipherable] March 1851 ‘.
20. Welsh religious book ‘Caniedydd Cynulleidfaol Newydd’ [translation: New Congregational Singer] Published Swansea, Wales 1921. Inscription inside cover ‘Mr./Mrs. [indecipherable] M. Williams Kurri Kurri August 9th 1924′.
21. Readings From The Liturgy And Other Divine Offices Of The Church Volume 11, Part I – The Subordinate Offices Of Prayer And Proper Services For Holy Days And Season. Published in London 1852. Inscription inside cover ‘George Wyndham’.
22. Red leather bound book, described as an ‘Album’ hand written note in front of book claims it was given to to King George IV* by his librarian. Hand
22. Red leather bound book, described as an ‘Album’ hand written note in front of book claims it was given to to King George IV* by his librarian. Hand-written book, writing difficult to decipher, content indecipherable. Two dates: 1820 and 1862. [*1762-1830]
23. Cake decorating design book of elaborate stencils.
24. Leather bound journal containing weather observations written by hand. Covers rainfall, temperature, frosts, hottest and coldest days and other meteorological observations for the property ‘Wollong’. Date range:  1918-1927.
25. Leather bound journal containing weather observations written by hand. Covers rainfall, temperature, frosts, hottest and coldest days and other meteorological observations for the property ‘Wollong’. Date range: 1908-1918.
After Professor Bridgman’s survey of the records, and identification of what to begin with, Dr Ken Thornton, historian and volunteer, began the digitisation process using our new book scanner.
Box 3 Items:
24. Leather bound journal containing weather observations written by hand. Covers rainfall, temperature, frosts, hottest and coldest days and other meteorological observations for the property ‘Wollong’. Date range:  1918-1927. https://livinghistories.newcastle.edu.au/nodes/view/110402
25. Leather bound journal containing weather observations written by hand. Covers rainfall, temperature, frosts, hottest and coldest days and other meteorological observations for the property ‘Wollong’. Date range: 1908-1918. https://livinghistories.newcastle.edu.au/nodes/view/110400
Where we are up to (as at April 2021)?
As of 20 April 2020 according to Professor Howard Bridgman:
“We currently have 14 volunteers each transcribing one year’s worth of data between 1908 and 1923. One is working on his second year. I would expect that the years 1924 to 1927 would then go out. We have to make a decision about 1928 onward through 1956, and how to handle these data years.
When all is complete we will have a weather data set from Wollong extending from 1891 to 1956, an amazing record collected by some very dedicated people from the Wyndham family. These records are not part of the Bureau of Meteorology except for rainfall. There are at least two benefits from this very long data set:
It provides daily details of weather ranging from periods of extreme drought to extreme flood, and any time in between. These special periods can be analysed in detail, not only for Wollong, but also for the Hunter Valley (comparison locations during different time periods). Anyone researching rural activities any time in the 60 plus years of record will find the atmospheric records very beneficial to understanding decision making associated with vineyard activities, and reasons for economic and agricultural variations.
Historical weather records are now recognised for their high value in determining more recent human impacts on climate and climate change. These data sets provide a background basis for comparison with more recent periods when human greenhouse gas emissions have influenced climate, especially temperature and rainfall. One of our other data sets, Eversleigh, has been listed with ACRE, the international record of historical weather data sets. I would hope that Wollong would also be listed there.”
We are also very grateful that the UON Library will be soon recruiting for two paid student internships to work on the Wollong Project, the successful applicants estimated to begin work in late June 2021. This opportunity will provide paid work and experience for the two students to be part of a project of international proportions in assisting scientists to better understand our climate and the implications of ongoing human practices that influence it.
Further information on the Weather Records and Historic Climate Data Project is here:
Gionni Di Gravio, OAM
University Archivist & Chair, Hunter Living Histories