Hastings Weather Station. Bill Butler SUS-220124-151644001

Hastings: Take a look inside ‘quirky’ weather station that made headlines around the world

Hastings weather station made headlines around the world when it recorded the Tonga volcanic eruption - a staggering 10,000 miles away.

By Alex Watts
Thursday, 27th January 2022, 9:48 am

Its clockwork barograph picked up ‘blips’ in air pressure after an underwater volcano erupted on January 15, sending a tsunami towards the Pacific island nation. The seafront kiosk is manned by a team of seven volunteers, who record the weather in Hastings 365 days a year, and is a popular attraction for visitors and tourists who love its ‘olde worlde’ charm.

But Bill Montgomery, 67, who runs Hastings Voluntary Weather Observers, is worried about the building’s future and hopes to save it for generations to come. He says it has “concrete cancer” and “needs a lot of work” which may take thousands of pounds to fix.

The kiosk was built in 1935, replacing the original weather screen on legs that had been there since 1875. It is owned by Hastings Borough Council, but Bill says: “I can’t see the council wanting to hang on to it terribly closely. The first thing I would do is to get some crowdfunding going to try and do some repairs, and hopefully it would then be owned by the town to secure its future for Hastings. It’s a special Hastings thing. We’re a very quirky town and this is one of those special little things.”

He hopes to make the kiosk an Asset of Community Value, which if successful, would mean it must be used for the community and would be protected from a change of use or demolition. They would then launch a crowdfunding campaign for the people of Hastings and St Leonards to buy it and keep it safe.

The team also need to pay for a specialist horologist to repair the clockwork barograph. The barograph is wound once a week, but loses about two hours by the end of the week. “We need a proper horologist to look at the barograph and see what it needs to keep it accurate,” says Bill.

Weather charts are displayed outside the kiosk, showing data from the 1870s to the present day, including a list of Hastings’ weather extremes. The hottest temperature recorded in the town was 34.2C on July 25, 2019, and the lowest was -11.2C on January 5, 1984. The most sun in a day was 16.2 hours recorded on both May 13 and June 6 in 2017. The most rain in a day was 62.7mm (2.5 inches) on August 18, 1952.

Bill Butler, 67, who has been a volunteer at the station for four years, is reluctant to make any firm conclusions about UK climate change, but adds: “What you can say is that while our maximum temperatures have stayed roughly steady, the lower temperatures are rising, so we are getting warmer since we started collecting records. And that supports the Met Office’s deliberations on what is happening to the UK climate. We are broadly in step with the UK climate.”

The kiosk is one of only a few “daily manned” stations in the country. Volunteer Mark Hammond, 60, says: “It’s very popular with passers-by. We often chat to people who are interested in what we’re doing.”

Cilla Stuart, from Hastings, who was strolling along the promenade with her friend Janette Monteith-Crawford, said: “I’ve been looking at it since I was a child, and I just love looking at it. I’d hate to see it go. So I’m so glad the volunteers keep it going.”

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