Bad Weather In London

The summer of 1888 was a total wash out. and by the August if that year people were beginning to wonder if they would actually get to see any semblance of summer.

The Edinburgh Evening News,  on Thursday, 2nd August 1888, published the following article which aptly summed up the weather-related despondency that had swept across the country:-


“The meteorological forecasts to promise an improvement in the weather, but the expectation, a far as the metropolis is concerned, not has not been fulfilled.

We have had another of the gloomy and rainy days which have been consistently prevailing since the festival of St. Swithin.

A cartoon depicting St Swithin pumping water down on various summer scenes and events.
From Punch, August 4th, 1888.


Everybody in Parliament and out of it is suffering from the depression and bad temper which such atmospherical conditions naturally provoke.

The West End tradesmen are looking anxiously for a burst of sunshine that may tempt people to leave their homes to do the long deferred shopping and to circulate the much-needed sovereigns.


If there is not an improvement soon, it will be a sorry thing for London traders all round, as, the season is practically over, and, with the approaching adjournment of Parliament, the moneyed families will off to more agreeable quarters.”


The Sheffield Daily Telegraph, on Friday, 3rd August 1888, reported on the plight faced by the country’s farmers as a result of the inclement weather:-

“It is some comfort for Londoners to know that they have had quite the worst of the bad weather during the last two months.

News happily comes from north, east, and west that the farmers have not a great deal to complain of.

The railway companies here are crying out more bitterly even than the agriculturists, and their cry of distress is echoed by the lodging house keepers at the seaside.


There are thousands of people in London who are ready to begin holiday making directly they get the encouragement to do so.

Many who went to the seaside last week, however, returned yesterday.


Just now, the weather prophets are even more puzzled than the racing prophets.

The stereotype forecast of local showers has at last changed. But all wise men of the meteorological office said last night of the coming weather in London and the Channel that it was uncertain.


The glass began to rise on Tuesday, and it stood firm throughout yesterday, though it rained all day long, spending itself eventually in a protracted thunderstorm.

This is understood to herald the approach of a permanent improvement, and the hopes of the holiday-makers are beginning to rise today.”

A sketch showing people in boats in the flooded streets of London in August 1888.
From Punch, August 11th, 1888l


Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper on Sunday, 5th August 1888, pondered the fact that, after a brief promise of a respite from the appalling weather condition, the “summer” had reverted to type –

“At the time when it was being devoutly hoped that the weather had changed for the better, the severest rains of the season were experienced, most parts of the country being flooded on Thursday.

According to the reports from the Meteorological office, it is quite possible that the new disturbance may prove of a temporary character, but the general appearance is not of a favourable type; the showery weather in the north-west is spreading rather quickly, and the cirrus motion is of an unsettled character.”


Against the backcloth of such an appalling summer, in the early hours of the 7th of August, 1888, people awoke to the news that the body of an unknown woman had been found on the first floor landing of an apartment block in George Yard, off Whitechapel High Street.

The woman, as it would transpire, was Martha Tabram, and it must have seemed to many a Victorian East ender that the weather had almost foreshadowed the onslaught of the Whitechapel and Jack the Ripper murders.


The Western Times, Tuesday,  returned to the theme of the weather in its edition of 7th August 1888:-

“This is Goodwood Week, the final milepost in the London Season.

The weather is, as it has been for what seems time immemorial, miserably cold and wet.

Rain in July is not unknown in London.

But Goodwood is always associated with our very best quality of summer weather. Even more than Ascot, it is a dream of fair women in the newest frocks. It is the very last opportunity the Season possesses of shewing under circumstances worthy of supreme effort, what can be done in the way of dainty dressing.

But Goodwood, like every other function affected by the weather has been a miserable failure.


In truth, such a mockery of summer time has not within recent memory depressed the Metropolis.

For the last nine weeks, our full midsummer time, the amount of sunshine recorded in London has been something leas than four hours a day out of each twenty-four.

It has been pitiful for votaries of pleasure and ruinous for many engaged in trade.


The large shopkeepers say that they never had such a time. Railway traffic and omnibus takings have grievously fallen off.

The three Exhibitions simultaneously running have suffered something less than might have been expected. To be under cover has been the great desideratum, in this memorable summer, and the Exhibitions offer shelter and something to look at, they have not done so badly as some other enterprises.


Things  are bad enough in the Metropolis, but the calamity there is nothing compared with what threatens to overwhelm the agriculturist, with his hay floating in the lake that was once a field, and his growing crops beaten down by the pitiless rain.”