The Suffolk Archives statement on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its services is available to read here.

Orlando Whistlecraft, Weather Prophet of Thwaite

I blame cataloguing the scrapbooks of Edwin Robert Ewels for a fascination with the wonderfully named Orlando Whistlecraft, but in my defence Mr Ewels amassed a series of newspaper articles covering the years 1972 to 1984 on weather predictions made by a Mr D Knights of Mill Lane, Corton who was an advocate of the Orlando Whistlecraft system.  This then just begged the question….who was Orlando Whistlecraft?

Orlando Bloom, sorry Whistlecraft, was born in the Suffolk village of Thwaite in 1810, lived there his entire life and was laid to rest in Thwaite churchyard in 1893 and an iron cross marks his final resting place. He may have remained in the village but Orlando was in fact one of our country’s early pioneers of meteorology publishing.

Whistlecraft’s Weather Almanac
An annual publication running from 1856 to 1884
[various editions available at Ipswich Record Office and Lowestoft Record Office]

Along with:
Variations of Seasons in the Eastern Parts of England as observed at Thwaite
Published 1811-1888
[available at Bury Record Office and Ipswich Record Office]

The Climate of England
Published 1840

Rural Gleanings or, facts worth knowing, as recorded from many years natural observation in the eastern counties
Published 1851
[available at Ipswich Record Office]
in which he gave hints on how to predict the weather for example

‘Before all the severe winters since 1785 I have traced that the wind was fixed east to north east at the September equinox and that it has been south or south west at the equinox preceding the mild winters’

He is often described as a ‘weather prophet’ [I can just hear the news now ….”and over to the national weather prophet” ….it would certainly sound more interesting] but it is not a term you will find on the census entries where he is recorded as

Minerva Cottage, Thwaite the home of Orlando Whistlecraft, 19thC  [This is still there ‘The Old Post Office’ on the A140] (PT419/1)

 1841 – Thwaite
Orlando Whistlecraft – 30 – Stationer and Schoolmaster – Born Suffolk
[with wife Elizabeth and five children – he married Elizabeth Rush at Thwaite (obviously) on 28 March 1834]

1851 – Minerva Cottage, Thwaite
Orlando Whistlecraft – Head – Married  – 40 – Auther (sic) and Publisher on natural phenomena, Grocer, Draper and General retailer – Born Thwaite
[with Elizabeth and three children]

1861 – Minerva Cottage, Thwaite
Orlando Whistlecraft – Head – Married – 50 – Author and Publisher – Born Thwaite
[with Elizabeth]

Front cover of the particulars and conditions of sale of two dwelling houses with outbuildings and gardens in Thwaite, at Buck’s Head Inn by direction of the Trustees of late Mr Orlando Whistlecraft, 31 Jul 1893

1871 – Thwaite
Orlando Whistlecraft – Head – Married – 60 – Grocer, Author of Weather Almanac – Born Thwaite
[with Elizabeth and one daughter]

Sketch of a male chaffinch by Orlando Whistlecraft, 1851 (P694/1)

1881 – Thwaite
Orlando Whistlecraft – Head – Married – 70  – Grocer and Author and Publisher – Born Thwaite
[with Elizabeth and two children]

1891 – Thwaite
Orlando Whistlecraft – Head – Married – 90 – Shopkeeper – Born Thwaite
[with Elizabeth and one son]

Clearly a man of many talents with numerous strings to his bow including art as this sketch illustrates.

He is held in such regard that his weather diaries for Thwaite, which cover the period 1827 to 1892, are held at The National Meteorological Archive in Exeter but if you would like to dig deeper into the history of this fascinating man we hold some archival material at our Ipswich Office along with a copy of his will, which was proven in 1893, at our Bury St Edmunds Office. 

Extract from the registered will of Orlando Whistlecraft of Thwaite (IC500/2/135/159b)