The Year With No Summer

Everyone has heard of Krakatoa but have you heard of Mount Tambora? In April 1815 an eruption occurred that was to last two weeks.

“During the April 1815 eruption, the volcano ejected billions of tons of gas and debris into the atmosphere. Much of the heavier ash and debris fell on the islands around Tambora, but a significant amount wound up in the atmosphere, spreading around the world and partially blotting out the sun for months after the event. The eruption itself killed tens of thousands—if not hundreds of thousands—of people in the resulting pyroclastic flows, choking ashfalls, and tsunamis.”

I first heard about it on a TV programme that Lucy Worsley did on the Regency Period. It’s these little opportune moments that make you go “Ah”. I checked the newspapers at the time and there was no mention of Tambora but plenty of mentions about the poor harvests. I wonder what ordinary people thought when the weather becomes so topsy-turvy?

Weather plays an important part in Ranter’s Wharf. There was the dreadful winter of 1799 which lasted into April followed by a great storm in late May. Poor harvests meant lack of cheap bread for the poor and most of them only ate bread and maybe a few root vegetables. Later the corn laws kept the price of wheat high, no matter whether the harvest was good or poor. These were also the times when the Thames froze over. In 1814 the ice was so thick that they held a fair on the ice.

So back to Tambora – how did people explain the lack of summer that year? Did they think that God was punishing them in some way?

About Rosemary Noble

Writer, author, amateur historian and traveller
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