Home / Themes / Human Dimension / 18th century diaries give insight to past climate


Chapters from the life of an 18th Century diarist have been turned into a drama performance at his Anglesey home, with C3W researchers explaining their relevance to extreme weather research.

The diaries, now available to view read and seen online, were written by William Buckley, who lived between 1691-1760. He was the Squire of Brynddu, a small estate on Anglesey.

Two promenade performances were held on the 19th & 20th September, one for schools and one for the public, and involved a 10 minutes’ walk from Bulkeley’s house, to the walled gardens and through fields to a performance at Llanfechell Church.

Mr Bulkeley Day

Dr Sarah Davies making her presentation

Once the performance was over the audience crossed the road to Libanus Chapel for a presentation by Dr Cerys Jones & Dr Sarah Davies on using proxy data, including diaries, tree rings and seashells, to reconstruct past weather. In the audience on Friday was James Scourse, Director of C3W and a specialist in sclerochronology (the science behind the use of seashells in climate reconstructions) who brought samples to pass about to the great delight of students and adults alike.

The fascinating 30 year long daily record of the weather that William Buckley kept is of interest to scientists from the Climate Change Consortium of Wales, who are studying the diaries to learn how the weather patterns compare to today’s weather and climate.

Dr Sarah Davies, Aberystwyth University explains, “Mr Bulkeley’s diaries are one of our most important sources in identifying past weather events as they are relatively early, and cover an interesting period of quite variable conditions in the 18th century. 1740 is regarded as the coldest winter on record and it occurred after a period of relative warmth during the 1730s. The consistent way Mr Bulkeley recorded the daily weather in his diaries and the fact that he rarely travelled means that we have a reliable and continuous record.”

The bilingual production, Mr Buckley o’r Brynddu is by Cwmni Pendraw, who have formed to provide theatrical experiences which combine historic and scientific themes. Well-known actor, Wyn Bowen Harries who is directing the production says:

Cwmpnu Penndraw perform in Brynddu walled garden

Cwmni Pendraw perform in Brynddu walled garden

“William Buckley’s life reads like a soap opera. His daughter married a pirate, his son died of alcoholism and his mother died falling under a ladder before being trampled by cattle! As a squire and JP his diaries provide a fascinating insight into rural life in Anglesey of the 1700s.”

“We relate the highs and lows from the diaries, including his descriptions of trips to Ireland, fairs, cockfighting and scandals from the court at Beaumaris, where he sat as a Justice of the Peace. We’ll also hear some of the songs he recorded, performed by Stephen Rees, from Bangor University’s School of Music, who is an expert in folk music from the period.”

The dramatic piece will be performed again in the New Year at venues around North Wales. C3W staff aim to accompany the tour, featuring a bespoke climate change exhibition.

The performances were financed by Ynys Môn Council, Night Out, Arts Council for Wales, Cymdeithas Edward Llwyd/Llên Natur Magnox socioeconomic fund and the Climate Change Consortium of Wales (C3W).