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A Brief History of weathervanes
' Weathercock, Weathercock, up in the sky,
what can you see from your perch so high?
Watching the clouds, the sun, moon and stars,
the people, traffic, horses and cars.
I envy you Weathercock, your wonderful view,
and wish that sometimes I could sit there with you.'
Awareness of wind direction was part of primitive mans survival kit. It taught him to sense impending storms, to hunt from downwind and make fires safely.
The Greek Astronimer Andronicus of Cyrrhus, 48BC, built 'The Tower of the Winds', the base of which still stands near the Athens Acropolis. Its 8 sides had figures carved representing the winds, and on top a Golden Triton (son of Poseidon), half man, half fish, held a rod which turned and showed the wind direction.
Before this, the Greek God Aeolus, God of Winds, observed the effect the wind had on smoke from volcanoes. Greeks fastened a pole or spear on the prow of the ship onto which they tied coloured ribbands. This served two purposes, 1. to show wind direction and 2. the colours to recognise the ship.
We believe the oldest British Weathervane is at Ottery St. Mary, Devon, 1335, which has whistling tubes to make a 'crowing' noise.
The Bayeux Tapestry 1065, shows a man erecting a weathercock on Westminster Abbey.
In 1365 a weathervane was set on the great tower of Dover Castle, which was helpful to navigators of ships.
Royal Exchange, London.
Grasshopper weathervane. Sir Thomas Gresham. His life was saved by the chirping of a grasshopper.
St. Mary le Bow.
Dragon. Records dated 1679 'to Edward Pearce, Mason, for carving of a wooden dragon for a model for ye steeple the sum of £4.00' also 'to Robert Bird, Coppersmith, £38.00 for making the dragon'
Rochester Town Hall.
Model of Sir Cloudesley Shovels ship, a 3 masted barque. 6' from stem to stern and standing 6' high
Model of Captain Cooks ship the Resolution.
Rugby Union. Hermes, the Greek Messenger God, passing ball to a young rugby player. 8'3" long.
Lords Cricket Ground.
Father Time. Presented to the Club in 1925, designed by Sir Herbert Baker. Represents the end of the teams innings, or close of play, and reminds us that our life's innings on earth must also come to an end when our 'time' is up!
We have a few titles of books, for researching Windvanes, Weathervanes, Whirligigs, please contact us for a short list.
King Lear, Act 3 Scene 2, defiantly claims - 'blow winds and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!, your cataracts and hurricanoes spout, till you have drenched our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
It was one by the village clock, when he galloped into Lexington, He saw the gilded weathercock swing in the moonlight as he passed.
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