1911 United Kingdom heat wave

The United Kingdom heatwave of 1911 was a particularly severe heat wave and associated drought. Records were set around the country for temperature in England, including the highest accepted temperature, at the time, of 36.7C (98.6F),[1] only broken 79 years later in the 1990 heatwave, which reached 37.1C (98.78F).[2] The highest ever accepted temperature is currently 38.5C (101.3F) recorded on 10 August 2003 in Faversham, Kent.


The heatwave began around early July and ended two and a half months later, in mid September.[3]

By 17 July temperatures were 27C (80F) and by 20 July there had been no rain for 20 days, meaning a drought had officially begun. In the height of the heatwave, at the end of July, temperatures were 33C (92F) in Kings Lynn, breaking all previous records in that area. The heat wave and drought continued into August, with temperatures up to 81F on 1 August continuing throughout the month in London. Even into September, the heat wave was still continuing, with temperatures up to 33C (92F) in early September.[3]

The heat wave and drought only ended on 11 September when average temperatures dropped by 20 degrees Fahrenheit (6.6C) and the high pressure dominating the country receded, allowing rain over all parts of the country.[3]

Heatwave impacts

The impacts of the heatwave extended over all parts and sectors of the country. The impacts began to be felt around mid July, around three weeks after the heat wave began. Because of the extreme heat, working patterns changed in Lancashire, with work beginning at dawn, around 4:30am and finishing around midday, to avoid the hottest part of the day in the quarrying industry there. Fatalities became common and newspapers such as The Times ran Deaths by heat columns as temperatures continued to rise. The heat also caused indirect deaths, by melting the asphalt on roads, causing numerous accidents.[3]

By the beginning of August, even the health of country people was being adversely effected with stifling, humid nights, meaning food spoiled very quickly and sewage spilled out. Also in August, striking became common, most notably in the Victoria and Albert Docks, where the entire workforce of 5000 people walked out, because of the intolerable heat, meaning the whole area came to a standstill.[3]

Drought impacts

The extensive drought affected all parts of the country. Again, the effects were felt around mid July, when early harvests were taken in and fires began to break out, along railway tracks in Ascot and gorse around Newbury. By the end of July, the heat and lack of rain had begun to affect agriculture. There was a shortage of grass for cattle as pastures turned brown from drought. This forced farmers to raise the price of milk, to compensate for the lack of production. On 28 July trees and some rare plants had begun to wither and die with the lack of water in the soil, even in shaded areas all around the country. By August, wells, water pumps and water supplies had begun to run completely dry. This led to the stopping of activity in farming and pasture in Essex and the closing of wool mills in Bradford, each an important industry in its area.[3]

An unusual impact of the hot and dry 1911 summer was seen in the County Championship of 1911, where Warwickshire’s narrow win was the only time between 1890 and 1935 where the Championship was not won by one of the "Big Six" of Yorkshire, Surrey, Kent, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire and Middlesex. The unusually hot and dry weather created extremely fast pitches that suited Warwickshire’s pace bowlers Foster and Field and camouflaged their deficiencies in batting and spin bowling on wet pitches[4]


Sunshine in July 1911 broke all time records for the UK and across the south coast of England, with Eastbourne, Sussex topping 383.9 hours [5] and many other south coast spots not far behind. Much of the south coast outshone many Mediterranean locations, and Eastbourne was very close to the levels of sunshine expected in Las Vegas and in the Nevada desert in the USA for July. Since the average July sunshine in Eastbourne is about 255 hours, the town received about 50% more sunshine than usual.


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