Tottenham’s curious connection to the clouds

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Suzie Williams joins a meeting of cloud lovers and discovers the story of local meteorological hero Luke Howard


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I don’t know how many other people would agree with me on this, but when I found out that there was a cloud appreciation society in Tottenham I was very excited indeed.

You see, I’m a big fan of the weather, and watching clouds is one of my favourite pastimes. It’s not only because they are so beautiful and majestic but also because they serve as a reminder of the awe and wonder of living on this planet – which is easy to forget when living in a built-up city like London.

Luckily, it was a quiet day at the Lordship Hub café when I was volunteering there, so I got a chance to sit in on the Tottenham Clouds monthly meeting. Not knowing what to expect I waited in anticipation, but grinning with delight at being in the company of fellow cloudies.

Photo by Andre Ainsworth
Photo by Andre Ainsworth

And it turns out that Tottenham has a very special link to those fluffy white things. It was the home of the ‘namer of clouds’ – Luke Howard (1772 – 1864). Luke arrived in the area in 1812 and in 1857 moved into No.7 Bruce Grove, now the home of Tottenham’s only heritage blue plaque, where he lived until his death in 1864.

Before Luke, clouds were described as ‘essences floating across the sky’ and it was believed that they were impossible to classify. Luke, undeterred, wasn’t satisfied with this conclusion and came up with the first classification system which we still use today.

An avid meteorologist he also made daily recordings of weather conditions over a considerable period of time at his other dwelling in Tottenham Green, giving us one of the earliest consistent records of weather in the 19th century.

Photo by Andre Ainsworth
Photo by Andre Ainsworth

And as the meeting begins it becomes apparent that, rather than spending their time with their heads in the clouds, the group are actually keen historical and meteorological activists. As well as collecting images of clouds seen over Lordship Rec they’re also actively campaigning for several weather related additions to the area, including the renovation of Luke Howard’s home and installing a weather station at The Lordship Hub that would link up to every school in the borough.

They are also in the process of creating an art installation at the Rec that would reflect the clouds above while informing and educating people about the weather.

The biggest challenge they face at the moment is the renovation and salvation of No.7 Bruce Grove.

Owned by developers for over 20 years, the grand building has been empty for a significant amount of time and has seen better days. But surely Tottenham’s cloudy claim to fame, and its only heritage blue plaque, is worth preserving for future generations?

Personally, I love the rich history of this area and the more we can do to save and celebrate it, the better.

Photo by Andre Ainsworth
Photo by Andre Ainsworth
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To find out more about the Tottenham Clouds and when they meet, visit their website. There is also a petition to sign regarding the renovation of No. 7 Bruce Grove which you can find here.

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