John Claridge and his 'Shepherd's Legacy'


In October of 2017 Mark Cristodolou directed my attention to an obscure pamphlet appearing on the Met. Office Web-site: a publication dating from 1670 by a shepherd called John Claridge of Hanwell. It deals with his abilities in weather forecasting. Significantly in the preface he describes how he has been 'importuned by sundry friends ( some of them being worthy persons ) to make public' his work. Surely as an inhabitant of Hanwell one of these worthy persons must have been Sir Anthony Cope. Could this be a hint at what Plot was getting at in his description of Hanwell as a 'New Atlantis', somewhere where a person as humble as a shepherd could publish his observations on natural phenomena and indeed have them printed in London. There are interesting echoes of Plot's observations of the weather and some of the recipes in the Allestree mss.


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See the full text here: ( https://digital.nmla.metoffice.gov.uk/file/sdb%3AdigitalFile%7C656f7d4c-f4cc-489f-a199-8a9f16f41320/ )



In terms of tracking down the historical personage of John Claridge in1660 a weaver of that name is recorded as living in the adjacent parish of Bourton ( O.R.O., Misc. Pe. V/4, 5; Cropredy Par. Rec., tithe bks.)

On May 9th. 1693 a John Claridge is listed as a legatee in the will of William Hawtin, a weaver from Horley: 'To my brother John Claridge of Hanwell 5.
If my brother John Claridge don't live it is to go to his son Samuell Claridge.' ( http://wills.oxfordshirefhs.org.uk/az/wtext/hawtin_003.html ). If this is the author of 'The Shepherd's Legacy' he must have been quite elderly given that the tract published in 1670 claims 40 years 'on the job' experience he was probably born around 1620

By 1841 poor John Claridge had become, according to Beasley. 'only an apocryphal person' ( History of Banbury p. 526 ) but a thorough attempt to save Claridge from obscurity was made by W.E. Rye in the 1853 edition of Notes and Queries (  http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21445/21445-h/21445-h.htm#Notes )

A more concise account of the subsequent fate of 'The Shepherd's Legacy' is in Tom Fort's 'Under the Weather' (Random House, 2007)


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... and here's a strange co-incidence. One of the clay pipes we excavated on the site of the cascade was decorated with vine leaves and probably came from the Vine Tavern in Banbury which in the 1840s was kept by a J. Claridge!

... and here's another one (Google searches tend to throw up these things ) the botanist who attempted to find surviving examples of Plot's Elm at Hanwell in the early years of the 20th. century was one George Claridge Druce, a distant descendant perhaps?