When The Wind Blows: The History Of The Weathervane

The weathervane’s traditional function is to show which way the wind is blowing, primarily to help assess the weather conditions for outdoor activities, such as sailors and agricultural workers.  It is now largely a decorative item, which can add character and visual interest to a stable yard, outbuilding, or house.

The weathervane is designed to catch the wind, and was traditionally used by farmers assess wind direction, as well as the strength of the wind speed. This is used to help predict the air temperatures of the following days. For example, a southerly breeze is likely to mean warmer air, while northern winds are typically colder.

As well as temperature, the wind direction can also be used to predict how likely rainfall is, as changing directions usually signal a change in air pressure, which means that there is a higher chance that rain will fall.

This is obviously important information for farmers to understand, as they need to plan when is the best time to plant, harvest, irrigate crops, provide extra supplies to livestock, and so on. Before more modern meteorological forecasting tools were developed, the weathervane was an essential farmyard staple.

Of course, it wasn’t just farmers who need to predict the weather and wind direction—sailors relied on this crucial information to plot routes and take advantage of the strongest wind directions. The Scandinavian Viking ships dating back to the 9th century had weathervanes at their helm, for example.

Today, weathervanes are mostly decorative, and can be made to order from your own original idea; perhaps a favourite animal, a vehicle, or even a mythological creature. They will also function as a traditional weathervane, with the arrow equally balanced to the opposite end of the weathervane to allow it to spin in the wind.