Meteorological Office Archive

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The National Meteorological Archive is the official UK Place of Deposit for meteorological records. It is one of the many services provided by the Met Office.

Records for England and Wales are held in our Exeter based repository; records for Scotland are stored in Edinburgh; and records for Northern Ireland are kept in Belfast. We also have records for overseas stations and hold the historic collections of the Royal Meteorological Society.

The National Meteorological Archive is therefore home to one of the most comprehensive collections on meteorology anywhere in the world and provides a major resource for scientific and historical research of international scope.

Our aim is to support the Met Office and the wider scientific community by providing a targeted, proactive and flexible information service; our primary role is to preserve the public memory of the weather and to conserve the records in our care.

Administrative / Biographical History

As a result of the Brussels Conference of Maritime Nations in 1853 and following consultations by the Board of Trade with the Royal Society, a Meteorological Department was formed at the beginning of August 1854 for the collection and co-ordination of meteorological observations made at sea.

Its first Superintendent, Admiral Robert Fitzroy, extended the functions of the department by initiating regular weather reports from a network of land stations, employing for the purpose the recently invented electric telegraph. Fitzroy issued storm warnings to certain ports for the benefit of seamen and also began the practice of weather ''forecasting''.

Following the premature death of Fitzroy and on the recommendation of the Galton Report, in 1867 the name of the department was changed to the Meteorological Office and placed under the administrative control of a Meteorological Committee of the Royal Society.

In 1877, following a review of these arrangements, the committee was replaced by a paid council of six members, of whom the Hydrographer of the Navy was one and the remaining five were nominated by the Royal Society. R H Scott, who had been the director of the office since 1867, became Secretary of the Meteorological Council, while retaining informal administrative control.

In 1905, following the recommendations of another Treasury committee, the office was placed under the management of a reconstituted Meteorological Committee, consisting of the director as chairman, the hydrographer, two members appointed by the Royal Society, and one each appointed by the Board of Trade, the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Treasury. This committee was responsible for administering the Treasury grant in aid, but the director was responsible for the day-to-day administration of the office.

During this period the Meteorological Office developed steadily and by 1914 it was organised into separate divisions including: Marine, Forecast and Storm Warning; Statistics and Library; Observing, Instruments; Correspondence and Accounts. In 1910 it took over from the National Physical Laboratory administration of Kew Observatory.

During the First World War three other meteorological services were developed: that of the Air Ministry, responsible for the supply of information for airships; that of the Admiralty, developed to meet the needs of the Royal Navy; and the Meteorological Section of the Royal Engineers, formed to meet the requirements of aircraft and gas warfare in France. The unco-ordinated development of these four services resulted in serious duplication and overlapping, and by 1922, following the recommendations of a sub-committee of the Research Committee of the Cabinet, the three younger services were absorbed into the Meteorological Office, which was to become a 'central State Meteorological Service'.

The reconstituted office was attached originally to the Civil Aviation Department of the Air Ministry, the director being appointed by the Air Council. The sub-committee's recommendation that there should be a 'board of management' for the office was met by a reorganised Meteorological Committee, representative of all departmental and scientific interests concerned, to which all important policy questions affecting the office and all appointments to higher posts on its staff were referred for advice. In 1927 the office's responsibility for research into atmospheric pollution was transferred to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.Meanwhile, the development of the Fleet Air Arm resulted in the Navy establishing its own meteorological service in ships carrying aircraft. In 1937, to overcome the organisational anomalies which were becoming apparent, it was decided to transfer the administrative functions of the Naval Division of the Meteorological Office to the Admiralty's Hydrographic Department.

In 1990 the Meteorological Office became an executive agency of the Ministry of Defence, the chief executive being responsible to the Secretary of State for Defence. In November 2000 the organisation underwent a corporate rebrand and officially changed its name to simply the ''Met Office''. On 18 July 2011 the Met Office moved to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), a move that recognises the Met Office's critical importance in supporting UK growth and also neatly re-establishes the earliest historic links with a predecessor of BIS, the Board of Trade, for whom the Meteorological Department provided services to the Shipping Industry in an effort to protect life and property.

Conditions Governing Access

Open, Public Records

Custodial History

As a result of a meeting of the Meteorological Committee on 29 April 1914, the Met Office first officially accepted responsibility for custodianship of appropriate public weather records.Between the end of the First World War and the 1950s the Met Office experienced considerable expansion.The various records it produced were stored in a haphazard manner at various locations in London, Dunstable and Harrow, with different divisions within the Office having responsibilityfor different records.

However, in 1955 the then Director General, Sir Graham Sutton, stated that Bracknell, with a population of no more than 25,000 people, would be an ideal location for the new centralised headquarters, and it was hoped that the Archive would also be brought under centralised control in one fixed location thereby making it easier for our customers.

The 1958 Public Record Act made the Lord Chancellor responsible for the selection and preservation of important records and in a letter dated 3 May 1962 he stated his willingness for the Met Office at Bracknell to be designated as the official national Place of Deposit for meteorological records.

In 1989, the decision was taken to relocate the Archive to a new site at the Stirling Centre in Bracknell and accordingly the National Meteorological Archive moved to its new home in October 1991.

Further, with the historic relocation of the Met Office to Exeter in 2003, the National Meteorological Archive followed some 18 months later and opened to the public at Great Moor House in March 2005.