Today (January 11) in London History – A World First? Maybe

January 11, 1954 saw the first television weather forecast. It was, needless to say, a London invention. As anniversaries go it’s a googly. So naturally it’s the one I picked for the Today in London History for today, January 11.


London calling. 

This one’s to the minute.

It was at 7.55 pm on this day, January 11, 1954 that the first television weather forecast was made.

A world-first? Dunno.

But certainly for this country. 

The weatherman was one George Cowling. His forecast that night was for “a pretty dry, mild day with a spot of rain in the Irish sea.”

That was followed, 24 hours later, by a sensational piece of advice. Mr Cowling said that if viewers hadn’t got their washing dried that day, they should get it out early the next morning before the rain came.

That made headlines.

As for their kit and their methods, well, they were Victorian if not primitive. No satellite maps of course. No computer mojo. No hi-tech graphics. No video razzle-dazzle.

The weathermen did their own maps in felt-tip pen at the London weather-centre in Holborn. They’d roll them up, put them in a tube and rush up to Holborn Underground Station, hop on the Tube and take the paraphernalia to the BBC Television Centre at Shepherd’s Bush. 

Well, at least they had felt-tip pens. 

The pioneering Mr Cowling recalled one evening when he was pounding the pavement getting from the Weather Centre to Holborn Underground Station. He was caught in a thunderstorm and when it came time to do the weather his clothes started to produce steam under the studio lights. The weatherman became the weather, brought the weather inside with him. 

Three more observations and then we have a wrap. 

  1. First observation: That first televised weather forecast was just an experiment. It was all very tense because the BBC governors had their doubts and were watching closely. As was the national press. Well, they passed the test, didn’t they. Televised weather forecasts couldn’t be more part of the scene. Part of the media furniture. But for how much longer? Methinks its day has come and ok not gone but surely it’s well on the way out. I mean, we’ve all got weather Apps on our phone. Wait to watch the weather on the telly, how 1980s is that?
  2. Second observation: Those first television weathermen were professional, trained meteorologists. But in time, everything morphed, didn’t it? Weather girls and hunks. And, yes, already that term weather-girls is dated – and more than a bit of a no-no. And as for the days when they were celebrities… gone with the wind. 
  3. Third observation – what you’ve all been waiting for. This morning, January 11th, will see another dull start with bursts of showery rain falling for many. Thick cloud will linger for much of the day, but it will clear to the south in the evening. Ushering in perfect London Walks weather. The Outlook for Wednesday to Friday continues in that vein. Settled conditions will take hold for much of the rest of the week as high pressure builds. There will be light winds and patchy cold. Wednesday and Thursday will have sunny spells by day, and overnight it will turn quite chilly with mist and fog developing in places. Friday looks to be a cloudier day, with only a few brighter patches or sunny spells at times. Again, ideal London Walks weather. 

Good night or good day from London. Wherever you are. 

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