Summer in the UK Government Web Archive

After three weeks of almost constant sunshine and a confirmed heatwave I think we weather obsessed Brits can agree that it’s summer. However, an exclusively hot and sunny weather forecast did not prevent me taking a woolly hat, fleece, waterproof coat and extra duvet on my recent camping holiday, “just in case”! We often joke about our perceived national preoccupation with the weather but extreme weather conditions are a serious concern for some UK Central Government departments. I can verify that extreme heat and sunshine can be a problem after suffering heat exhaustion on the second day of my holiday (before you ask, I was not wearing the woolly hat, fleece, waterproof coat or duvet at the time!)

A quick search in the web archive revealed that the Department of Health (DH) first produced a ‘Heatwave Plan for England’ in 2004. The 2004 plan was first captured in the UK Government Web Archive on 28 June 2005.

Heatwave Plan for England 2004 - Archived 28.06.2005

The plan has been revised annually since 2004 and subsequent versions are also available through the web archive. For example, the 2007 version and the 2010 version. Interestingly, the publications pages on the archived versions of the Department of Health website which link to the plans also provide links to other information published by DH about heatwaves, for example this archived page from 2008. The introduction to the 2013 report, which is published on GOV.UK, states that due to climate change “temperatures reached in 2003 are likely to be a ‘normal’ summer by 2040”. I believe these archived documents will be of great interest to future researchers looking to investigate how the UK Government planned to deal with heatwave conditions.


  1. David Matthew says:

    Of course the web archive is only half of the story, the heatwave and subsequent Drought Act 1976 including a named minister (very Sir Humphrey!) and the readiness of the Ministry of Defence to assist. I recall that last year, apart from the Olympics and Paralympics period, it was a washout. It is interesting that Government policy for public servants seem to relate to adverse winter conditions. In the days when there was no air conditioning in offices working was difficult especially in Central London let alone travelling on trains and the Underground. Researchers will want to know how did Government react to these sudden and prolonged changes of weather?.

  2. Claire Newing says:

    Hi David,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I think this is a very good example of records held in the web archive continuing a story started in paper records. Hopefully, in the future researchers will study the digital and paper records to see developments over time.


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