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Weather Vanes


Have you ever wondered about weather vanes on the top of spires and buildings and why they are there?

In very early history people would hang strips of cloth on the top of buildings so they could see which way the wind was blowing. This would give them a good idea of what type of weather they could be getting later in the day. Later on they were replaced with banners or flags and they became a popular ornament and the old English word for banner or flag was 'vane' hence the term 'weather vane'.

Greeek weather vane

In ancient Athens, they built an octagonal tower called 'Tower of the Wind' and put a large bronze wind vane on the top in the shape of 'Triton the Sea God', holding a rod in his hand pointing at the direction of the blowing wind. This figure would turn and face the changing wind directions. It became very popular and soon bronze or metal copies were put on many towers and churches across Europe. Some were in the form of a plain cross and an arrow with a banner shaped tail, whilst others were in the shape of patron saints. One that became very popular was the weather vane for St. Peter. At the 'last supper' it was said by Christ that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed. Because of this the rooster became the Christian symbol of St. Peter. That is why you see so many images of a cock crowing on weather vanes.

Not all weather vanes have this image though. Coventry's Christchurch spire on the old Greyfriers Church used to have a plain cross with arrow and banner shaped tail but in October 2011 the large weather vane fell over to one side and looked like it might fall. It had been dislodged by high winds. A large 230ft (70m) cherry picker crane had to be used to reach the top of the spire to save it from falling on people below.

Christchurch vane

Christchurch vane

When the Holy Trinity Church spire was restored a new weather vane was designed and made. It was consecrated in January 2001. A competition had been set up to design the new weather vane and the winning design was done by John Clark, a student from the Coventry Technical College. John Clark was from Kenilworth and was studying a craft design BTech course, he later went on to study automotive design at Coventry University.

John said he chose the Dove as a Christian symbol of peace; he wanted the dove to look and reflect Coventry's motorcar and aero manufacturing industry and its design skills. He especially wanted to give a tribute to Sir Frank Whittle and have that dynamic streamlined shape that you see in jet planes.

Weather vane - Christchurch

Alan Wright the architect and project manager of Holy Trinity got Graham Bentley of Progressive Practical Engineering & Mechanical design to make the eight foot long stainless steal sculpture. Many other companies were also involved including J L Float, Aldridge who made the ball, Bhogal Polishing, Smethwick, Lyndhurst Engineering, Coleshill, F C Whittle, Oldbury who assembled the Dove, plus others including structural engineers Tim Hunter and Don Ascough. Special thanks were given to Gordon Hipkiss and Tony Piddington. So it was very much a group effort! It does looks great when the sunlight hits it.

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