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Weathervane History & Frequently Asked Questions

Weathervanes are the ideal way to add a quirky and characterful touch to any property. Whether you want to fit a rooster wind vane to a domed cupola, or a Mary Poppins inspired weathervane to a roof apex, we have included some handy information below to help you make the right style decision for you and your home. We've also added some interesting facts about the history of weathervanes so you can impress your friends and family with your new wind vane knowledge.

Weathervane History

When were weathervanes invented and who invented them? 

The weathervane has had an interesting and colourful history, branching as far back as ancient Greece. The earliest known example of a weathervane depicted the Greek god Triton, son of Poseidon. Built by the astronomer Andronicus, it was fitted to the ‘Tower of the Winds’ at the ancient Greek Agora in Athens, 48 B.C. Other versions of weathervanes can be found littered throughout history. You would find ornate, solid bronze vanes fitted to the prows of Viking long ships in the 9th Century. From the 9th Century onwards a weathercock was fitted to the top of every church steeple in Christendom by order of Pope Nicholas I, the rooster or cockerel being a well-known symbol of Christianity.

Historical Weathervanes

It was the Victorians with their interest in all things classical and their use of materials such as black wrought iron that gave us the wind vane in the form we now recognise. Today, weathervane designs extend much further than just the traditional rooster option. Whether you’re looking for your favourite animal or a piece that highlights a hobby or profession, our collection will certainly have something to suit everyone.

Modern Weathervane Designs

What does 'weathervane' mean? 

The history of the word vane in ‘weathervane’ can be traced all the way back to the Old English word fane, which directly translates to banner or flag. It is thought that the use of the word vane came to be used as the metal arms of modern weathervanes gradually replaced the simple cloth flags used to show archers the direction of the wind during the medieval period.

Why are roosters on weathervanes and what do they symbolise? 

Following one of Bible history’s most iconic events, the Last Supper, it was predicted that St. Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, would denounce him three times “before the rooster crowed” the following morning. It was through this that the humble rooster became known as the symbol of St. Peter to Christians all across the globe. However, it wasn’t until around 600 A.D that Pope Gregory I declared that the rooster, with its symbolism of Christ’s passion, was the most suitable emblem for Christianity. As such, the first cockerels began to appear on top of weathervanes, later being fitted to the top of every Christian church steeple.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are weathervanes made of? 

Historically, weathervanes were cast from heavy duty materials such as iron and bronze, but modern offerings tend to be made from much lighter materials such as aluminium and steel. Our traditional black weathervanes have each been made from a combination of cast iron and robust steel, and finished in a hardy black powder coat, or hand-painted. Additionally, our range of copper weathervanes have been crafted from polished sheet copper and finished in a lacquer to preserve the quality of the metal over time. However, as copper ages over time, it will develop a lovely verdigris patina.

For further information on how to preserve specific metals, please see our General Care & Maintenance page.

Weathervane Materials

What is the purpose of a weathervane? 

The dictionary definition of a weathervane is “a revolving pointer to show the direction of the wind, typically mounted on top of a building”. Most commonly topped with the silhouette of a cockerel or rooster, they are also known as a wind vane, weathercock, wind gauge or anemometer. Weathervanes are mainly used for decorative purposes, fitted to the highest point of a building, adding intriguing and unusual design to the existing architecture. They can also be fitted to a flat or angled surface, as well as to domed cupolas or on stands in your garden, and are adaptable to different locations using various brackets.

Which way do weathervanes point? 

When erected correctly, the arrow of a weathervane will point in the direction that the wind is blowing from. For example, the arrow itself will point west if the wind is coming from the west.

How do weathervanes spin? 

Traditionally, the toppers of weathervanes are specifically designed to be thicker on the back than on the front, much like the wings of an airplane. This unique, aerodynamic shape allows the vane to spin freely in the wind. If placed and balanced correctly, the weathervane will spin freely on the axis. However, within a built-up area your weathervane may be subject to imbalance and inaccuracy as the direction, strength and consistency of wind could be effected by this obstruction.

How does a wind vane help predict the weather? 

The head of a weathervane, traditionally in the shape of a cockerel or rooster, is designed so that one side is heavier than the other. On the classic rooster style vane, the head section is weightier than the tail resulting in the tail being carried away from the direction of the wind. By simply looking at which way the rooster is facing, you’ll know where the prevailing wind is coming from and from there, you can monitor patterns to make predictions about the weather in your specific location! For example, a northerly wind comes from the north and blows towards the south. The direction your vane faces can even give you some idea of what the weather will be like. A southerly wind often indicates a warm front is to follow, whereas an easterly wind, caused by a drop in pressure, could indicate stormy weather ahead.

Please note that, with many of our more elaborate weathervane concepts, design takes precedent over functionality, as achieving accurate readings in most urban areas can prove challenging regardless of design. With these weathervanes, you will not have the same level of accuracy or responsiveness you would achieve with the likes of a wind measurement device such as a wind sock.

All of our weathervanes come complete with fitting instructions and can be easily assembled. For further weathervane installation help, positioning tips and information, please follow this link.

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